Buying

Homeowner Etiquette: How to Have Good Boundaries When It Comes to Your New Home

New House

When Stacy and her partner Steve closed on their first house they invited their friends over for an open house party. They thought that their friends would ask if they could bring their kids, dogs, pot-smoking friends and various potentially house destructive accessories with them…but their friends did not. The party was great, but the walls they’d painted, the deck they’d sealed, and the new laminate floors they laid definitely lost a lot of their newly remodeled look due to the half dozen dogs and kids who came, uninvited. It wasn’t exactly a high-school rave, but these 30-something friends still brought some unwelcome behavior with them.

It’s your home and your rules, right? It should be, but not everyone always gets the memo, so it’s up to you to make sure friends and family understand your boundaries when you buy a new home. That’s the perfect time to let people know what you’re comfortable with and not comfortable with.

Set or Respect Boundaries

House Party

New homeowners, like new car owners, sometimes like to enjoy the newness of their home before opening their doors to dogs, kids, muddy boots, and the usual messiness of life. It’s okay to be a bit protective of your new space–just let people know. A simple, “We would love to have you come over for lunch, but can you leave Jax (dog) home this visit? The house is new and I would need him to stay on the back porch (or basement or garage) until we get things picked up/painted.”

If you’re the friend with the dog and you’ve received an invite to visit the new home, ask if it’s okay if you bring your dog, kids etc. over. Even your friend welcomed your dogs and kids and cigarettes or whatever in their old home or apartment, ask them if it’s okay to bring them over to the new place as well.

New Place, New Rules

If you’ve always lived in an apartment, maybe now you have a new, fenced-in yard and you want to keep it looking pristine. After all, you may plan on having your kids out there, walking around barefoot, or having picnics on the lawn! Now’s the time to let friends know who’s responsible for picking up their dog’s poop, or where they can poop. A casual, “Here are some plastic bags for scooping. We’ve also dedicated a green trash can by the garage for disposing of the bags,” is a subtle way to communicate that people are expected to police their own dog’s poop, even if they’re a guest. This is also a good time to sit down and consider what the “house rules” are. Maybe you’ve decided guests should leave their shoes at the front door so they’re not tracking in germs and all the gross stuff on the bottom of their shoes. NOW is the time to let them know. A small sign at the front door is the perfect way to remind people (they DO forget) to leave their shoes at the door. Don’t forget to provide house slippers for guests who don’t wear socks.

Don’t Become the Neighborhood Rental Shed

Now is also the time to sit down and consider things like whether to loan out those expensive tools you’re going to buy. If you lived in an apartment before, you’ll be buying a lot of new or gently used stuff. You’ll get requests from friends to borrow everything from power tools to lawn and house care tools. Determine what your boundaries are around loaning your tools and communicate them clearly when friends ask to borrow something.

Social Skills

Friends Helping Friends

New homes can be overwhelming and need a lot of work. Not everyone can just whip out a credit card and hire the help they need. Even if you can, there’s a lot to be said for bonding with family, friends and even co-workers over a weekend home improvement project. Besides, the reveal party afterward is so much more fun when people have helped you with it to begin with. But, it is important that as a new homeowner you respect peoples boundaries when asking for help. Some folks like to enjoy their weekends working on their own homes or doing their own thing. Don’t nag or guilt them into helping, just thank them and keep looking if they seem hesitant. Here are some other social niceties you may want to consider.

  • Know who to ask for help and what to offer in return. This includes friends, co-workers, big box retail store clerks, and professionals and involves pizza, beer, and of course, money.
  • Remember the “3 R’s” of renovation: (1) Rewards (2) Reciprocity and (3) Recognition. Reward your helpers, even if you’re paying them. Reciprocate when they need help, and recognize their efforts and brag on them to friends, family and others.
  • Know how to serve up a simple buffet — when people are helping you, you feed them. It’s a rule. Pizza, sandwiches, deli snacks, soda, beer, water, whatever. If someone is helping you, whether you’re paying them or not, keep them fed. They work better, appreciate you more and are more likely to work harder, longer and come back again in the future.

Home ownership is fun and can lead to lifelong friendships and good neighborhood relationships as long as you clearly communicate your boundaries. At the end of the day, though, your friends love you and will be excited to be a part of this new stage of life with you, however they are involved.


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Becky Blanton is a full-time ghostwriter and writing coach for Fortune 500 companies, CEOs, and business speakers. In 2009 she spoke at TED Global at Oxford University, her first ever public speaking gig. When she's not writing, she's kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. Her dream home is to live aboard a sailing or houseboat.

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