Open House Sign

While most home buyers know that they should be on time, dress appropriately and use common courtesy when attending an open house or home tour, what about all the stuff that no one talks about? Questions like, “Can I take photos?” “Is it ok to use the bathroom?” and “Should I look in the closets?”

With an influx of new and first-time home buyers expected this spring, we asked our Guilderland real estate agents for a list of unfrequently asked questions to help everyone avoid an awkward faux pas. Here’s what they had to say about the do’s and don’ts of house hunting.

Housing Hunting Etiquette Q&A

Can I bring a cup of coffee?

We don’t recommend it. While house hunting without your Starbuck’s might seem like cruel and unusual punishment, we bet you’ll feel a lot worse if you accidentally leave a cappuccino stain on the homeowner’s cream-colored couch. Leave the coffee in your car’s cup holder, or at home. The same goes for all other food and drink. Crumbs, spills and talking with your mouth full do not make a good impression.

Should I bring my kids/pets?

While children should be involved in the home buying process, it’s best to wait until you’ve narrowed down your search before bringing them along. Not only can kids and pets get into things that they shouldn’t (or cause stains of their own!), they can actually distract you from the task at hand. Your undivided attention should be on scoping out the house and asking questions, not supervising children and making sure your dog doesn’t lift his leg.

Am I required to take off my shoes?

Signs that sock feet are expected include a pile of shoes or shoe rack located directly outside or inside the front door. When in doubt, ask the seller or real estate agent. Most sellers won’t ask you to remove your shoes, but some cultures require it. Either way, always be prepared to do so. First impressions matter, so removing your shoes automatically shows the seller that you respect their home. Something they may remember when considering offers.

Is it ok to use the bathroom?

Only if it is an emergency and, even then, ask the seller or real estate agent for permission. In addition to just being the polite thing to do, you’ll want to make sure that the water hasn’t been turned off! While bathroom-use is discouraged, it is perfectly acceptable to test the plumbing. Provided the water is on and you’ve gotten the ok, feel free to check the water pressure, flush the toilet and listen for sounds in the pipes that might indicate a problem.

Should I look in the closets?

Absolutely! Storage and closet space are an important part of your home buying decision. It’s acceptable to take a peek inside kitchen cabinets and open the dishwasher, refrigerator, washer & dryer, too – as long as they’re staying with the house. Basements, attics and garages are also fair game, provided the seller has not issued explicit instructions to stay out. On the other hand, dressers, nightstands, medicine cabinets and hampers are completely off limits.

Can I sit on the furniture?

Unless the home is being sold with furnishings, you should not take the furniture for a test drive. Show respect for the homeowner’s belongings and avoid sitting on sofas, recliners and beds. What’s more, the home might be staged, with air beds and cardboard boxes masquerading as real furniture. Likewise, if the kids are in tow, make sure they do not pick up personal items, or play with any toys.

Is it rude to take photos?

Only if you fail to ask first. When you’re looking at lots of homes, it helps to have photos or videos to remember the details of each, but it could be a privacy concern for the seller. So make sure to ask for permission. It’s also not good etiquette to share the images online, whether on social media or in a blog. While that hideous wall-paper would make an awesome selfie, remember that this is someone else’s home.

Put Your House Hunting Skills to the Test!

Now that you know the do’s and don’ts of house hunting, let’s get out there and find some homes to tour! Check out open houses in Guilderland, Latham & the Albany NY area, or call CM Fox Real Estate at 518-861-7030 to get connected with a local expert. We’re happy to answer your questions, offer advice and set up private showings.