Why You May Have to Take Your Shoes Off at an Open House

It's been a long week, and now you're spending your weekend house hunting, running from one open house to another. You're tired but still hopeful as you step into yet another home, only to be greeted with a command: Take off your shoes. What gives?

It might sound like a ridiculous request, but it's not. Sellers have good reasons to make their open houses shoeless, but they should also take care not to offend buyers in the process.

What's the big deal about shoes?

Sellers go through the trouble of making their homes sparkling clean before an open house, paying for that shine from their wallets or with their own sweat. Open houses can attract hundreds of people -- and twice that number of feet -- so some sellers want to reduce the chance of floor damage, like from the following:

Scuffs: With tons of people coming and going, it's possible one or more might ding up a hardwood floor with heavy boots or high heels.

Salt damage: When it snows, there's salt. The same substance that provides traction on slick surfaces can act like sandpaper on hardwood or laminate flooring.

Wet spots: Since there's not necessarily anyone to clean up after guests, tracked-in water can create a falling hazard. It also dirties up carpets.

Dirt, mud … and worse: How often do you check the bottom of your shoe? Chances are, there's something gross under there.

Reduce the risk of offense

If you're a seller, asking buyers to make an effort that's out of the ordinary carries a risk. Some buyers feel uncomfortable taking off their shoes to show dirty or torn-up socks. Others might simply feel offended by the idea of their shoes being too dirty for admittance. Plus, the inconvenience of having to bend down and untie one's shoes can diminish the "wow" factor of the front room, slightly sour a first impression, or simply make buyers feel awkward.

So, make the no-shoe rule as convenient as possible:

Put a sign outside: By informing buyers upfront, you'll save them an awkward confrontation with your listing agent inside. Make the sign apologetic or add a touch of humor to put buyers at ease.

Create a shoe-shedding space: You don't want buyers forming a line or bumping into one another to get their shoes on or off. If you have a tiny mudroom, consider setting up some chairs in a larger area in the adjacent room.

Keep it organized: Keep those shoes easy to find and out of the way with a shoe rack positioned against the wall.

Provide slippers: Consider buying inexpensive, nonslip slippers or socks for your guests.

Turn on the heat: A cold floor can make potential buyers rush through your house. Keep the heat on a little warmer than usual.

Provide hand sanitizer and towels: Your buyers might end up with mud or dirt on their hands, so have some hand sanitizer and paper towels ready, plus a trash can for the refuse.

Be flexible: You might need to make exceptions. If some buyers have orthopedic needs, it's best not to press them to take off their shoes or they probably won't bother coming in. Talk with your agent about how much you're willing to budge. A large welcome mat can be handy in these situations.

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