Young couple walking towards a country house with their two children

Rules of Etiquette You Should Know Before Buying a Home

Young couple walking towards a country house with their two children

The truth is, there’s a certain etiquette that buyers should follow throughout the home-buying process, and failure to follow it could actually cost you a lot of money.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to being courteous and having some common sense. Even if you mean no harm, you could inadvertently turn the sellers off with a certain gesture or comment that could potentially sabotage your negotiating power.

Stick to the following rules of home-buying etiquette to make sure the experience is a good one.

Stick With Reasonable Viewing Times

Use common sense when it comes to the days and times that you want to go see a listed home. Generally acceptable viewing times are typically between 10am and 8pm throughout the week. Asking to booking a showing at 10pm on a Tuesday night or 7am on Sunday morning isn’t going to cut it. Agents will likely get shut down if they ask the sellers for a showing at any one of these unreasonable times.

Don’t Demand Last-Minute Appointments

While your agent is working diligently to find you the right home, he or she is not at your beck-and-call. While many times agents and sellers can accommodate an immediate showing, many times they cannot.

While it doesn’t hurt to ask if there’s a last-minute time slot available, don’t demand it. The typical protocol is to book showings at least 24 hours in advance to allow the seller to make arrangements to not be home during the showing, and to have the home adequately prepped to be viewed. It also helps agents ensure that there is free time in their schedules to accommodate an appointment.

Skip the Unauthorized Photography

When you’re at a viewing, don’t whip out your smartphone and start snapping photos of the interior and exterior of the home unless you’ve been given direct permission to do so. That’s just rude and inconsiderate. After all, it’s not a public place – it’s still the sellers’ home, and it’s private property.

Don’t Deal With Any Other Agent if You’ve Already Signed With One

If you’ve already signed a contract with an agent, don’t call the listing agent of a home you’re interested in seeing. Actually, don’t call any other agent at all except your own. Even if your agent is away on holidays, proper etiquette would entail speaking with the agent who is covering for yours while they’re away. Not only is it discourteous to your agent and the other, it could even cost you money considering you’re under contract.

Be Honest With Your Agent About How Serious You Are About Buying

Don’t waste your agent’s time, nor the time of sellers with showings if your immediate intentions are not to buy anytime soon. Agents and sellers are busy enough without entertaining people who are just curious about seeing how other people live.

And even if you are serious about buying, don’t ask your agent to show you 10 houses in one afternoon. Viewing homes takes a lot of time, and taking up your agent’s entire afternoon is expensive for them. Not only that, but seeing too many homes at once will actually cloud your judgment and make it difficult to remember what you saw in which house. Stick to a maximum of only 3 or 4 home listings for each round of showings.

Make Sure You Can Afford the Place

If you’re looking at a home that’s listed for $800,000, but you can only realistically afford one for no more than $500,000, you’re wasting everyone’s time, including your own. Maybe you really do think you can afford the place, and are just naive to the whole home buying process.

That’s where a mortgage pre-approval can come in handy. This will give the lender a chance to analyze your income and current debt to see what you can realistically and comfortably afford. That way, you can focus only on the homes that fit your budget.

Many real estate agents actually require their clients to be pre-approved, and many sellers prefer to see an offer come in from prospective buyers who already have a pre-approval letter from their lender.

Be Polite and On-Time at Showings

This one goes without saying, but it’s still worth mentioning. Be polite to your agent, and to the sellers if they happen to be present. And don’t go sifting through clothes drawers or ransacking the storage closet. Looting around during a showing is definitely not polite.

In addition, make sure you’re on time for the showings. These appointments are usually only for a half hour to an hour, so you want to use each minute to your advantage to get a good sense of the home. Not only that, but it doesn’t show much respect to your agent to make them wait around forever for you to show up. They’ve likely got better things to do. 

Don’t Directly Contact the Homeowner

If a home is listed through an agent, then it’s protocol for any communications to take place between your agent and the seller’s. Under no circumstance is it acceptable to contact the homeowner directly. Not only will you seem overly aggressive, you’ll likely upset the homeowner.

Don’t Act Like the Home is Yours Until it Actually is

Even if you’ve fallen madly in love with a house, and have gone so far as to put an offer on it, the house isn’t yours until the keys are physically in your hands. Don’t show up to the home unannounced and start taking measurements for the sunroom addition you’ve got planned, or where you want the pool to go. Wait until the deal is formally done before you start making any plans.

Don’t Make Comments About the House When the Seller is Around

If the seller happens to be present when you’re viewing the home with your agent, reserve your comments until you’ve left. The homeowner might not appreciate hearing your thoughts on the outdated paint colors or the unattractive living room furniture. You’ll only hurt their feelings, as well as your negotiating power.

The Bottom Line

These tips aren’t hard to follow. In fact, they can be applied to any aspect of life. Use some common sense, be courteous, and be open and honest so that everyone’s happy.