You've found some houses online that seem to fit what you're looking for, and you've called your agent to arrange some in-person visits. But before you head out the door, acquaint yourself with some house-hunting etiquette.
First and foremost, know how much house you can afford. If you haven't been preapproved for a mortgage, you may be wasting everyone's time -- including your own -- by looking at houses that are out of your league. Once you've met with a lender, you can start hunting.
When you have an appointment to view a place, make sure you show up on time, or even a few minutes early. If you can't be punctual, call ahead. Not to step on Miss Manners' toes, but being late is one of the worst breaches of etiquette, second only to not showing up at all.
Sellers go to a lot of trouble to get their homes ready for a showing: cleaning thoroughly (or at least putting everything away), locking up the dog and sending the kids down the street, for example. Being late shows a complete lack of respect for them and their efforts.
Speaking of children, it's best to leave yours at home so you can concentrate on the job at hand. Ditto for the family dog. Hire a sitter or ask a family member to watch them. Once you settle on a house, you can come back with the little ones to show them around or let them voice their opinions. But not before.
The same goes for your parents and friends: Sure, you value their opinions, but this is not a family affair -- at least not yet. Don't invite them to tag along until you've narrowed down your choices significantly.
Once you arrive for a showing, make sure you don't block the driveway, or even park in it. It's simple courtesy not to obstruct anyone. And leave the food in the car: No snacking in someone else's place.
As you enter, make sure you follow any requests made by the owners. If they ask that visitors wear masks, then wear a mask. If they ask that you leave your shoes at the front door, do so. Instructions like these are usually part of the listing, but even if they are announced when you arrive, do what they ask.
Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating the seller, which is never a good thing. A peeved seller might play hardball through the entire transaction just because you wouldn't remove your shoes.
Everybody has a camera in their pocket these days, but once inside, no pictures. Remember, this is someone's home. People already feel somewhat vulnerable when they open their house to strangers, so try not to make the situation worse. You can always ask if they mind you taking a few shots, but respect their wishes.
Measuring rooms or furniture is verboten, too. If you like the place enough for a second look, that's when you can take out the tape and measure to your heart's content.
On the other hand, feel free to take all the notes you desire. Bring along a notebook and write down what you like, what you don't, what might need to be repaired or replaced, and what you'd likely change if the place was yours.
It's OK to nose around, but don't be too nosy. Feel free to open closets, kitchen cabinets and pantry doors -- you have every right to see how much those spaces hold -- but don't open dresser drawers or medicine cabinets. And stay out of the refrigerator, especially if it doesn't convey. In short, don't rifle through their belongings.
Don't make yourself at home, either. This is still not your house, so don't sit on the furniture or beds. If you must sit, ask for permission first.
Don't use the bathroom. If the place is vacant, you won't be able to, anyway, because the water will be turned off. But if the house is still occupied, it's best to wait. If you can't, then ask for permission. It's the polite thing to do.
Finding a house that tickles your fancy is an exciting moment. But keep your comments and opinions to yourself as you look around. If the house has flaws, wait until you get back outside to talk about them. Otherwise, you could tick off the owner.
On the flip side, if the house seems perfect and has all the things you want, don't mention that within earshot of the owner or their agent, either. Anything you say could be used against you -- not in a court of law, but in the bargaining process. If the seller knows how much you want the house, they may not be willing to negotiate. In other words, don't show your hand by running your mouth.
Finally, don't linger at a showing. Take your time, for sure, but once you've had a complete look around, say your goodbyes and leave. There may be others waiting for their turn to view the house, or the owners may be waiting for the signal that they can come home.
The Golden Rule for house shopping is this: Treat sellers like you'd like to be treated if you were selling your house.