Make sure you employ open house etiquette

I meet tons of people through my open houses – and it can be a lot of fun. Just as with everything else, though, open houses can be a mixed bag. Take this as a guide to how to act – and how not to act – when you walk into an open house.

It’s actually okay if you’re not a real buyer – I welcome your visit. I’m sociable and friendly and you’ll find me fun to talk to if there are no other visitors I need to show the house to. That said, it works better if you tell me up front that you’re more of a browser than a buyer. It’s not comfortable for anyone if you’re trying to hide that fact – sometimes people will make up an obvious story about looking on behalf of a friend or relative. I get the same thing from older couples who I suspect are tourists or day-trippers – they like to tell me they’re looking on behalf of their kid. Keep it honest, please.

The dynamics of packs can be a problem. These are groups of three, generally all the same gender, usually less than 35 years old. You can tell they’re cruising open houses for entertainment – they seem out of their element and ill at ease. They tend to talk only to each other and ignore me.

Sometimes they’re really young – teenagers. That’s when I have to track them a bit, worrying about sticky fingers. You’d be surprised at what open-house visitors tend to steal – bars of soap!

Then there are people who are just plain difficult – or worse. I once had to threaten to call the police on a neighbor when I had a listing in outer Noe Valley – not only was she drunk, she wanted to tell me how disgusting she thought the former owner of my listing was because he died of AIDS. Then there was another neighbor – with the same listing – who was so terribly lonely she would come over and stay forever. I could never figure out how to gently get rid of her.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do etiquette-wise is keeping your opinions to yourself. You never know who might be in the house. Once, while I was holding my own home open at the time I was selling it, a buyer came through and told me she hated the color of the walls. I had spent hours choosing and obsessing over that color. I also recently had a contractor do a heavy critique on one of my listings, declaring that the owner must be really cheap since she clearly didn’t care about certain elements. What he didn’t know was that the owner is one of my best friends.

If you love the house and want to buy it, it pays to be nice to the listing agent. Remember that we evaluate the buyers who come through and report back to our sellers. If you seem overly fussy, difficult and overly cautious, I take that into account if you do wind up bidding on the property.

Stay tuned for another post about mistakes in home prep. Your home has to show well if it’s going to sell.

Dreaming of San Francisco? Cece Blase offers local advice to San Francisco buyers, sellers and owners– and feeds the dreams of those who wish they could live in Tony Bennett’s ‘City by the Bay.’ Call 415-577-0809 or email