Etiquette at Open Houses

Before this year started I set what was and is an audacious goal – one sale per week, every year for all of 2012.

Keep in mind I have no bank owned listing contract allowing me to rake in the transactions while performing next to no actual real estate. My business consists primarily of helping buyers find the properties that they want either for their families, as second homes or as investments.

Real estate is like any other business in as much as I need a certain multiple of clients in order to result in the number of sales I want; conservatively, this will be in the three to four range. This isn’t much different than a store accounting for breakage, or bodies in the door simply browsing and not purchasing.

This also accounts for the uncontrollable that happens in real estate, such as buyers walking into an open house around the corner from where they are staying while in town.

In theory, the agent at the open house should ask folks coming through if they already have an agent. I can tell you that doesn’t happen often because, thanks to procuring cause and such, the agent knows if the client views the property without their agent in tow and without proactively revealing they have an agent, it’s the open house agent who’ll get paid.

In theory, if asked (or even if not asked), the buyers should tell the agent at the open house that they are working with an agent already and just want to look around. And if they decide this property is the one they absolutely must have, they ought to call their agent to write the offer.

After all, it’s their agent who has spent days/weeks/months/years sending listings, keeping in contact and generally being available for whatever questions might arise along the way – not the agent in the open house who did nothing more than sit on his or her tuchas on a Friday afternoon.

This conversation easily can devolve into discussions of Buyer Broker Agreements and such but I still don’t much believe in them. If you walk into Best Buy, you’re not required to sign something that says you will not purchase the same product at Fry’s Electronics.

It’s about the same in real estate. Except, in real estate there’s a decided disconnect between how buyers shop and how agents operate.

Buyers are looking for homes first and foremost. They’re not shopping for agents (though it can be argued that by finding a solid agent, the buyers can save hours of time and a bit of money.)

Yet as a real estate agent, thanks to the internet and IDX and the like, my product is not the houses available. Anyone with a license has access to these, even the part-timers who are returning texts on their breaks at your local Waffle House.

My product is me. It’s my experience, my knowledge, my intuition, my ability … all the things that can make the difference in a successful sale, in the price one ultimately pays for a home, in the unexpected surprises that pop up along the way and are unexpected only because the agent at the open house didn’t know a thing about them when he opened the door and planted his folding chair.

For nearly eight years now, me has been enough about 80 percent of the time. The other 20 percent are those who forgot what work had been done on their behalf the moment they walked into an open house. It’s totally out of my control. And so it must be accounted for by generating even more leads, spending more time prospecting, asking for more referrals and keeping the so-called pipeline full.

Do you like the way that last sentence sounds as a buyer? Do you enjoy being viewed as another item inside the pipeline, another brick in the wall? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

And yet … that’s what real estate is when there’s no sense of loyalty, no appreciation of effort given.

If you’re working with an agent, unless that agent has utterly failed you, don’t render moot all of their work on your behalf just because someone with nothing better to do one afternoon threw up an Open House sign.

Make this a more personable business by being more personable yourself.

Until next time, I’ve got some calls to make … it’s a new week and a sale that needs to be completed.

Photo credit: Orin Zebest via Flickr Creative Commons

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at

1 Comment

  • J Philip Faranda 6 years ago

    It is also their agent who will run market activity and show them comparable sales, advocate for them in negotiations, and be their champion in matters of inspection and other important areas. Anyone who deals directly with the listing agent is playing with fire. 

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