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Preparing For An Open House

by Hal Feldman (MiamiHal.com)


First, let's dispel some of the mythology about open houses.  It is unlikely that an open house will generate the lead that ultimately sells your home.  In today's world, the vast majority of buyers initially find your home online or with a real estate professional (who has used the MLX or the Internet).

Open houses do give potential buyers an easy way to swing by your home without having to coordinate a showing.  But, then again, if they are serious home buyers, wouldn't it be better to see them make the effort to specifically schedule to see your property?  (If you're already working with me as your Realtor®, scheduling a showing will never be an issue!)  It's just something to keep in mind.

Look-e-loos abound.  Many of the visitors to open houses are simply curious neighbors.  This can be good and bad.  Some of the people coming through your home will spread the good word and others will be future sales competition looking to gain an edge.  Regardless, a large portion of the traffic in an open house is noise.  Let me weed it out for you.

Yes, open houses are worth doing, but homeowners place far more value on them than most real estate professionals.  Open houses are part of the process of marketing your property, but are rarely the catalyst to a sale.

Steps For You To Have A Successful Open House

  1. The outside must shine.  You'd be surprised at how many buyers “sell themselves” on your home based on their first impressions as they drive up the street.  It's called curb appeal.  You can enhance curb appeal by making sure the lawn is mowed, the bushes are trimmed, the flower beds are freshly mulched and the trash cans are hidden.  Spending a few hundred dollars on a fresh coat of paint for the front of your house can return thousands of dollars in sale price.  Especially touch up the trim.  Make the house “crisp”.
  2. The inside must look new.  Again, paint is cheap.  Be your own worst critic.  If you think a room could be brightened with a fresh coat of paint, do it.  Neutral colors allow people to see their own style in the home.  Statement pieces, dark colors and “artistic statements” should be neutralized with bight neutral paints.
  3. Make cosmetic repairs.  Windows that are cracked, holes in walls, and tiles and trim that are chipped all send the wrong message to a potential buyer.  Things you may tend to overlook on a daily basis are the things buyers focus and seize on.  The buyer is going to assume that if there are flaws that can be seen, then there may be even more serious flaws that can't be seen.
  4. Let in as much light as possible.  Open all the curtains.  Turn on all the lights in the house (even in the middle of the day) and increase the wattage of the lightbulbs in all the lamps.  Light and bright sells.
  5. Get rid of the clutter.  Don't just stash it somewhere, get it off the premises.  Remember, every room in the house has to be available for inspection and every room needs to shout to a home buyer, “There's plenty of room here for your stuff!”
  6. Set the dinner table as if you are getting ready for a dinner party.  Put out your best china and silverware and glasses.  Don't forget the candles.  In this room, and every room, the idea is to show potential buyers how they would live in your home... that it is a place where they'll be happy to entertain their guests.  Project happiness and success.  It will be well received.
  7. Kitchens and bathrooms must be absolutely spotless.  Shelves and coutnertops must be clean and well organized.  Also, assume that people will be looking through your medicine cabinet (even though I won't let them).  If there is anything inside cabinets, closets and drawers you don't want on public display, get rid of it.
  8. Remove some of your possessions.  Again, the idea is to make your home look as roomy as possible.  If the house is packed floor to ceiling with your stuff, it makes it harder for potential buyers to see how they'd live in the house.  Assume that buyers have more stuff than you and make your house look large enough to hold it.
  9. Put your pets somewhere else.  Dogs especially are a problem and must be moved somewhere else, preferably to another house.  Why?  Because when strangers come into your house, your dog may begin to park and get defensive.  You don't want the dog to interfere with the buyer's ability to see the house.  But don't just move the dog next door either.  They may bark from there too and make the potential buyers think the neighbor has a loud dog... and that could be a real turnoff.  And, although quiet, get the cat out too.  You never know if the potential buyer has a problem with cats.  In this case, next door or outside will do just fine.
  10. Smells make or kill deals.  It is absolutely worth every penny to make sure your house is clean and odor free.  Pet smells, urine on carpet, cigarette smoke, and things you don't even notice anymore will attack the senses of visitors.  Use air fresheners if need be.  The plus side of smell is good smells are quite inviting.  Bake bread, cookies, pie before the open house begins and leave it for visitors to enjoy.  Fill the home with good smells.
  11. Leave.  Yes, you should leave during your open house.  As soon as I arrive to supervise the open house, you should pack up the kids and head somewhere fun.  We want potential buyers to walk freely around your house and dream of how it could be there house.  With you there, the dream quickly disappears.  Visitors also don't want you looking over their shoulders.  Trust me to watch the process and highlight the home's features to the potential buyers.  An open house must invite guests to believe it is their house from the moment they walk in.