by Monica Arellano Ongpin
If you've ever been to an open house, you were surely asked to sign a guest book or a sign-in sheet. This is common practice throughout North America, and beyond. You may have wondered, however, what these sheets are for and how the information you enter is used.
What Are Open House Sign-in Sheets?
To "define the terms," a sign-in list or a guestbook belong to the agent hosting the open house. This is the agent with whom the visitors tour the house — usually the buyers' agent. The seller's agent in fact seldom meets open house visitors, unless he or she actively promotes the house or acts on behalf of buyers as well.
Why Visitors Sign a Sign-in Sheet
Sign-in sheets are supposed to record buyers' leads and collect feedback on the house and its presentation. Visitors' impressions are invaluable to any agent because they allow her or him to make changes to the presentation, price, or market positioning of the house if need be. While the hosting (buyers') agent will be there to hear the feedback in person, the seller's agent must rely on the hosting agent's account.
As for the leads, the buyers' agent may use visitors' information to contact them about their interest in buying the house, or may include them in a mailing list promoting similar properties in the agent's portfolio. Put simply, the sign-in sheet is also a marketing tool for real estate agents.
Respecting Your Privacy
All agents must respect your privacy, however, and must provide you with a way to opt out of future communication, including newsletters and house listings. If you decide that you do not want to be contacted, the agent must honour your prerogative.
If an open house visitor is interested in the toured house, though, he or she should indicate that on the sign-in sheet. The agent will then follow up with her or him on that particular house.
What Sellers Know
As I mentioned above, the sign-in sheet should remain with the hosting agent. Of course, the seller's agent is informed whenever a buyer expresses serious interest in the property — it is, after all, in both agents' interest to close the transaction.
Additionally, Realtor® courtesy prompts the hosting agent to share the number of visitors and a summary of their comments with the seller's agent as well. This allows the seller's agent to benefit from clients' feedback, too.
Just to make sure, the hosting agent will share the contact information with neither the seller nor the seller's agent. The contact information is essentially a reward for the agent hosting the open house.
By the same token, sharing buyers' information with sellers' agents may prompt the latter to circumvent the buyer's agent and negotiate directly with the buyer. For these reasons, it is common practice for buyers' agents to retain the sign-in sheets and most of the information disclosed therein.
To Sign or Not to Sign
Many open house visitors don't feel comfortable signing guest books and disclosing their contact information. This is understandable — especially if they're not particularly interested in the house or are not absolutely serious about buying a house in general.
It is the agent's job, then, to convince the visitors that their information will not be misused or disclosed, and that their requests will be respected. Some agents provide specimen materials and newsletters next to the sign-in sheet, so that visitors can see what they can sign up for. All agents should provide the opt-out option by default.
Why should you sign at all, you might ask, if you are requesting "no contact?" Even when you know that you do not want to be contacted, it is still good practice (and even advisable) to record your visit in the sign-in sheet. Open house showings often take place in another person's home and they may like to have some proof of your visit if problems arise as a result of the open house showing.
Problems can arise for you as well: imagine that you lose or forget an earring, a phone, or a laptop during an open house visit. Having signed the "attendance sheet" will make it much easier for you to go back and ask for the owner's permission to look for your lost item in his or her house. If you have signed as John Doe, Lady Gaga, Bin Ladin, or Michael Jackson, then I wish you good luck trying to recover what you've lost.
Let me know in the discussion if you have any more questions or concerns about open house showings and I will do my best to respond.