The Etiquette of Giving a Housewarming Gift

Visiting a loved one's new space for the first time? Bringing along a present is always good form.

Excited woman with wine bottle for housewarming party
Photo: jacoblund / Getty Images

Unlike being invited to a birthday party or bridal shower—when bringing a present is customary—the rules surrounding housewarming gifts are less obvious. Is it always necessary to bring something with you? And if so, what should that something be?

Whether you're welcoming your new neighbors or celebrating your best friend's first home, offering a housewarming gift is a thoughtful way to say congratulations. Consider bringing a present that will make their space feel more like home, such as a picture frame or personalized hand towels.

When to Give a Housewarming Gift

The traditional timeframe for giving a housewarming gift is within the first three to six months of move-in. "If you go to a housewarming party, always bring a gift," says Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette. "If there is no soirée, but you are invited over to someone's home for the first time within the first six months of them moving in, a gift is still advised."

If the owners don't host a gathering and you don't anticipate visiting in person, you can always mail a present, although it's not required. "Traditionally, housewarming gifts are given when you visit the home—whether it be a party or just to stop by and see the place," says Meier.

Who Should Receive a Housewarming Gift

While you may think housewarming gifts are reserved for first time home buyers, the thoughtful tokens are appreciated by anyone who has recently relocated. "Housewarming gifts are meant to be given to anyone who moves into a new space, whether it is an apartment, villa, or home—no matter if they rent or own it," says Meier.

That includes retirees downsizing to a smaller bungalow, recently-single friends moving out on their own, newlyweds furnishing a four-bedroom colonial, and graduates settling into their first apartment.

Housewarming Gifts to Avoid

While it's always the thought that counts, there are some presents to avoid when giving a housewarming gift. Trend away from extravagant presents—the average price point for housewarming tokens is usually $25 to $50.

The most popular gift within this budget is a houseplant, but this requires care and maintenance that your recipient might not be able to provide. In addition to plants, it's also best to avoid art and furniture—or anything that caters to a specific style—unless you're sure you know the recipient's taste. "If you choose to buy these items, always give a gift receipt," says Meier.

The Best Housewarming Gifts

As with all gift giving, the perfect present depends on the person. "I think the best gifts definitely cater to the person and time in life," says Meier. "Someone who is retired likely has all the picture frames they need, while a newlywed couple probably needs many for their wedding photos."

Consider gifts that are sentimental, needed, or add warmth to the home. Some thoughtful gift ideas that are easily customizable include: A photo frame, bathroom hand towels, embroidered linen coasters, bar cart items, and other small accessories.

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