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Tips for Holding an Open House

Holding an open house is a great way to increase your home's exposure as well as a good way to reach out to buyers who might not otherwise find your house. Regardless of whether you have a real estate agent or are selling the house yourself, here are eight steps towards getting your house ready for its star turn.

Step 1: Repair and Clean Your House

If you have any repairs that need to finished, get them finished before holding an open house. Explaining to potential buyers that you plan on getting it fixed isn't good enough. Also, cleanliness is extremely important because home buyers will definitely judge your house based on how clean it is. In addition to basic cleaning and removing clutter, a fresh coat of paint may help to give your house a more polished look. Finally, some people use house stagers, who will give your house a make-over (adding flowers, removing furniture, hanging artwork) to really set the house above the competition and drive up the house's perceived value.

Step 2: Prepare Your Property Fact Sheet

The whole point of holding an open house is to let buyers see your home and to let them know more about it. Consequently, you should prepare a property fact sheet that lays out essential facts about the house (square footage, number of rooms, etc). In addition, prepare a sign-in sheet that allows them to leave their contact information. On the day of the open house, make both documents available to people as they enter the house.

Step 3: Prepare a List of Potential Buyer Questions and Your Answers

One of the keys to a successful open house is anticipating potential questions that buyers may have. Spend some time writing down potential questions you might have, and then ask friends and family about what they might want to know. Compile your list and prepare a set of answers to study before the open house. The point isn't to read them off a script, but to have thought about potential questions beforehand so that you aren't surprised or at a loss when the inevitable questions come. Finally don't make promises or legal representations in your answers, just answer their questions with facts.

Here are a few questions you should answer to get started:

  • How far is it to the nearest stores, school, and major roadways?
  • Has the house had any major repairs, and if so, when?
  • Why are you moving out?
  • What's the neighborhood like?

Be careful with your answers, though. If you're moving because you've got children and the house just isn't big enough, it may be ok to explain that you want a larger house for your family, but it's not advisable to answer that your existing house is simply too cramped.

Step 4: Inform Your Neighbors that You're Holding an Open House

Even though you're moving out, be courteous to your neighbors. After all, potential buyers may talk to your neighbors. Let them know you will be holding an open house, so that they don't wonder why there are so many cars parked and people walking around. This will also give courteous neighbors a heads up to not mow the lawn during that time or to remove garbage cans before then (although it's not recommended that you ask them to do or not do things for you directly).

Step 5: Get Your Children and Pets Out of the House

Send your children away with a spouse, hire a baby sitter, set up a play date, whatever you want, just do something to get the kids out of the house. Having children running around under buyers' feet is not a desirable thing. It's also the nature of children to create messes. Finally, children tend to say things that you may not want them to.

The same goes for pets. Having your dog sniff incoming buyers is not a good way to make a first impression, and some buyers may be allergic. Similarly, vacuum carpets and wipe down surfaces before guests get there to reduce pet dander, cut down on unwanted odor and minimize potential allergic reactions.

Step 6: Be Ready Early

Even if you schedule the open house for 9 a.m., someone will inevitably show up around 8:30 who just happened to be passing by. If you're still running around with gloves on and a mop, yelling at your kids to get ready, it won't make a good impression. Finishing early also allows for those last second issues to be remedied, so make a deadline to be finished well before you actually open up the house.

Step 7: Stick to the Facts

While it is certainly a good idea to make small talk with potential buyers, it's important that you keep conversations neutral and largely stick to the facts. You don't want to end up talking about that one annoying neighbor, or overselling how great your house is. In addition, some people end up sharing far too much personal information when they are anxious, such as needing to sell the house quickly to put a nasty divorce behind them, so really monitor yourself if you start to ramble.

It's a good idea to tailor your answers to the apparent needs of the buyer. If someone asks several questions about schools, it's pretty safe to assume they have kids and it would be appropriate to mention some of the more kid-friendly features of the house. Just be careful with assumptions (e.g., assuming a couple is married) and keep your answers neutral as possible.

Finally, stick to the facts to avoid making representations and promises concerning the house. These representations can be used against you at a later date, so play it safe and don't stray from the facts.

Step 8: Be Prepared for "Window Shoppers"

Last but not least, accept that many potential buyers are just window shopping. They're curious, they're exploring the neighborhood, or simply have nothing better to do. Never be rude to people you suspect are merely looking, because even if they aren't buying, they will often report to their friends about places they saw and one of those friends may be looking to buy.

It does pay, however, to spend more of your time on people who genuinely seem to be interested. The goal is to be helpful and attentive without being overbearing, so look for subtle cues that the buyer may want some time to simply walk around and take it all in.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that, because so many people may be walking through your house, it's crucial to lock away anything that people could steal. Don't leave anything portable and valuable out where someone could just walk in and grab it. This will also prevent you from seeming more like a chaperone who doesn't trust anyone in the house, a definite turn off to any potential buyer.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help guide you
through the process of selling your home.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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