What was primarily a topic of curiosity in my past has become more prominent since entering the world of real estate. That topic is whether one should remove their shoes upon entering someone’s house. What seemed like a perfectly understandable and respectful thing to do isn’t always perceived that way I have since learned.
I enjoy the topic because it generally sparks a great deal of debate, sometimes passionately so, and highlights the huge disparity that exists between homeowners, either due to personal preferences based on home-hygiene or cultural practices that have been handed down throughout the ages.
Certainly this has always been a topic of conversation in my house. In my family, we were raised to remove our shoes at the doorway and I have continued that practice in my own home. Most members of my extended family practiced the same behavior. Those that did not generally had little to no issue with being asked to remove their shoes at the door. There were a select few that took exception with this practice and those were not looked upon favorably.
For those of us that practice the removing of shoes in the home we probably give it little thought until that one person steps into our home and either reluctantly removes their shoes or begrudgingly does so with a myriad of questions or complaints. In my experience, the removing of shoes often seems to be more of an issue for the cable service person or other repair technicians than friends or family, but there are still others that unnecessarily and unreasonably take exception with the practice.
So where did the practice of removing the shoes begin and why should I as a real estate agent care? By the end of this article hopefully the answer to both questions will be answered especially the latter.
Like many behaviors, it can be traced back to long held cultural practices. Perhaps the Asian countries are best known for this practice along with other countries in Europe and the Middle East. Some believe it began from religious practices and expanded as a way of showing respect to the owner of the home one was entering; while others debate that the soil and climate and the difficulty of keeping the floors cleaned were the motivators. Certainly, my thought is that it was likely a combination of both.
Leave your worries outside – and your shoes!
If you’re of the thought that this whole notion of ‘no shoes in the house’ isn’t important consider this:
1 Cultural and religious beliefs, whether you share them or not, should be respected. It is of little inconvenience to remove your shoes in deference to the home owner’s wishes. It’s simply the respectful thing to do.
2. You don’t know the health issues of the people that live in the home you are entering with bringing perspective buyers. Allergy, asthma and emphysema suffers must minimize the environmental triggers in their home. For many, this is their “safe zone”. Shoes track in everything they come into contact with and spread these contaminates throughout the home and ventilation system. This could be a matter of life and death for some people.
3. The elderly and children especially are vulnerable to the infectious material that wearing shoes in the home can expose them to. Imagine for a moment the places you walk in a typical day, especially areas such as public restrooms, parking lots, and dirt and grass covered areas that harbor a wide range of bacterial and viral agents. People with suppressed immune systems simply cannot tolerate an excessively polluted living environment.
4. For the sake of general cleanliness, especially if you’re someone that enjoys sitting and playing on the floors in your home, consider how toxic your carpets can become when repeatedly exposed to tracked in animal waste, fertilizers, pesticides and petroleum based chemicals that liter our daily landscape. Again, these are all potential hazards especially to children and pets.
5. The cost of repairs and replacement to damaged or soiled flooring could fall back on you. Again, I’ll use my own personal experience to illustrate this example. Until recently, the carpeting in my home was a pale cream, nearly white in color. Needless to say, any shoe traffic would have irreversibly stained my carpeting. I was once asked why I would ever put that color carpet in my house. My response was easy – it’s my house and I can do what I want! Same is true of your sellers. I certainly resented the implication that I was inconveniencing my visitors with the color of my carpet! Why should any homeowner have to defend their right to set the expectation or rules in the place where they live? They shouldn’t, period, and that is the take away lesson for real estate agents.
Perhaps protesters of the “no shoes policy” had not really considered many of these factors, and certainly these are just a sample of the many reasons some people live without shoes in their homes. One of my favorite explanations of why a family lived shoeless inside the home was; and I hadn’t considered this one myself but believe it to be true, to create a more relaxed atmosphere in the house.
At this point I hope the importance of honoring a home owner’s request to not wear shoes in their house is more apparent. As real estate agents, it is important to understand that home owners aren’t simply being difficult but have legitimate concerns or beliefs that are guiding their decisions.
When you are showing a home, it is your responsibility to insure that everyone entering the home abide by the “no shoes allowed” request. Failure to do so could lead to complaints as well as requests for payment for cleaning or damages.
Consider that the no shoe request can actually have a positive impact on some home showings. How can one appreciate that wonderfully soft carpet and padding unless they have removed their shoes? Also, it creates the perception, whether true or not, that the flooring has been well cared for unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise.
If you are the seller’s agent, it is important to help the owner’s make this request as unencumbered as possible when the home is being shown. For example, when it was time to sell my own home, I posted a non-confrontational request that shoes were to be removed on all the entrances to my home. At those entrances I provided seating to make it easier for people to remove and put their shoes back on. I also provided shoe covers and a small trash can to deposit the used covers when exiting the house. This resulted in many positive comments for my home showings. Potential buyers liked the fact I provided them an option to removing their shoes or at least considered them in the decision.
So my best advice for all agents, and to anyone simply visiting the home of friends or family that have a no shoe restriction, is to always be respectful - wear your good socks and you’ll never find the request to remove your shoes unacceptable or uncomfortable again!
By Steve Baker, REALTOR®
Steve Baker is a REALTOR® in South Carolina and the Director of Marketing with Rinehart Realty Corporation. He is co-owner of The Baker Way Real Estate Solutions and author of the upcoming book, “The Essentials of Marketing YOU in the World of Real Estate”.