Open House dos and don’ts

So, you’ve finally done it. You managed to find that perfect Beach property.

If this was your first purchase, it may not have taken too long to find. It might have been the first home you looked at, or maybe it was after too many showings to remember. You may have come across it after many a leisurely perusal of the myriad of Beach open houses over several months until you fell in love with one home…the perfect one. Two months notice to your landlord (or your parents) and it’s off to your dream house. Wasn’t that easy!

Now you only pop into public open houses because you just want to confirm your purchase was right, or you’ve always wanted to see inside that house. Or, maybe you became somewhat addicted to roaming the Beach with coffee in hand and walking into complete stranger’s private inner sanctum to quietly critique their colours, furniture, personal artwork, and choice of toilets.

You’ve became a regular on the Beach open house circuit; part of the club. You’ve developed your own open house style and tactics, like avoiding leaving your name and address with the agent because you didn’t want to end up on their speed dial. You made sure that the agent knew that you already own a house, and that you’re not here to buy, and moves on to someone else. You were just drawn in by their breadcrumbs. You knew which agents you enjoyed talking to, and which ones you avoided speaking with.

By the time you finally weaned yourself off the need to go into other people’s homes (although the need sometimes draws you back), you had settled comfortably into your perfect first home, and your life began to unfold.

But now, with the evolution of your life, you’ve found that first perfect Beach house no longer suits your needs, or wants. You’ve become we, and baby makes three, or four or five. Maybe it was your perfect neighbour’s life that changed, and you now find yourself with that imperfect neighbour. Or the local school doesn’t quite fit your kid’s personality, or yours. In some cases, it’s BREE (Beach Real Estate Envy). Whatever your reasons (and be it far from me to complain), you’re moving. And you find yourself back on the weekend open house trail!

You may very well find that your search for your first house was a breeze compared to what you’re now up against. Buying your second house just isn’t the same as the first. I always remind my clients when they begin shopping for their second or third Beach house, it’s not so much having some idea of your wants and needs, but this time it’s more the case knowing what you definitely don’t want; and definite must haves.

What’s more, you are about to complete the entire real estate cycle. Before, you just had to purchase without selling. Now though, you have a property to sell too. It’s your turn at this process, and part of that may well involve having your personal space open to the public’s critical eye.

Yes, you now will have your very own public open house. Ah, the hunter now becomes the hunted! In some situations, a public open house is a necessary evil in the Beach real estate market. And when I say necessary evil, it’s only because I’m sure nobody longs for the chance to fling their doors open to the gawking public. Well, maybe some do. It can be, if correctly used, a useful tool in the house selling process. And the Beach (besides garage sales) has become famous for open houses.

When it’s your first open house week-end, and you’re not sure what to do, don’t be afraid to ask your agent. Here’s just a few reminders. The most important detail in getting ready for the open house is the same as getting your home ready for showings.

•Your home should be clean and tidy. Clear away the toys underfoot, as you don’t want your neighbour tripping over your kid’s trucks.

• Fix those little imperfections that you’ve grown accustomed to, like the nail sticking out of the hardwood floor in the hallway, or the loose step on the back stairs.

• Don’t leave candles burning. They may look nice, but can easily be tipped over, especially when the open house visitors aren’t as familiar as you are with the elbow room (or lack of) in the living room.

• Make sure the light bulbs are working, and that your agent has all the lights on where they are needed.

• Since complete strangers will be walking through you home, mostly unattended, don’t leave your valuables lying around. Take your car keys off the hook by the front door; and remove the key from the double-sided lock on the rear or side doors. Same goes for the garage key. And don’t just stick them in a top drawer either. Hide them away.

• Any little knick-knacks that can be quickly stuffed in a pocket should not be left out. Your house isn’t going to get more money because of your expensive baubles.

• In the case of inclement weather, do yourself and your agent a favour by placing shoe mats at the door, and leave some extra dry mats too. Let your agent know that there is a towel handy to mop up the wet as needed.

• Make sure your agent can reach you if necessary, especially if you are out of town, and discuss with your agent as to who is securing the property after the open house. Ask your agent to walk through your home after the open house to make sure that any windows or doors that were opened are closed and locked. Basement windows should especially be checked to make sure that they haven’t been opened by an open house visitor.

• And the last little piece of advice is to the open house visitors and gawkers. Although it is a public open house, please remember that you are a guest in the home. Treat the home as you would want your home treated. If the open house is busy, the agent may lock the door in order to limit the amount of people inside, in order to better look after the open house, so be patient.

Some agents are now asking for identification before entering. If you feel uneasy about this, then please don’t proceed in. Shame on the agent though if this check is just another way to get your address in order to solicit you later.

And most importantly…if you have nothing good to say about the home, say nothing at all. If you’re just being nosey and aren’t considering buying, don’t critique the property or the price. Please don’t be one of those people that just has to give their opinions so everyone hears them.

In the end, please remember that an agent does not have to allow you into the house. An open house sign does not give the public free reign over the home. Be nice, because someday it may be your turn!

This has been my last article for this year, and my final article under the guidance of retiring BMN editor Carole Stimmell. Once again, I wish her all the best in her retirement, and many thanks for her endearing tutelage. A big thank-you as well to those readers who have dropped by this column over the past year. On behalf of myself and my family, I’d like to wish all my friends, neighbours, valued clients from the past (and present too of course…and those in the future!), and everyone in The Beach a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and Happy New Year!

If you do have any questions about this article, or Beach real estate in general, please feel free to contact me at, or through my office at 416 -690-5100. Take care.

Thomas Neal is a well-known and respected local Beach agent.
 Real Estate…Beach Wise

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