Step 6: Preparing for an Open House
Now that the sign is in the yard and the lockbox is on the door, it’s time to start showing your home to potential buyers. This part of the home selling journey may be emotional or even challenging. After all, you’ll be allowing strangers to enter your home, and they’ll be commenting on everything from the condition of the yard to the size of the kitchen. It may even feel a little personal, especially if they make negative comments about your furniture or criticize your choice of wallpaper.
The open house is the beginning of this process. It’s a day where your home will be open to anyone who wants to look at it, from serious buyers to curious neighbors. Is it worth it? Let’s go over the benefits and drawbacks of having an open house and how to prepare for one.
Benefits of Open Houses
Selling a home is like a business, and the open house is your grand opening. It’s a way to create a buzz and capture the attention of home buyers. Yes, you may attract some looky-loos who just enjoy open houses, but you’ll also attract buyers who saw your house online and want to see it in person, those who don’t yet have agents, and those who aren’t quite ready for a private showing. An open house is the perfect way to transform a casual looker into a serious buyer.
Open houses are most often done on the weekend to make it as convenient as possible for potential buyers. According to the National Association of Realtors, the best day for an open house is the first Sunday after your home is listed. This should give you enough time to prepare and make your house look its best. Open houses typically last about four hours and they are usually held in the afternoon.
Your agent can gather comments from those who attend the open house. From this, you might learn how the attendees felt about the neighborhood, the price, and the house itself. Because it’s so early in the process, you can use this valuable information to make small changes to your home.
Drawbacks of Open Houses
Even though they are beneficial and many real estate agents recommend them, open houses aren’t as popular as they used to be. Once, it was the best way for potential buyers to see homes they were interested in. But with photos, 3D tours, and even virtual walk-throughs available online, home buyers can potentially buy a house without ever stepping foot in it.
However, because home buyers can see so much online, the open house is more likely than ever to attract those who are already familiar with your home and are serious enough about your house that they want to see it in person.
The pandemic had an impact on open houses, as well. The modern open house is usually far less crowded than in years past. Some realtors have incorporated live streaming for buyers who want to see the home but can’t or aren’t comfortable attending the open house. Many real estate agents believe the changes that occurred during the pandemic are permanent, so the crowded open houses of yesteryear will likely remain a thing of the past.
Open houses require you to leave your home for several hours. This alone could be a deterrent for many homeowners, especially those with small children, pets, or those who have other reasons why spending the afternoon elsewhere might be difficult.
What to Do Before Your Open House
If you haven’t already done so, make sure you’ve removed anything of value from your home. Your real estate agent will be there the entire time, and while theft is unlikely, there will be strangers walking through your home. Hide anything that might reveal personal information, such as family photos or bills with your name on them.
If you followed the steps leading up to this point, your home should be depersonalized, decluttered, and clean. You’ve already painted, polished, and scrubbed everything you could. Even the garage looks pristine. Even so, before the open house, you’ll want to give your home another good cleaning. Open the windows to eliminate any odors that might be in the house, clean your windows and glass doors, and organize your closets (yes, there will be peeks inside).
The seller isn’t usually present at the open house; instead, the agent hosts the event. Since the open house is typically four hours long, you’ll want to plan ahead for where you’ll spend the afternoon. Make sure you also find a place for your pets, either with you or with a trusted friend or family member. Even if you have the world’s friendliest dog, pets could put off some home buyers, and it’s safer for your pet not to be there. Your pet could become stressed with so many strangers around, or someone could accidentally leave a door open, and your pet could get out. Four hours is a long time, so make sure you take any supplies your pet will need, such as water, food, bedding, and a favorite toy.
On the day of the open house, turn on all the lights and open the drapes and blinds. You want your house to be bright and airy. If the weather is pleasant, open the windows for fresh air. Take out the trash and clean the bin to remove any lingering odors. Don’t light candles or burn incense because some people are put off by strong scents.
Also, resist the urge to bake cookies or play music. Everyone has a different taste in music, and some might find your choice in tunes annoying. Baking cookies used to be a practice encouraged by real estate agents, but many home buyers today see this as a ploy. Besides, you don’t want cookie crumbs all over the house.
Getting Feedback on Your House
The open house may be the first opportunity for your agent to hear feedback from home buyers. You might be surprised at the comments, especially the negative ones. Try to remain objective and don’t take it personally. If several people commented on the paint choice in the living room, perhaps you should consider painting the living room a neutral color. If you get a lot of negative feedback about the carpet, it might be a good time to change it.
Some negative comments could be a tactic, so unless you see a pattern, don’t worry too much about one-off remarks. Some buyers may say negative things about your house hoping it will put them in a better negotiating position. Some real estate agents even advise their clients to do this. Let those remarks go and concern yourself only with comments that are made repeatedly. These are a good indicator of what you can do to make your home more appealing to buyers.