I didn't need to see the couple's bike helmets to know that they had been exercising. I could feel it in their moist palms as I shook their hands and welcomed them into my home.
It was our third open house and up to that point, no one checking out our Upper West Side studio apartment had made me feel uncomfortable.
The pair sat down on my couch. The guy put his backpack and water bottle on my coffee table, placed his helmet on the floor, and then leaned back and spread out his arms along the back of the couch.
I would never sit down in a stranger's home without being invited to do so, and this guy was seriously lounging. I was taken aback. I crossed my arms and just sort of looked at the guy quizzically. If I had hired a broker and entrusted them to show my home, would s/he have allowed this? I hope not.
Eventually, his wife picked up a tape measure I had brought out earlier for someone else. She started measuring and let the metal tape reel in quickly, whipping the floor loudly all the way across the apartment.
Besides "get off my couch" and "chill with the measuring tape,” I couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn't be totally rude, so I waited it out.
When they left, I put a note by their names where they had signed in: "Sweaty couch sitters."
Later that same day, a woman asked if she could use my bathroom as she was walking into it.
Immediately after I gave a knee-jerk "yes," I was sort of repulsed.
Who was this woman? I thought. I just cleaned that toilet for the open house. And I have all of my expensive makeup and perfume in the bathroom...she doesn't look suspicious, but what if she's one of those open house robbers?
"Actually...,” I said as the she was about to close the door, “some other people are coming up right now to see the apartment and I should make the bathroom available to view...there's one in the lobby you can use!"
She raised an eyebrow and said, "okaay," and left.
At 3 pm, a full hour after the open house had ended, I was quarterbacking with my husband (our roofdeck guide during open houses) and a friend about how the open house had gone.
Right then, a couple Kramer'd their way through the door: "Oh, here we are!"
I was surprised to see strangers bounding into my apartment. I went to the door and asked if I could help them. They said, "This is the open house, isn't it?" I informed them that it had ended an hour ago and we weren't prepared to show the apartment anymore that day.
I had already kicked off my shoes, was starving since I hadn't eaten anything since 9 am and the dog was back in the apartment, running around. If the people had knocked, I might have responded differently, but it was a full hour after the open house and they just barged in. I wasn't feeling it.
Before my husband and I started hosting open houses, we talked about possible worst-case open house guest scenarios. We joked about emergency response plans for thieves and obvious creeps.
However, I didn't think about borderline situations where the people aren't doing anything "wrong," but they get too in-your-space and you're simply weirded out because people are doing these things in your house, not in Penn Station. Although, when you think about it, people can invade your space whether you're in your own home or on the subway. We have all experienced close talkers and the people who rest their hands right on top of yours on the pole in the subway.
But yes, it is more personal when you're showing your own home. It's not just a space, it's my space. And of the 50 people who have been in my apartment so far, almost everyone has been completely pleasant and aware of commonly-accepted social boundaries.
They don't have to ask me if it's ok to open the closets, but when they do, I say, "Yes, please do! Feel free to open the kitchen cabinets and the fridge and turn on the faucets if you'd like, too."
I'm more than happy to have people assess the apartment, and I think I convey that during the open houses. When they say, “There's not a ton of closet space,” I agree that it could be better. When they say they like what I've done with the space, I thank them. Good or bad feedback, I'm open to hearing it, but I'm a fan of basic etiquette.
And at future open houses, I'll know to tell people that there is a bathroom in the lobby, the couch was just Scotch Guarded and needs to dry before anyone can sit on it, and please knock before entering.
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