Every now and then, I Google the address of my childhood home just to see if it’s on the market. I don’t want to buy it, make no mistake. It’s more that I’m forever curious to see if any interior photos have been posted so I can take a virtual walk around the place I spent 21 years of my life. But that’s as far as I’ll take it. In fact, I’ve never thought of driving up to the house and asking the current owners if I could do a little nostalgia tour.
But wanting to return to your childhood stomping grounds is actually a pretty common desire—especially if Zillow is lacking updated pictures. Though you might feel a pang of conflict that you’re intruding on the current homeowner’s personal space, many etiquette experts actually say go for it. Remember: A fair number of homeowners have childhood homes they’d like to return to, too! You just have to be okay with the chance that they’ll say no.
So, if you’ve ever thought about making a trip to revisit your childhood home a reality, read on for five expert-driven tips:
Do a drive-by first.
If you live near your childhood home, drive around the old neighborhood first. If you see a car in the driveway and are feeling bold, it’s okay to ask to take a peek. “They can only say no,” says Lisa Grotts, a seasoned etiquette expert in San Francisco, California. “No harm done.”
Pre-clear a visit.
If you live far away or get the butterflies just thinking of showing up at your old front door, send a note to the current residents, says Evie Granville, a writer and podcaster tackling modern manners for moms and dads at EvieandSarah.com. “Explain who you are and that you’d love the opportunity to make a quick visit to their home,” she says. “Offer your contact information so that they can reach out if they’re open to the idea.” If they don’t respond, don’t press the issue.
Show up with a token.
If the current residents are okay with a stop-by, arrive with a small token of your appreciation, like a bouquet or a scented candle. “Be prepared for the current residents to accompany you around the house,” Granville says. “After all, you might feel at home, but you’re still a total stranger to them!”
Don’t let renovations upset you.
“It can be very sad to see all the changes the current owners may have made in updating your childhood home,” Grotts says. “Just last year I sent a note to the person who lives in my childhood home asking if he wouldn’t mind taking a photo of a mural I had painted on the wall. It was so gorgeous and I regretted never taking a picture of it. A few weeks later he sent me an email saying the mural was no longer there. I was sad but at least he let me know!”
Make your visit brief.
Whatever you do during your visit to your childhood home, avoid too much chit-chat. While you’re walking around, don’t offer up a story about every room in the house or try to point out all the things that were different when you lived there. “Keep your commentary to a minimum,” Granville says. “At the end, let your hosts know how special it was to revisit your childhood home. And for good measure, you might even send a thank you note if your hosts were especially hospitable. After all, you have their address!”