Torontonians love their open houses (yes, Leslieville and Roncesvalles, I’m looking at you). Today, we’re answering your most frequently asked questions and sharing our best advice.
Most open houses in Toronto are advertised on the MLS and on realtor.ca.
Q: When Do Open Houses Occur?
In Toronto, public open houses usually happen on the weekends, between 2-4 PM, though some start earlier and some end later. Some open houses are on Saturday, some on Sunday, and some REALTORS host them on both days. Never assume there’s an open house – always check before heading out.
Note that most open houses occur during the first few weekends after a home is first listed for sale.
Q: Can Anyone Go to An Open House?
Anybody can attend a public open house, from neighbours to active home Buyers to people simply thinking of making a move. While kids are usually welcome, you’ll need to accompany them in the home vs. letting them wander. Sadly, dogs are never welcome at open houses, so best to leave the pup at home.
If you’re just passing by and are curious, by all means, feel free to go in – just tell the agent you aren’t actually in the market to buy. Don’t feel you need to invent a story to justify being there – best to be honest and let them focus their efforts on real potential buyers while you satisfy your curiosity.
Q: What About Curious Neighbours?
It’s OK to be a curious neighbour – you’re still welcome at an open house. You don’t have to pretend that you’re looking for a house for a friend or pretend that your friends with the Sellers if you really aren’t. The truth is, everybody wants to know what their house is worth, and checking out the competition on the street is one of the best ways to do that. Let alone it’s super fun to find out how that neighbour who lets the dog out in his PJ’s really lives.
Q: I’m Already Working with An Agent – Can I Still Go to An Open House?
Absolutely. Just tell the agent hosting it that you’re already working with an agent. It’s also common for Buyers to visit a home with their agent during a public house.
Q: Can I Attend an Agent Open House?
Occasionally, you may see a sign advertising an ‘Agent Open House’. The purpose of an Agent Open House is to introduce a home to other REALTORS, so they’re usually scheduled Monday-Friday, around lunchtime. If you want to attend an agent open house, it might be ok if you pop in – just make sure to identify that you aren’t a REALTOR before you enter.
There’s no need to dress up, but you’ll be taken more seriously if you don’t show up in flannel PJ’s. We always recommend slip-on/slip-off shoes and socks – you never know what you’ll be walking into. Always take off your shoes or boots.
Q: Do I Have to Sign-in?
Most agents will ask you to sign in at an open house or show ID before touring the home. It’s both for safety reasons and because homeowners want to know who went through their home.
Be honest about who you are – we know your name probably isn’t Jane Smith and your phone number isn’t 867-9309. Yes, some agents will use that information to bombard you with e-mail spam and phone calls, and no, that isn’t cool. But simply indicating that you don’t want to be contacted is way more respectful than faking it. And if you are going to fake it, at least be original, lol.
Q: Does Every Home For Sale in Toronto Have an Open House?
No. The decision to host a public open house is made by the Seller and their agent. If you want to see a house that doesn’t have one scheduled, you can book a private viewing with your REALTOR.
Related: Why You Need an Agent
Q: Do I Ring the Doorbell at an Open House? Or Just Open the Door?
Most REALTORS will make it obvious that an open house is happening, and you’ll see a sign in front of the home, and often, the door will be left ajar. If there’s a sign or an open door – walk in. If there aren’t any tell-tale signs that the open house is in fact open, knock on the door or ring the doorbell. Better to be safe than sorry.
Q: What Should I Expect From the Agent?
When you arrive, the agent will introduce themselves and shake your hand. They’ll also likely ask you to sign-in, and will ask some basic questions to get to know you and gauge your interest and readiness to buy. Usually, they’ll hand you some information, tell you the price and highlight a few things about the home and neighbourhood. Some agents will give you a complete tour while others will let you explore on your own.
Open houses are a great time to ask the agent questions about the neighbourhood and the home.
Q: What Should I Look For at an Open House?
Attending an open house is a great way to start to get to know a home, beyond the photos you see online. Most people spend 10-20 minutes touring a home during an open house, so you’ll need to focus your efforts. You’ll want to look at:
- The size and type of rooms
- The layout and flow of the rooms
- Quality and condition of the home
- The state of the front and back yards, including decks and fences
- Parking options
If you’re interested in the home, pay close attention to the number of people touring it and the types of questions they are asking – this could come in handy if you end up in multiple offers.
Note: if you want to really see a house, book a private showing with your REALTOR – you’ll appreciate the lack of distractions and people, be able to ask questions and benefit from the expertise of your agent.
Related: What to Look for in a Condo
Related: What to Look for in a Flip
Q: What Should I NOT Do at an Open House?
There are some etiquette rules. When attending an open house, don’t:
- Use any of the bathrooms (especially in an ’emergency’)
- Take photos or video
- Say unkind or critical things about the home or the Seller’s belongings (it’s possible they have a video recording you)
- Touch the Seller’s personal items (this includes opening dresser drawers, handling their sculptures, touching the kids’ toys and laying on the beds).
- Bring your dog
- Assume you can wander through the home unaccompanied – remember: you’re a guest and it’s best to let the agent take the lead unless told otherwise.
- Monopolize the agent’s time at a busy open house if you aren’t actually interested in the home.
- Show up before or after the open house’s scheduled time and expect to see the home.
- Tell the host REALTOR your budget, hopes, dreams and personal situation. Remember: the agent hosting the open house represents the Seller, and if you end up being interested in the home, what you’ve told them may be used against you.
Related: Showing Etiquette for Buyers
Q: Any Other Open House Tips?
- Plan out your route in advance. Ideally, plan to see homes that are close enough together to walk to – you’ll appreciate the time and hassles you’ll save from not having to park multiple times.
- Avoid the crowds. The busiest time at an open house is right before it ends, so if you’re looking to avoid crowds, aim for the beginning of the open house.
- If you’re working with an agent, be upfront about it. If the house ends up getting an offer at 8 pm on Saturday, the listing agent will be able to contact your REALTOR before the Sellers accept another offer. It’s never fun when a house you’re interested in gets sold out from under you. Plus if you confess to working with an agent, you’re less likely to get harassed by the open house agent.
- If you’re a curious neighbour, that’s OK too. You don’t have to pretend that you have a friend interested in the house, and you don’t have to pretend that you’re in the market if you aren’t. Agents know that neighbours attend open houses -there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
- Take notes! If you’re hitting multiple open houses, you’ll likely forget most of what you saw by the end of the day. Pull out your smartphone and write down the important stuff.
- Ask plenty of questions. Open houses are usually hosted by the agent who has listed the property, so they should be able to answer your most random questions, from how old the roof is to how much was spent on that recent kitchen renovation.
- If you’re not really “into” the house, leave the pretty feature sheet behind. Feature sheets are expensive and the lives of trees are at stake. Do you really want the pointless death of a tree on your conscience? It’s totally OK to take a feature sheet while you tour the home and return it before you leave. Thank you.
- Don’t forget that your agent can take you to a private showing of a home at any time. If the house you are interested in doesn’t have an open house or the timing doesn’t work, give your agent a call. Showing homes is a big part of an agent’s job.