Monday, May 14, 2018
An open house is a potential Buyer's opportunity to give your house a whirl. To wiggle the light switches. To admire the crown molding. To, you know, awkwardly ask to use the bathroom. (Which, by the way, savvy buyers will totally do — because they’ll want to test how the water pressure holds up when they give the toilet a flush.)
For you, seller, an open house is a chance to throw open the doors. To dazzle buyers with the big reveal. To make someone fall head over heels for your charming abode.
These tricks can help you make your open house a massive hit.
1. Time It Right: Your agent will typically hold an open house for two to three hours between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, when buyers have time and flexibility away from their jobs. To maximize your foot traffic, avoid having your open house during holidays, big community events, or unofficial “holidays” like Super Bowl Sunday.
2. Let Your Agent Take the Lead: Your real estate agent will be your director, giving you instructions on how to prepare for open house day, and what to do during the event. To buyers, your agent is the host. They will welcome viewers, introduce your home’s impressive features, and take questions from the audience. Your job is to make your house look like a million bucks. The job of your agent, an expert on your local real estate market and what makes buyers tick, is to take care of the rest. That will include:
- Staging your home, or recommending a reputable stager that you can hire
- Hosting the open house
- Communicating with home buyers and buyers’ agents
- Receiving feedback during the open house and communicating that feedback to you
Your agent will also recommend that, actually, you should probably leave while they show off your house to strangers, who will look under your sinks and peek into your closets. Why should you heed that advice? Because it makes good business sense for you.
- A home owner’s presence can make it awkward for the buyer. Buyers want to make assessments on their own, without worrying about how the seller might react or try to influence them.
- Buyers may have trouble picturing themselves living in the house when the owner is right there, say, serving lemonade in the kitchen.
- Sometimes sellers say too much. You might point out something that you think is a nice feature or amenity of your home, when it’s something that might turn off a buyer. You might blurt out something that could tip your negotiating hand, like how motivated you are to sell, or that you always wanted to update the retro kitchen — but just never got around to it.
The last things you want buyers to think after the open house is, “This place needs work,” or “This seller is desperate — I have the upper hand.” So, let your agent take the lead. This won’t be their first rodeo. They know the nuanced ways to show your home in its best light so that buyers will oooh and ahhh. They also know how to strategically answer questions from buyers to help set you up for success later, during negotiation.
3. Try Some Simple Staging: You want your home to look its best while it’s on the market — especially during the open house. Consider displaying a bouquet of fresh flowers in the entryway, setting your dining room table to make it look inviting, or turning on your outdoor sprinklers shortly before visitors arrive to make your lawn sparkle.
4. Clean Like Crazy: When your home is on the market, you need to keep it in showing shape — not only for the open house, but also for any scheduled showings with buyers. Even though you’ve already (hopefully) cleaned and organized your home for its listing photos, there’s a good chance you’ve let clutter or dust pile up again, especially if you have children or pets. Make sure appliances, windows, and mirrors are fingerprint-free. Clean and organize your closets, cabinets, and under the sinks (during the open house, buyers are allowed to be nosy). Clear every bit of clutter and get rid of it or put it in storage.
5. Do a Smell Check: If buyers get a whiff of something funky, they’re going to run — not walk — out of your open house. A week prior to the open house, ask your agent or a neighbor to do an honest, no-holds-barred smell check. Some possible smell solutions:
6. Put Your Pictures (and Valuables) Away: You want your home to feel cozy and inviting, but not like someone specific (you, for example) is living there. Personal belongings such as family photos, awards, and religious art can distract home buyers and make it harder for them to imagine themselves living in your home. You don’t have to go overboard — the idea isn’t to eliminate every trace of yourself — but consider temporarily hiding some pictures and personal effects out of sight during the open house.
There’s a safety element to stowing your personal belongings, too: Though your agent will be at the open house, you’re inviting strangers into your home.
- Securely store checkbooks, jewelry, prescription medications, family heirlooms, and other valuables.
- Alert your neighbors to your open house date — as a courtesy, but also to ask that they let you know if they notice any suspicious activity, in the unlikely event suspicious activity occurs.
- Make sure your agent signs visitors in and asks them to show I.D., so that you have a record of who was in your house. (Bonus: With the sign-in sheet, your agent can follow up with buyers to find out if anyone is interested in making an offer.)
- Lock windows and doors after the open house.
We’re not suggesting that visitors have any intention other than potentially buying your home. It’s just a good idea, generally speaking, to keep your home secure.
7. Let the Light In: Light doesn’t only (literally) brighten up your space. It also makes rooms look and feel larger. On open house day, open all curtains and blinds to let natural light in. (And in the week before the open house, make sure curtains and blinds are squeaky clean.) Replace every single burnt-out light bulb in and outside the home — buyers should see a working light every time they flip a switch.
8. Give Your House Some Extra Curb Appeal: Buyers will judge your house on its outsides. So make last-minute improvements to turn up your home’s curb appeal. Cut the grass, prune the trees, and trim the shrubs. Touch up porch fixtures and furniture with a little paint. Heck, paint the whole porch, if your budget allows. Plant new shrubs or set out potted flowers.
9. Serve Refreshments: Serving warm cookies or freshly baked brownies at an open house is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Refreshments also give people a reason to stay longer: No one will rush off because they’re hungry or thirsty.
10. What to Do During and After the Open House
Once you’ve done everything you can to make your house look and feel amazing to buyers — and your agent is on site to assume their hosting duties — the time during your open house is yours to enjoy. Go to the park, get a three-course lunch, do whatever you like as long as you’re free to take calls.
Your agent may need to get in touch with questions, so make sure you’re available and have good cell phone reception. (A movie, for example, is not a great activity for you during the open house for that reason.)
After the open house ends, your agent will share with you what questions buyers asked and any comments they overheard by visitors. Buyers’ remarks will likely run the gamut, including some that could be negative. (“Why is the closet such a mess,” for example.)
The important thing is to stay open to buyers’ feedback, and to follow your agent’s advice about how to respond. Based on buyers’ reactions, your agent may recommend that you make certain repairs, do some painting, or invest in additional staging before your next open house. Whatever they advise, it’s not personal — it’s just the business of selling your home.