Photo by Salt Water New England

Friday, July 30, 2021

House Tours: If, When, To Whom, and How?


Sent by a reader:

A question for the community - when, if ever, is it appropriate to give a tour of your home to house guests? What's appropriate to talk about and what's better left unmentioned?



30 comments:

  1. A delicate balance to be sure!

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  2. Because I live in an old house in New Orleans, I find that people are pretty curious to see it and often ask. But generally I would say I take my cue from the guests as to how interested they would be in the details. Certainly it's nice to know where the bathrooms are and which one is appropriate to use!

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  3. I do not know that I have ever given a guest a tour, and it would seem a little strange to me to do so. We have a compact two story home, and a guest can easily take in the ground floor. A couple of times a dinner table conversation has drifted into art or music where the subjects of specific art or instruments came up, and I have shown very old and close friends several paintings that hang in our bedroom or a very unusual guitar that is also kept there, but there were no side trips to the other bedrooms or bathrooms.

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  4. We live in a historic, stone house outside of Philadelphia. Many of our friends are either history or architecture buffs. Many ask for a tour, mostly to check out beams, floor joists, and moldings.

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  5. Only if there is a compelling reason, e.g. history buff or architectural interest. Otherwise, no.

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  6. I'd hold off talking about the ghosts until breakfast.

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  7. If you're Wilt Chamberlain and you're really proud of your mirrored bedroom with a swimming pool that starts inside and goes outside, by all means give a tour. Or if you're the first lady of the United States. Maybe if you're a down-at-the-heels British aristocrat giving tours of the country place to raise a little money. Otherwise probably not.

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    1. To your last sentence, American here, but I own a unit in an old pile of a building that has its common spaces in original condition. Similarly, the building tends to open the doors a couple times a year to raise money for restoration. Some choose to open their units too. It makes for a nice day and I'm happy that people are interested in preservation and their local landmarks, but the door to my actual unit stays closed. Just too close.

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  8. I wish this were a totally alien concept. When is this acceptable? Maybe when you’re living in an historically registered house—definitely when your position as a museum director finds you living atop gallery floors! Otherwise, it’s … No, house tours are just wrong! Not conducive to building friendships; inimical to the spirit of hospitality. Now, from the other side of my mouth, I think they are perfectly okay among closest family, or a bosom buddy with whom you’ve shared thick and thin.

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  9. I would only show it to close friends or family if I had some new work done on the house or something like that but only if they asked to see. I would NEVER show my bedroom to anyone. That's creepy.

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  10. very close friends or family who express interest, which is very rare. can't recall ever offering to give someone a tour of our house.

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  11. There’s nothing more interesting than the inside of someone else’s home. That’s one reason why fundraisers always welcome board members etc. who are ready to welcome, for a reception or a dinner, potential donors into their homes. A good turnout is almost always guaranteed.

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  12. Maybe it’s more of a Southern thing but in conversation with visitors or those that will visit and I mention a feature of our home (100+ year old Craftsman) or work recently done or maybe a significant purchase and interest is shown, then I have no problem with letting people see what I’m talking about and then if any interest is shown in seeing the rest of the place - sure. I’m certainly not talking about, “Come on in Beauregard and let me show you ….”

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  13. Such a great question! When we moved into our new house (not new now), everyone wanted a tour and I thought that was normal. But now . . . for people who come for a meal or party, even if they have never been here before - no.

    But for those who stay overnight, it depends. If they're staying in the downstairs guest room, I see no reason to take them upstairs. If they're staying in the upstairs guest room, I just vaguely gesture in the direction of my room and my office, etc., but I do not offer to give them a tour.

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  14. Here is my view on the subject. If the host or hostess offers a house tour guests, as my wife did after we moved into our firs house back in 2008, fine. But never be so forward as to request a house tour if you are a guest. Instead, be content with perusing their bookshelves in the living room/family room/den if or when an opportunity presents itself, and you happen to be in that room already. But never snoop if you want to be invited back. Remain conscious of the public and the private and act like a guest unless invited to do otherwise by your hosts.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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  15. We downsized from an old 10 room house to one that's been in the family for years. It's a 4 room cottage: living, kitchen, two beds, and one bath. If you stand in one spot you can see all four and if your peripheral vision is close to what it used to be,the loo. For we two and the dog, cats, and birds, it works well. So all who step inside get an automatic tour.

