When you’re searching for a house or property to buy, you’ll be going on lots and lots of house viewings. These can sometimes be awkward; after all you’re poking around someone else’s home. Here’s a house viewing etiquette checklist of what to do or avoid doing when you’re doing house or flat viewings.
General etiquette rules for flat or house viewings:
- You’re visiting someone else’s most personal space, their home. The golden rule is don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in your own home.
- Potentially, you might be doing a business transaction (i.e. buying) the property from the home owner (seller). You’re looking to be professional and leave a good impression – don’t do anything you wouldn’t do if you were visiting your manager’s or your manager’s manager’s home for example.
- Below are some samples Do’s and Dont’s, to help you navigate this tricky and awkward activity. This is by no means exhaustive!
- If in doubt about doing something during a house viewing, always ask the agent if you’re allowed to. They’ve done loads of house viewings and will know any specific or unusual instructions from the seller.
Etiquette do’s when viewing a house or flat:
- Turn up on time for the house viewing appointment. Agents often have a packed back-to-back viewing schedule, especially on weekends and evenings. In addition, the home owner or tenants are taking a minor inconvenience to let you view, so don’t keep them waiting.
- Know how much time you have and keep track of time. Whether its because you have another house viewing after, or the agent does, or the home owner or tenants need you out by a certain time. This will also help you prioritise what you want to get out of your house viewing, if the time is tight.
- When you enter, always ask if you should take off your shoes or not. Or follow the example of the estate agent.
- Ask the agent before you open cupboards, wardrobes, or any storage units (unless the property is completely vacant).
- You should definitely test fixtures and fittings (windows, internal and external doors, shower heads, taps, etc) especially in a second or third viewing, but ask the agent before you do, or get them to do it. For example, windows are sometimes tricky or have a latch, and easy to damage.
- You can of course take pictures and videos during the viewing, its commonly acceptable, no need to ask the agent, but it doesn’t hurt if you do ask as well, as a courtesy.
- If the property isn’t empty when you’re viewing, keep your voices down, as the tenants or home owners might be sleeping or concentrating on some work or task. A good voice level to use is as though you were in a museum. Hold any long conversations till after you’ve left the property.
- If the seller or the tenants are present, you can of course ask questions. But if they seem busy or uncomfortable, don’t keep grilling and peppering them with questions. Save them to ask via the agent later. Especially with tenants, they’re doing you a big favour allowing you to intrude and view in their personal space and time.
- If you’ve got a backpack or large shoulder bag, leave it at the door. Don’t lug it around the property. You’re familiar with the layout and therefore you risk knocking things over or marking the walls.
- If its raining and you have a wet umbrella, raincoat, or wet jacket, ask the agent where you should put it. Don’t just leave it on the floor in the foyer/landing – it might damage the carpets or wooden floor.
- If you’re privacy conscious, do ask the agent in advance if there are any cameras, CCTV, or audio recording devices in the property, and ask them to ensure the seller or tenants have turned them off before your visit.
Etiquette don’ts and no-no’s when viewing a house or flat:
- If you don’t have your own transport, don’t automatically assume you can turn up at the estate agent’s office or nearest public transport station, and get a lift from the agent. Often, estate agents have back to back viewings and will be going directly from one house to another.
- Don’t touch any personal objects or possessions that isn’t a fixture or fitting (e.g. lamp, radiator, etc). There should be no reason to, and if you do need to touch something (i.e. to move it aside), ask the agent do to it. This minimises the risk of you accidentally causing any damage, and also its poor house viewing etiquette to touch someone else’s personal things.
- If you do want to touch fixtures and fittings that will come with the property – radiators, boiler, window shutters, etc – ask the agent for permission before hand.
- If you have to bring young kids to your house viewing (strongly not recommended), make sure they behave and don’t run around and touch anything.
- Don’t use the bathroom at a house viewing. Unless you have a medical condition – in which case do flag up with the agent before the viewing that you might need to.
- If you’re viewing a flat and there’s a private off-street parking garage or space to park in front of the building – don’t assume you can park there just because you’re viewing a flat in the development, as you might find yourself getting a private parking fine! Ask the agent or building security to find you a suitable parking space when you arrive
- Don’t nosy around in the seller’s or tenant’s personal belongings. It’s not just a house viewing etiquette point, but a practical point. You only have a certain amount of precious time to evaluate the property, so make every minute count!
