My wife and I have been playing around on Redfin and visiting a few open houses each week. We aren’t really actively looking for a new home but we find the exercise to be valuable. By visiting open houses, we get a better idea for how much house we can buy, what we like and dislike about various houses, and a look at how life might be in a larger home. Most of the homes we look at are within 15 minutes of where we live now, since we love the area, and we only go to the homes that have open houses.
When it comes to open houses, there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Since I’ve never had an open house, I don’t know what or how much advice real estate agents give but there is tremendous variance in the quality of an open house. Having gone to at least a dozen, here are a few ideas for those of you looking to hold an open house.
Staging Is Crucial
Homes are meant to be lived in and it’s strange when we walk into a home that is completely empty. Staging of some kind is usually a good idea and I imagine it’s standard advice from real estate agents. On the other side of the spectrum, you don’t want the house to be messy. You want a desk in the study but you don’t want it covered in papers like the owner just got up while preparing his or her taxes. That happy medium in between lets me, the buyer, know how the room might be used without feeling like I’m looking over someone’s shoulder.
Cleaning up is a must. When we bought our house six years ago, you could get away with murder because the housing market was insane. We visited homes that had their laundry hamper still sitting in the living room (with unfolded clothes). You can’t possibly do that now with home demand at such lows. Cleaning up your home so that it doesn’t feel like the owner was just there is a must. This goes for inside and outside the house. Trim the hedges, clear away leaves, and do the little things that add to that curb appeal.
If you’re still living in the house, reduce the clutter to get away from the “the owner is hiding in the closet” feeling that you get when a house looked too lived in. It may make sense for you to rent some storage space or secure a place in the garage just to store these items. While you’re at it, take down your photos and replace them with some generic prints. You want me to feel like this could by my house… and my house doesn’t have any pictures of you in it. 🙂
Don’t Be There
I find it weird when we go to an open house and the owner is there. The open houses are usually scheduled for two hours (at least around us) and if you’re there then I feel awkward poking around in your stuff. I know I shouldn’t but I do. It’s best if you make yourself scarce. If you think visitors will have questions, you can print out flyers that answer many of the questions we may have (electricity bill, schools, etc.). It’s better this way!
Bake Cookies, Skip Candles
I’ve heard that real estate agents advise owners that scents can set the mood in a house. If you’re going to do this, be real about it. Actually bake cookies (and leave them out!), don’t cheat and buy candles. My wife is sensitive to scents and there are some that give her headaches… and she’s not the only one this happens to. The chemicals they use to make fake chocolate cookies is probably not good for you anyway.
Booties are those little paper-like sleeves that I can put over my shoes, for those times you’re afraid visitors will track mud everywhere. It’s just a nice option that I appreciate. I personally don’t care about taking off my shoes but I like it when owners give me a choice in the matter.
Finally, make sure you provide as much information as possible about your home to any prospective buyers. The MLS listing isn’t designed for a layperson to read and understand so print up some brochures or flyers that people can take with them. I’ve been astounded how little preparation and photography takes place for a multi-hundred thousand dollar purchase. If I’m not seriously interested, I can decline the extra paper but give me the option so I don’t struggle to remember your house later.
Do you have any good open house ideas?
(Photo: jayw )