Is It OK to Use the Bathroom When You’re Touring a House? (and 4 Other Questions You’re Afraid to Ask)

Before you "test" the powder room, it's good open house etiquette to ask permission first. Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

It’s a marathon house-hunting day. As you check out listing No. 5’s brand new windows, it suddenly hits you: “Oh man, I have to go to the bathroom.”

Should you, or shouldn’t you?

Navigating do’s and don’ts can be totally awkward, so we asked the pros everything most buyers secretly want to know.

Well, Can I Use the Bathroom?

If you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go — but don’t just wander off and take care of business. It might not work in every house. Literally.

“Ask permission,” says Pat Vredevoogd Combs, past president of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF  REALTORS® who works and lives inGrand Rapids, Mich. Vacant houses, especially in winter, may have the water shut off, so there’s no way to flush. That’s something you really want to know before you go.

And if you’re at a busy open house, being in the loo for more than a minute means other potential buyers can’t check out the facilities — and may not want to after you’ve, um, done your business.

To be safe, schedule in a few pit stops at restaurants or gas stations along the way, suggests Vredevoogd Combs.

Is It OK to Bring in My Coffee?

We’re pretty sure ordering house hunters to forgo coffee qualifies as “cruel and unusual punishment” in some states. But if you’re carrying a drink, be careful — unless you’re prepared to go mano a mano with the floor.

“So many first-time home buyers are millennials, and I almost never see them without a cup of Starbucks in their hand,” Vredevoogd Combs says. “I had one guy spill his coffee on white carpeting and we had to get down on our hands and knees to clean it up.”

Food, on the other hand, is no bueno, unless the seller has left out cookies. By all means, take one, but eat it in the kitchen. Preferably over a napkin.

Can I Peek in the Closet?

“Absolutely,” says Tg Glazer, 2016 president of the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®. “Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase you’re ever going to make, and you need to check out everything.”

Basically, look all you want, but don’t rifle around. You’re shopping for closet space, not a new wardrobe.

How About a Quick Selfie With This Awesome, Lemon-Colored Range?

With smartphones being practically an appendage for many buyers, snapping pics to share with friends and family is so easy. But hold your trigger finger, especially if you’re planning to share the images online.

Whether you can take photos and videos “seems to be a regional custom,” Vredevoogd Combs says. “In some cases, sellers have valuable things and don’t even want their homes promoted online. Ask permission first.”

Can I Plop Down on That Chaise Lounge?

Vredevoogd Combs says she’s not a fan. “Feeling comfortable enough to want to sit on the furniture might be a good intent to buy, but it isn’t your furniture and you’re not buying it.” Plus, that cozy looking couch or comfy bed might be staged — air beds or cardboard boxes wearing fancy clothes — so you might take a spill.

If you need to sit, for health reasons or that sprained ankle from your last marathon, just ask. That’s not unreasonable.

The bottom line is the old-fashioned Golden Rule: Do unto others’ homes as you’d have them do unto yours.

“Be on your best behavior,” says Vredevoogd Combs. Pretend the seller is there — and sometimes they are, even if you can’t see them. They might be waiting next door at a neighbor’s house and wander back at any minute. So it’s also a good idea to keep comments to yourself. You wouldn’t want them to overhear how much you love the master suite — that could mess up your negotiating power if you decide to buy.

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