I don’t like the idea of nosy neighbours touring my home during an open house. Can I bar them from my Open House?

Admittedly, I sometimes enjoy stopping in at open houses in my neighbourhood — I like the uniqueness of every home, including the different design and layout ideas. An open house is widely understood to be an invitation to the general public to walk inside a home and take a look around. So it’s highly inadvisable for a seller to selectively bar certain people from entering the home during open house hours. Refusing entry could lead to unpleasant confrontations in front of would-be buyers and put your real estate salesperson in a difficult position.

The alternative is to show your home to would-be buyers by arranging appointments ahead of time. If your neighbours really wish to see your home, they could set up an appointment through a registered brokerage of their choice. But that’s up to you to decide — with input from your salesperson — if that’s a likely scenario.

An open house will often attract curious browsers and nosy neighbours, as you put it. According to media reports, a Toronto open house held last year in the Seaton Village home formerly rented by actress Meghan Markle brought in about 150 people, and only a fraction of those were interested buyers.

Hosting an open house can be an effective tactic for showing a home to interested buyers, but you should always remember that as a seller the decision to open your home to the public is entirely yours. You are in the driver’s seat. If you have concerns about privacy or safety, you should discuss them with your salesperson. Real estate reps are experienced in establishing marketing plans, and that includes determining whether holding an open house will be useful for selling your home. They also understand the art of hosting these events, which may involve handling unpleasant visitors without upsetting potential home buyers.

As a homeowner you should take reasonable steps to protect your personal safety and property. That’s why agents ask visitors to provide identification and contact information before they view your home: It creates a list that the police can use if anything gets damaged or stolen, and it can help your salesperson follow up with potential buyers.

The regulations enforced by the Real Estate Council of Ontario require a real estate salesperson or broker to be present during an open house. It’s a best practice to have a salesperson accompany visitors as they tour the home. If you don’t want visitors to wander around your home unaccompanied, you could request that a second registered salesperson be present to greet visitors at the door and then ask them to wait, either in the hallway or outside until the main salesperson is available. Open house safety is an important issue.

Another possibility is that you and your salesperson could hold an “agents only” open house, meaning only other salespeople and brokers would be allowed to tour your home. You and your salesperson may wish to discuss that showcasing option.

If you decide that holding any sort of open house isn’t right for you, tell your real estate agent you would prefer they show your home to interested buyers by appointment only.


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Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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