Tuesday, May 1, 2012

House-viewing: A Strange American Custom

This time I'm prompted by a post over at About Last Weekend. (A great blog if you're not familiar.)

She held a house-viewing (or behind-the-scenes-tour) over the weekend to raise money for charity. She and her family de-camped to a friends, and hordes of people paid big bucks to take tours through presumably very nice houses in her locale. All the money raised went to this local charity.

It's something I've been aware of in the 22 years since I've moved to the States but something that still somewhat bemuses me. Why would you want to pay money to saunter through other people's houses? (BTW, as someone who's always on the lookout for ways to raise money, I'm not knocking it.)

I suppose if you were on the looking for design inspiration, it's not a bad way to get them. I suspect however, that most people are just a bit nosey. After all, who doesn't look in windows when people have their lights on and the curtains open? But paying - isn't that an open declaration of your noseyness? Or does the fact that it's for a good cause cancel out the prying?

Obviously it's not something I could ever consider doing even if I had a house worth viewing. There would have to be disclaimers pinned in every room.

"The owner is not responsible for injuries sustained from :

- slipping on dog drool
- walking into cupboard doors that won't close properly
- tripping over curly edges of rugs
- falling down stairs that have no hand-rail

Enter at your own risk".

Your home is supposed to look something like this to be view-worthy:

I think they'd all be asking for their money back with mine.


  1. I recall a short lived trailer on HGTV about the upcoming house hunting shows. People slipping by upscale houses, heads out of car windows,trying to look into windows, and the hook was: you just want to know, don't you.

  2. But there's the same thing in the UK in terms of visits of stately homes. There's the Open London weekend (http://www.londonopenhouse.org/) and there's a weekend in Brighton--and probably similar things in many other towns--where you can visit people's gardens, in this case to raise money for a hospice: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=c1247728.

    Plus, we have two months of weekends of artist's open houses (May, December) in Brighton, which almost everyone admits to going to in order to nose around other people's houses.

    So, I think I've been afforded more such opportunities in the UK than I ever was in the US.

  3. I suppose it's just house porn taken to extremes - I probably wouldn't mind seeing such houses, but instead of paying you could just go to open houses or look at what's on the market in the 5 million dollar range and brazenly pretend to a realtor that you're interested. I have, and would, paid to look at really nice gardens though.

  4. We have quite a few house tour things around here and I always think no matter how nice my house, I'd just be too embarrassed if people thought I thought it was good enough to be "toured". I have loads of friends in England with really beautiful houses and they would all be totally shocked if anyone proposed they let other people traipse around them, not because they wouldn't want to help raise money, it just would be odd to them.

    Gardens is/are definitely another matter because it's not quite like people nosing around your house. We have a number of summer garden walks (to raise money) where you can have a look at other people's gardens. Again, unless they wanted the risk of stepping in dog poo, not something I could volunteer!

    And yes Lynne, I hadn't really thought about the stately homes thing, although to me, that's on another scale altogether.

  5. Hi there! Thanks a million for the shout out. Yes- I have to say this is one custom my friends back in London would not volunteer for! What I was more amazed about was when we arrived in Ca, USA from London nine years ago, people would invite us round to dinner, then immediately whisk us around for a house tour! Nirvana for nosey parkers like me!

  6. Ah yes, the dreaded tour for guests. This house and our previous house were total guts jobs. We literally built them up again on the inside. We have been in this house for almost 9 year and I swear, for the first 5 years people would always ask to have a look around. That's one of the reasons I stopped having guests. (Only joking, but the pressure of having to have every room in "show-place" state was a pain.)

  7. I'm with you Toni, I don't think tours of National Trust Properties and stately homes in England are the same as they type of house tours your speaking of. They're on a different level. I think some of these home owners probably THINK or WISH they had a stately home and enjoy showing them off. It's partly an ego thing and yes, people are nosy too.

    It sort of creeps me out thinking of the general public walking through my house, no matter how nice it is. (Actually, the nicer it is the more worried I would be.)

  8. The garden tours I have heard of - my parents do it every year, and where we live in London the communal gardens are open to the public one day a year as well, but I'm with you EPM; you couldn't pay me enough to open my home to the viewing public...

  9. I'd be worried they'd be sussing out stuff to nick...

  10. I haven't come across this custom. I do know about people in England opening their gardens, as Potty says, but then you're just showing off your gardening abilities, not your whole life.

    Of course we have people traipsing through our home at the moment, and it's a fundraiser of a sort. Though the funds are (we hope) going to come to us, not to a charity.

    Didn't stately homes used to do a similar thing (without the fundraising) in England? Didn't Elizabeth go and have a tour round Darcy's home?

  11. Yes, stately homes do that but bear in mind, you're never allowed into their private quarters. Even they don't like the plebs getting into their stuff!

  12. I'm used to this by now and accept the fact that most of the houses feature magnificent kitchens—which have never been used. Another form of open house is when the Junior League, or some such, takes over a house which isn't selling or which needs work and assigns each room to various designers. They get to show off their talent and pick up clients, the owner gets a fancier house and the Junior League makes money. A win/win/win situation.

  13. Ooh, Beryl - you've just given me an idea!

  14. Can't see myself doing it, in the US or here. But I don't have a beautiful home. Maybe if I did.

    BTW, did you ever read my post about the "strange British custom of taking the birthday cake home" and not eating it at the party? I still don't understand that.

    Hope you have your wellies when you come over, the weather is truly awful.

  15. Hmmm - so long since I've been to a birthday party I can't remember but I know about the little boxes to take cake home, so it must be lurking there in the back of my brain somewhere!

    No, no, no - it's going to be warm, sunny and dry in June!

  16. If I had a house like Jody from About Last Weekend, then part of me would want the world to see how stylish and fab I am, and the other half would be worried people would case the joint and come back later to nick it all.

  17. I actually just love looking through other people's houses, whether they are fancy or not. I can watch House Hunters for hours on end, and I've been known to go to realtor's Open Houses and pretend to be in the market to buy just so I can look around.

    Well, I haven't done that since the economic downturn, but it was fun a few years ago when Open Houses were on every corner :)

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  19. I've never paid to look around someone's house but I do confess to peeking in windows when I'm walking past and the lights are on at night. Hopefully they are not looking back at me at the same time. That's just embarrassing!

  20. I've done a couple of homes tours and really enjoyed them and I don't mind giving a tour of my place to friends that come over for dinner. The one thing that drove me nuts was getting my old house ready for a "viewing" or open house when I was selling it. I just felt like only nosey people came and not genuinely interested buyers.

  21. I have lived in the Chicago-area all my life (Sauganash area) and have never heard of house viewing. Maybe it is something popular among older generations? Or perhaps I have been living under a rock my whole life.

    This custom sounds weird even to me!


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