Would you Mind?
"I'm sorry," I said in my nicest Realtor voice, "but would you mind tying your dog up outside?"
At which point, the offended gentleman picked up his wet dog, ignored my request, stepped inside, and proceeded to march through the house holding his animal like a newborn baby. (Really?)
Listen, I'm as dog crazy as the next pet owner, but as Buyers are out of practice, AND as we're coming into the spring market, AND as it's "open season,' NOW would be the appropriate time to remind Buyers (and their Agents) of the proper protocol when visiting Sunday Opens, beginning with our furry friends . . . .
1) DON'T assume your pets are welcome at an Open House (they're not). No matter how well-mannered or adorable your pooch, most houses have undergone a great deal of preparation prior to coming to the market, which often includes fresh paint, refinished hardwood floors, and new wall-to-wall carpet. Paw marks and scratches are the last things the Sellers need, and spending Saturday or Sunday evenings mopping the floors is no one's idea of a good time. (Been there, done that.)
2) On the other hand, your children ARE welcome, with the caveat that you keep them close. Under the heading of "Open House Horror Stories," I recently held an open house on a large mid-century with loads of sliding doors and windows, only to hear a loud crash from the floor below. Racing downstairs, I discovered a young child had, quite literally, run through a stationary glass panel at top speed. Luckily, his injuries were fairly minor, but that could have gone down so much worse. In other words, Open Houses, are NOT opportunities for kids to tear through a house, jump on beds, or play hide-and-seek. Respectfully, that's what parks and playgrounds are for. Please parent your children accordingly and relieve the Realtor of the responsibility to remind YOUR kids to use "their indoor voices" or to "slow down."
3) DO remove your shoes or slip on booties in inclement weather. As much as we hate to request it and we realize it's a pain, we've had a lot of rain as of late. Last weekend, while turning off lights, I found MUDDY footprints at one of our listings, requiring a return trip with a commercial shampooer. While I'm a gal with an affinity for a good appliance, or two, (Cliff was certain I'd name the kids Hoover and Eureka) the muddy trail traveled all the way down the hall and into the primary suite, requiring some heavy cleaning and quick intervention. (Agents, accidents happen, but let the listing Agent know. If I hadn't stopped by, the stains would have been a much tougher job to manage the following day.)
4) DO Identify yourself, along with your Agent representative. Should you write, we'll be able to put a name to a face and that typically works in a Buyer's favor. It also allows us the opportunity to touch base with your Agent to keep them informed as interest grows. Additionally, selling is a very personal journey; most Sellers want to know a little something about their Buyers (keeping in mind "fair-housing" laws) which means, it's often left up to the listing Agent to fill in the blanks. A quick "hello" followed by "we love the house" can never hurt. Make yourself known.
5) DO keep your negative comments to yourself. The time to voice your concerns is when walking through the house with your own Realtor®. While questions are always welcome, disparaging a house in front of the listing Agent (or other prospective Buyers) is never a good idea. You'll be perceived as a "squeaky wheel," and those are the Buyers that send up red flags. Remember, Sellers are looking for new homeowners who love the property, who will be great stewards moving forward, and who present with as few objections as possible. Were you the Seller, you'd settle for no less.
6) DO get pre-approved for a loan BEFORE hitting the Sunday Opens. There's absolutely NO point in falling in love with a house prior to contacting a lender and knowing what you can afford. If your lender can take you all the way through underwriting and close in as little as 2-3 weeks, so much the better. In a competitive marketplace, you want to give yourself every advantage, and a reputable, local lender does just that.
The bottom line is that you are a guest in someone else's home. Whether seeing a property at a public open or privately with your representative, treat your visit as you would have others treat your own property - with respect and care - and teach your children to do the same. It's not only the courteous thing to do, it's the right thing to do. Happy hunting.
P.S. - As an aside to my fellow Agents - let's remember to be cognizant of where we place our A-frames and keep them out of the path of the crosswalks (just a pet peeve of mine), and please, please please be sure to check all doors and lock up!
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.