Back To Top

Open House Survival Guide

Open House Survival Guide
Date Posted: 13/08/2023



For us Realtors, doing an open house means we standing in the living room or kitchen of someone else's home as we welcome complete strangers in the front door. Those strangers then walk through the house, share unsolicited comments with anyone within earshot, and then head back out the door. As Realtors who have done hundreds of these over our combined 50 years in the industry, we see patterns. We hear people say the same thing and ask the same questions. So, consider this blog a summary of what to expect in an open house.  



And for you Realtors getting ready for your next open house, we hope this helps you get in the Open House Zone! 


The Browsers

They’re just looking. They aren’t moving, but still like to keep an eye on what is going on out there. They likely read the real estate sections and enjoy some HGTV. While you tell them about the home and the lovely updates, they’ll nod and smile and wish you’d stop talking so they can keep looking and leave. They have accumulated stacks of business cards during their open house journeys, so you might as well add yours to the stack. 


The Ladies

These ladies are out for an hour or two to have a look at houses. They live within a kilometre or so and likely saw the for sale signs. They are comfortable sharing their thoughts, but in general, they have nice things to say. That said, one of them will be more comfortable in sharing her thoughts than the others. While they won’t buy anything, they’re fun to chat with. Usually. And yes, they’ll accept your business card and feature sheet with a smile.


The Lone Ranger

This buyer is in the market but does not want or need your help thank-you-very-much. They love open houses because they can come in, say the minimal number of words, and then head out. A very brief ‘thank-you’ may be heard as they head out the door. You should avoid trying to give them a business card.


The Seasoned Veteran

These people know what they're talking about. They've bought and sold several times. They know the right questions to ask. You should have answers for those questions, by the way. It is highly likely that they have a Realtor who doesn't know they're even looking yet. These people know what they're looking for, so they won't linger around unless they like what they see. A business card is perfectly acceptable to offer as they leave. 


The Out-of-Towner

They’re not sure where they are. They’re in the Niagara Region for the day but don’t see a huge difference between the various areas of a city let alone the actual cities. They’re curious to know about the market conditions and will often listen to insight. That said, they aren't interested in working with a specific, local agent. They only want to buy through the listing agent because, well, you know, they will get a better deal? As well, they’re in the middle of their own episode of Amazing Race and have 6 more houses to get to so chop, chop. They’ll take your business card but will likely never be heard from again.


The Neighbour(s)

Some call them Nosy Neighbours or Looky-Loos. You can identify these folks easily. They’re the only people who show up on foot. In a condo apartment style, they will show up unannounced (no front entrance buzzer) without a coat in the dead of winter. They are there for one reason, and that is to see how this home compares to their home. They’ll compare room sizes to theirs. “Oh, they removed that wall we talked about in our home…”. They may even know the current owners. They may say that they have friends who are interested in moving to that street. Whether they exist or not is still up for debate. They’re nice but aren’t moving anytime soon. Business cards are politely accepted.


The Newbies

They are full of ear-to-ear smiles. They’ll comment about how nice things are. “oooh…I liiiiike that!!”. They’ll speak in hushed tones and start sentences with phrases like “hey babe, we could…” and “what do you think of this?”. They are typically open to chat and are hungry for knowledge. What are homes selling for? Are there better options out there? What is happening with prices? Any other general info is usually welcome. The only problem is they are so green that most of it flies over their heads. While they may resist working with a Realtor, they desperately need one given their lack of understanding of the fundamentals. They’ll take your business card, but unless you’re memorable, they’ll likely forget who you are.


The Spouse in the Car

This person comes in alone but is not a Lone Ranger. They have a spouse or partner, but that person has remained in the car. This couple is a challenge. Reality is, one of them wants to move while the other is resisting the idea. The person that came into the open house is the one struggling. Whether it’s managing 3 flights of stairs or maintaining the large property, they are looking to simplify things. The person sitting in the car is fine, thank-you very much. “I’ll come with you but I’m not getting out of the car…”. The visitor will take your card, which their partner will quietly toss in the garbage later that day.


