Wife, kids and I went to a few open houses over the weekend and gathered a fresh batch of tips for how not to host an open house.

1. Care, if only a little

First, as a realtor showing a home, you should…care. At least a tiny bit. You should be prepared to answer basic questions about the property. For example, acceptable answers to the question “where is the property line?” do not include guesses, assumptions, or “probablys”. You’re also not doing a stellar job if you refer me to the county’s website, especially if you tell me the wrong county.

2. Clean up Inside and Out

There’s really no reason why vacant houses should have random piles of junk sitting around. There might be someone out there who’s only interested in a three bedroom, two bath house with full drum set and mystery room of junk that wasn’t valuable enough to take, but I bet that’s a niche market.

If you’re into recreational “chemistry”, take your hobby with you.

I appreciate that you had the home winterized—really—but is it really necessary to have toilet parts and water meters sitting around? I mean, once the water’s out, your good, right?

If the house is totally empty except for one can of Raid, what image do you think I’ll form in my mind when I find it? Of all the things I will need in this house, it’s a can of lightning-bolt-bug-killer? Ewww, no thanks. Now that I think about it though, killing flying insects with lightning is pretty bad-ass. +1 to you, Raid-bottle-designer-guy.

Also, if you’re going to go to all the effort of hanging around a house for three hours, you might as well arrange for the walk up to the house to be shoveled free of snow and ice. In the very least, put down some salt so we don’t break our nosy bums poking around other people’s houses.

Oh, and turn the heat up! I’m all about saving energy, especially in vacant homes, but during an open house it’s not vacant and it’s friggin cold down there in the cellar. It’s really your lovely finished basement but when it’s cold enough to store popsicles, it gets downgraded to a cellar with nice paint.

3. Don’t hound me about the guest book

Yeah, I get it. You want me to sign that stupid paper with that crappy pen that barely writes on the Granite Countertops you keep reminding me about. Why? So you can get my info and follow up with me to pressure me into buying a house or selling mine, and to show your client what a huge success your open house was. Unfortunately I don’t want any of that. It might be easier if you didn’t insist on so much information. Name? OK, sure I’ll initial your paper. Phone, email, agent, DOB, pant size, party affiliation and blood sample? No, thank you, my base-pairs are private if you know what I mean.

This may be hard for some of you to hear but I think I need to be explicit here: I DO NOT WANT YOU TO CONTACT ME. If I’m interested in the house, I’ll call you. Oh, and your client doesn’t care how many people came to the open house—your client wants offers, not showings, so just keep telling them “it only takes one!” until they lower the price enough to get one.

4. Don’t follow me around

I’m not a creep. I’m a normal guy. I wear glasses even though I have contacts. I’m a computer programmer. I drive a Honda Fit. I wore a tiara at lunch yesterday because my daughter asked me to. I’m carrying a baby. I’m about as non-threatening as you can get. What do you think I’m going to do? This place is empty, anyway (well, mostly; see above)!

If it’s hard to keep up with me it’s because I’m avoiding you. Chasing me around only helps to rush me through the house, decreasing the chances that I’ll see something I like.

5. Don’t follow me around, hounding me about the guest book

The only thing worse than bugging me about the guest book or following me around is doing both simultaneously.

6. Don’t tell me scary awful stories if I avoid the guestbook

After caving into the pressure and initialing your guest book, don’t follow me upstairs and tell me this:

Realtor: “I see that you were hesitant to sign the guest book.”


Realtor: “Ever since the terrible tragedy at our office…”

Please stop. Wait…what? Did you have a data breach or something? You thought I didn’t want to sign because you’d lose my info into the wild…? Huh?

Me: “Oh? What…‘terrible…tragedy’…?”

Realtor (dramatically hushed): “We’re still very upset about our agent that was murdered at an open house.”

Me: “Oh, I hadn’t heard about that” Me (turns so only Wife can see me mouth words): WTF WTF WTF

Realtor wandered away and that moment just floated there for a while as Wife and I kept glancing at each other with painful expressions of confusion and surprise.

I’m sorry for your loss, but congratulations, now we can’t buy your house because you told me a story about murder in it. Good work.


Math Zombie said on 2011-02-16

So, I’m pretty sure the agent was insinuating that you were contemplating murdering him. That would be why you didn’t want to sign the guest book because it would leave your identification. what other connection is there between the two things?

Michael Haren said on 2011-02-16

That’s the thing: what does signing a guestbook have anything to do with it? And is being confrontational about it supposed to diffuse the imagined situation (even after I signed it)?

It was totally out of nowhere and very strange.

Katie said on 2011-02-17

This cracked me up! I particulary like your comments about the can of Raid. However I can’t believe that the beer brewing equipment wasn’t a selling point.

Sarah said on 2011-02-17

I totally get that she wanted to be careful (because OMG I would be terrified to be a realtor after that!), but I don’t see how us signing the guest book would prevent anything bad from happening. I mean, pretend that we were really up to no good…we’d just sign fake names and info.

It’s sad, too, cause we both really liked the house…but now I’m not sure I could live there because I just remember it as the house where we found out about the murder.

Anyway, um, awesome post, honey. I know you sat next to me while I was reading it and heard me laughing :)

Michael Haren said on 2014-02-16

Which tip do you disagree with?

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