- Don’t bring food or drink with you – it is poor etiquette and rude to be eating your breakfast or lunch, or drinking your coffee, at a house viewing. A bottle of water might be OK, but why not just drink right before entering the property. Drinking and eating while house viewing increases the risk of a spillage, and causing damage to the property.
- Don’t discuss more than you absolutely need to during the house viewing. You never know if the seller or agent is listening in (if they are at the property) or if they have internal cameras and microphones picking up what you do or say.
- Don’t have long phone conversations during the house viewing. If someone calls and you need to have a long conversation, call them back later, after the viewing. Focus on the task at hand, and make full use of the limited time you have during the house viewing.
- Don’t criticise the decor, upkeep, or anything else during your visit. Again, you don’t know if there’s anyone else listening in.
Still anxious about viewing properties and need a bit more info on what you can or can’t do during a house viewing? We’ve got the top Q&A questions below that we get asked, and some more tips and tricks.
Finally, while this is an article on the House Viewing Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts when viewing a property, we’re also working on a checklist of what you should do and check when viewing, to maximise your house viewing time – check back on FTB Help soon!
Q: How should you act when viewing a house?
Professional and polite. This is a business transaction after all, not a visit to a friend’s house. Treat it seriously – the agent has blocked out their time to show you the property, and you’re using your personal time too, so make the most of the viewing by fully engaging in the process.
If you’re viewing while the seller or tenants are there, be respectful and polite to them and aware that you’re intruding into their personal space and time, so try to be discreet, quiet, and efficient.
Its OK to show enthusiasm or disappointment during the visit, this gives good feedback to the agent whether this is the type of property you’re looking for, but don’t go overboard with your emotions.
Q: What should you not say when viewing a house?
Keep it professional. If there are things you really don’t like or dissatisfied about, you can always raise it later when you follow up with the agent. Remember, the seller or tenants might be listening to your conversations, even if they’re not there.
– Don’t overly criticise the decor or style
– Don’t ask questions that are in the property listing – you should have read that before the viewing. And you’re just using up precious time during the house viewing
– Don’t reveal any personal information that could will give the seller an edge in negotiations. e.g you might think the place is perfect as its just down the road from your mum’s. The agent and seller will now know they have something unique that you value, and now have the upper hand in the negotiation.
– Don’t criticise the neighbour’s properties or gardens – they might be listening too, and if you do end up buying this property, you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with the neighbours.
Q: Can you take photos and videos when viewing a house?
Yes, absolutely! This is best practice, as you have limited time for each house viewing, and there will be things you miss that you’ll think about later on, that you can then refer back to in your photos and videos. Plus you’ll be viewing many properties, so unless you have a photographic memory, all the details will start to blur together in your mind.
Photos and videos are now so common during house viewings that you probably don’t need to ask permission, it is assumed you’ll be doing it. However, if you do want to adhere to proper house viewing etiquette, do ask the agent for permission – the answer in 99% of the cases is probably a yes. Unless its a celebrity’s house!
Apart from photos, you should also take notes, either with a physical pen and notepad, or on your phone. I’ve found that the Google Keep and Evernote apps are great for collecting notes on your phone during house viewings.
Q: Should I take off my shoes during a house viewing?
There’s no fixed answer for this question, the best house viewing etiquette when viewing a property is to ask the agent at the door, or follow what the agent does.
Even if you are allowed to wear shoes during the view, check your soles for mud and dirt before you enter, especially if its been raining.
If you do take your shoes off, keep your socks on. For your hygiene, and also for the home occupiers.
Q: Should I bring a gift to a house viewing?
No. Bringing a gift would be highly unusual, and most of the time the seller or tenants won’t be there anyways. You might think you’re being polite by bringing a gift, since you’re causing inconvenience to the home occupiers, but this is not common house viewing etiquette and will raise eyebrows.
Q: How much time to spend on a house viewing?
Typically, estate agents will allocate 20 to 30 minutes maximum for a first time viewing. To avoid any confusion and know how much time you have, it’s probably worth asking when you meet in front of the property how much time the agent has before they have to go for their next appointment.
If you’re going for a second or third viewing, and really want to go through the property in detail with a fine toothcomb, it is common house viewing etiquette to flag this up to the agent when arranging the viewing. If you think you need up to an hour, say so – so they don’t assume you only need half an hour and schedule back to back appointments.