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I love where I live. With Sonoma’s breathtaking beauty among her rolling hills, picturesque vineyards, and the close-knit community I am blessed to call home, it's easy to say I love what I do. As a real estate professional and food writer, Sonoma Dish endeavors to share with you my enthusiasm for living the wine country lifestyle.



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  • Writer's picture Therese Nugent

Do Unto Others and Other Open House Etiquette Tips

The traditional spring selling season is upon us and so is the ritual of sellers opening their homes on weekends to promote their properties. Visiting open houses is a great opportunity to walk through a house without the need of an appointment nor necessity to bring along your realtor Like any event open to the public, a little open house etiquette may be in order. Before you hit the streets, check out these tips.

Wipe your feet.

Or if the agent requests you to remove your shoes at the door, by all means do so. Often times, paper booties will be provided for you to conveniently cover your shoes. If it’s raining or the newly installed gorgeous hardwood floors need protecting from street wear, this request is not unusual. Use the booties, or wear easy-to-remove shoes. And it’s always a good idea to have socks on.

Keep an eye on the kids.

It’s often a family affair when looking for your new home and it’s tempting to bring the kids along for the fun. However, while you’re checking out the property, it’s likely your little ones will go exploring on their own. If children are accompanying you on your afternoon of open house touring, be sure to keep them by your side at all times. Most houses are not childproofed. You don’t want to create a situation where they could potentially harm themselves or do damage to the home or its furnishings.

And pets, too.

Or better yet, leave Fido at home. It’s not enough your four-legged child is on a leash assuming you’ll have a place to tie him up while you make a mad dash through the house. And no seller wants a dog inside his perfectly staged home—even if you offer to carry the fur ball around. Further, as one can imagine, it gets really awkward when the pet owner needs to ask the agent if there is something they can use to clean up its mess. Just no.

Peek in the closets but don’t touch.

It’s perfectly okay to check out closets and other storage areas but make it brief. You’re shopping for closet space, not a new wardrobe. Not cool to check out the contents of the fridge and it’s really uncool to look in medicine cabinets. A smart seller will put away sensitive items (because people will look anyway) and hide prescribed medications as this, unfortunately, can be a temptation to some visitors. Respect the homeowner’s private spaces that have no relevance to purchasing the home. Curiosity killed the cat. And maybe the deal.

Don’t be sharing on Instagram.

Everything we do these days can be shared instantaneously on social media. But you’re crossing the line when you send a selfie to your bestie in the house you’ve just fallen in love with. Security becomes an issue. But by all means, ask permission to take a photo of things of relevance. Often times, it may be appropriate if a spouse isn’t present and you need to capture some focal point. Otherwise, no photos. Many listings have dedicated websites and the agent can direct you to the site for additional images.

Leave your latte at the door.

Along with the smartphone is a perpetual coffee cup in hand. Bringing food and drink into an open house is a big no-no. Because accidents happen-- like when that loose dog bumps you and your cup splashes over. Very often the house is staged and there is nothing to clean up a mess. It’s just as bad to ask the agent to dispose of your trash, as often there is no receptacle to do so in a staged home.

Hold your tongue.

Like your mother told you, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. The seller still calls this place home and, even though it’s unlikely the seller is present at the open house, you never know who may be listening. Which leads me to another point: everything can and will be used against you in a potential negotiation. If you end up in a multiple offer situation where all things considered are similar, you don’t want the seller choosing the other buyer because he heard you badmouth his home.

If you gotta go, you gotta go.

Best to avoid this if at all possible, but if you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. However, this request opens up all kinds of what-ifs. Don’t just wander off and take care of business. You never know, a vacant house may have the water shut off so there’s no way to flush and that’s essential to know before you go. And if you’re occupying the bathroom for more than a minute or two, that means other potential buyers can’t checkout it out—and may not want to after you’ve been in there. Best to schedule pit stops along the way on your tour of open homes.

Bottom Line

Follow the Open House Golden Rule: “Do unto others’ homes as you’d have them do unto yours.” Happy Hunting!


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