The Helper

Again, this person will often come in on their own. At first glance, they won’t appear to be the likely buyer for this type of property, and your first glance is correct. They are there gathering info and will take any feature sheets that you have. They may even take 2 business cards, one for them and one for their child or sibling or friend who is the mystery buyer in the background. After all, they have been talking about moving here from out of town. This person will never provide the contact info for the actual person who may be interested in moving here. And also, the visitor to the open house is often heavily motivated in getting this mystery person to move here. Perhaps there are grandchildren involved. I like to imagine that they get home and set up the stack of accumulated feature sheets into a powerpoint presentation that is then diligently forwarded to their hopeful buyer.


The My-Realtor-Sent-Me Visitor

They have a realtor but their realtor couldn’t make it. Or their realtor has shown them 74 houses over the past 4 months and can’t take it anymore. Or their realtor is in Milton or Toronto or Barrie so the buyer will find the home and then call them. What a concept. Either way, at least this person is somewhat in the market. They will have seen the home on their computer already, but may still have questions. It’s not a great sign if they won’t provide their realtor’s name. If they do, then we contact them on Monday and play nice.


The Mob

A van pulls up and 8 people get out. Ideally, they arrive when no one else is in the house, since moderate chaos is about to ensue for the next 4 – 6 minutes. They are likely here from out-of-town so someone will ask to use the washroom. Some will go upstairs while others head down. They are a subset of The Out-of-Towner so again, they’re not really aware of the various neighbourhoods and amenities of the different areas of the city or region. It’s difficult to tell who is calling the shots so it’s your guess on who you should talk to. They’re in and out pretty quick since they have 9 more houses to see. Five of them may take feature sheets so that’s great too. Business cards? Forget it.


The Impulse Buyer

They’re short of breath. They love everything. And I mean, everything. And if there is something that they don’t love, they’ll easily find a way to work around it. Afterall, they love everything. They’re a couple and they’re laser focussed. They ask questions about the age of upgrades, square footage and neighbouring properties. They ask how long it has been on the market and how flexible the sellers are with their price. They leave, only to return 24 minutes later. “We’re baaaaack!” with laughs and smiles as they walk in the front door. After double checking a few things, they excitedly declare that they want to make an offer so please call them at 5:00 pm. Here is the key. Do not communicate anything to your seller yet because this buyer often cools their jets and changes their mind. They’ll stash your card in their clutter drawer in the kitchen.


The Home Inspector

Not to gender stereotype, but typically this is a dude. He taps on the drywall and determines that it’s plaster. He looks at the electrical panel and says things like “ok…100 amp. That’s good”. He wants to know about the age of the roof and what the plumbing is. He looks at the ceilings and checks under the kitchen sink. Sometimes, he’ll flush the toilets too because, well, you know, plumbing. He's often a nice person hough so have a good chat, share updates and major mechanical info and all will be good. He’ll appreciate some general market info, take your business card, and politely see themselves out.

...additional submissions from Realtors


After posting, we received some further additions from other Realtors. Here they are:


The Paul Bunyan

This person could be described as a cousin of 'The Home Inspector' (see previous paragraph). In the spirit of Paul Bunyan, they are only there "to chop down the house. They will criticize anything and everything, usually loudly, regardless of who is in the room". This visitor is one of the reasons that many Realtors will avoid open houses at all costs. By the end of the 2 hours, we are worn out and in need of a quiet place to meditate. Do NOT give them your card.   -- with credit to our pal & Realtor, Randy Mulder

The Lone Realtor

This Realtor is previewing homes for "a buyer" who is looking in the area. They're out doing some advanced scouting and seeing what's out there.They'll most likely be booking a showing in the next few days. They take a quick spin through. Ask a few questions. Exchange pleasantries and just like that, they're gone. You've exchanged business cards but really, it's of little use at this point. Later that week, they just happen to list a home down the street. I mean, what are the odds of that!?


First and foremost, this is a light-hearted list with no intent to upset anyone. It's also worth noting that this is gathered after 20+ years in the business with countless open house hours spent in other people’s living rooms. So, while it's light-hearted, it is also highly accurate.

We are quite possibly forgetting others so if you have a suggestion, let us know!


Otherwise, happy open housing.