Real Living's Advice to Buyers on Open Houses includes this question:
Q: I've heard that visiting an open house without my buyer's agent means s/he can't represent me in my home purchase. Is that true?
Understand that Real Living is a company with brokerages from the east coast to the west coast and one size does not fit all. Laws vary state to state and customs vary market to market.
Maybe rather than "Perhaps" it should be "Depends." Real Living goes on to say (I corrected the spelling) of Realtor:
"Real estate rules of representation may prohibit you from being represented by your buyer's agent, under certain circumstances, such as, if you visit an open house without your agent or without immediately disclosing that a Realtor is representing you. Since your agent knows your particular set of circumstances, and is working to represent your interests, it's best to arrange your home viewings with your agent. Doing so should not only save you time, but it will also ensure your interests are protected."
Depends on our agency relationship and what you are looking for...
I tell clients you are relatively safe visiting Open Houses on your own. There is NOT a threshold rule... you aren't married to the person who carries you over the threshold.
You have the right to representation. If the person at the open house is the listing agent, they have a fiduciary responsibility to the seller. If they are willing to work with you as a disclosed dual agent they don't represent you or the seller in the transaction.
If we have a buyer agency agreement you should be OK. You should still have representation in the purchase of the home.
We can schedule an appointment to see the home together too, before or after the open house.
This can be a different matter. Let's try to visit together, or set it up to make sure you will not lose your right to representation.
Like I said "Depends"
Creeping Real Estate Acronyms & a glossary of R. E. Terms
The image is a Real Living e-Card.
Edit September 2011 due to changes in Real Living websites I broke the top link.