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  16. Any suggestions on how to gracefully decline an uninvited request for a tour?

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    1. That's the better question, probably. Once when working in Amherst, Mass., the summer after high school, I visited the home of Emily Dickinson, along with a couple of acquaintances. There had been a photo of the place in National Geographic, with a college coed (as they used to say) sitting in a window. The old ladies who were living there graciously allowed us in, explaining how the photographer had moved the furniture around for the photo, and gave us the 25 cent tour of the main floor. I'm a little embarrassed about having been so thoughtless now but I've never been shy about knocking on doors.

      My wife's aunt and uncle live in an old house in Alexandria, Virginia, that belonged to an ancestor who had been the adjutant general of the Confederate Army. We were visiting one day, sitting outside in their large front lawn when someone drove down the driveway, wanting to see the house. There was some polite discussion but no tour was requested, nor one offered, but I imagine they were happy to have seen some Confederate notable's house, even though it was built after the war.

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    2. Occasionally, someone visiting our home for the first time asks to "see the rest of house." If I'm not prepared, I make light of the request and say something like, "I'm afraid the rest of the house is not 'company ready' at the moment, but how about another time?"

      We've even joked about putting one of those velvet rope barriers at the bottom of the staircase with a sign saying, "Closed to tourists" or something equally as cheeky but, of course, we wouldn't.

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    3. To be honest, our living room really really isn't prepared for company.

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  17. After World War II my parents bought a seventeenth century farmhouse in Connecticut. It was the ancestral home of a well-know Puritan family with countless descendants. This clan established a family history association in the late 1940s and thereafter family members often visited for their annual family reunion with their hundreds of cousins. Then at odd times a car would drive in the driveway, a knock would come on the door, and my mother would drop everything and give a stray cousin who missed the annual reunion a tour of their ancestral home. Those were the days when opening your door to perfect strangers and having your house always clean and neat and ready to show strangers seemed neither dangerous nor unreasonable. My parents have passed on, the family association is virtually disbanded and I find myself far more wary and much shyer about sharing the house (now mine) with passing strangers. How the world has changed.

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  18. Only during the state wide "Garden Week" in Virginia. Fortunately, I've never lived in the type of home shown during that week which is a good thing. It takes about a year to get the house and gardens ready to greet the busloads of people who troop through the houses and gardens.

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    1. Virginia garden Week is on my calendar every spring. Had the opportunity to tour Bunny Mellon’s property this year. Always a great week.

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  19. In our town's historic district, our house was built in November 1721 so we're thinking about offering a house tour & reception in November to celebrate its 300th year, as a fundraiser for our local historic society. So much to consider, though ... security, safety, accessibility, photography, possible internet exposure ... I need to really research this.

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    1. Could you stagger the times people come and go so you will only have a manageable amount at any one time? (A friend of mine did that but, unfortunately, put only the time they were supposed to arrive and forgot to put the time they were supposed to leave on the ticket. Opps!)

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  20. Not quite the same thing, since it wasn't house guests who were involved. But in our first house, we had a house blessing. It involved going to each of the principal rooms in the house, with a special prayer being said for each room. In our case, at least, there was a procession and there were other parish members present. Naturally, it was not a spur-of-the-moment event and considerable preparation was involved. But neither the basement nor the bathrooms were involved. All of this came from The Book of Occasional Services.

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  21. Interesting you should ask. I was just offered a tour of an historical mansion in Harbor Beach, Michigan. As a retired Interior Designer and Realtor, I was enthralled w/ my new acquaintance's attention to detail, decorating and commentary. I left having a high regard for this older couple's work ethic.

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  22. Since we do not reside in a historic home, how much people may see depends on the nature of their visit. Overnight guests will see the upstairs bed & bath for their use. All other guests remain downstairs, but are welcomed to see my various collections nearby!

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  23. We bought a house and had it renovated before moving in. While we tried not to annoy neighbors during renovation, there were days when the road was filled with work trucks. So after the renovation was finished, but before we moved in, we invited the neighbors to have a cup of tea and see the (vacant, unfurnished) house. It also let us meet our new neighbors.

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    1. Contractors come and go, constantly it seems, at certain homes. It can be an annoyance.
      But your tea is a gracious gesture. You likely made some friends in the neighborhood. Congratulations.

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