By Marilyn Pribus-
“An open house can be a valuable tool,” declares Debi Dotson, a REALTOR® with BHG Real Estate III. “A lot of people are pre-viewing 30-50 days before they really start looking for a property or getting a REALTOR®.”
Why Do People Visit an Open House?
While the majority of properties for sale can be “visited” on the Internet these days, most people realize the pictures only show what the picture taker wants you to see, so house hunters want to see places in person. Some visit for entertainment, some want to see ideas for décor, some are thinking of buying in the fairly distant future, and some are actively looking although they may not yet be using the services of a REALTOR®.
Serious lookers won’t settle for a video tour. Instead, they want to “experience” the houses they are considering. They may prefer to shop on their own and take their time. Or they want to “get a feel” for the neighborhood.
In fact, open houses are likely to attract people who live nearby. “Neighbors usually just want to take a peek and are probably not looking to buy,” observes REALTOR® Janet Matthews, with Front Gate Holdings, Inc. “On the other hand, you never know who they know who might be moving to the area from out of town. Or they could have friends or family who could be potential buyers. The word can get around.”
In fact, she continues, some neighbors may really love the neighborhood and be thinking of downsizing or moving to a larger house so they are also potential buyers. This is exactly why some real estate brokers and agents make it a point to specifically invite neighbors to an open house with post cards or flyers.
Preparing For An Open House
“I used to show horses,” says Dotson. “Out in the field they can look pretty muddy or messy, but come show time, every hair is in place. The same thing should be true with a house.”
She puts a lot of emphasis on the first impression. “This is show day. This is getting ready for the prom. This is the day to put your best foot forward and be as perfect as absolutely possible.”
You’re not likely to have an Open House unless your house is already on the market, so you’ve probably staged it to present an up-to-date image with neutral colors and plenty of space. Remember, you want potential buyers to visualize themselves in the house rather than feeling they are in someone else’s personal space. Be sure you’ve cleared away clutter, that your windows sparkle, and that every room is tidy. If you have pets, make them invisible by hiding litter boxes, feeding bowls, pet beds, and toys and be extra careful there is no pet odor.
Before people even enter the house, make it inviting. “Don’t put off what buyers are going to see,” recommends Dotson. “Paint the front door right now. You want to make an impression of good maintenance for the entire house.”
Your lawn should be freshly mowed, your shrubbery trimmed, and your garden weeded. If you don’t have flowers blooming in the yard, have several pots of bright plantings at your entryway. A nice new welcome mat is a nice touch for a very modest investment and a seasonal wreath on the door is also cheerful.
Inside, consider setting the table with a few place settings and a pretty centerpiece. Fresh flowers—but not strongly scented ones—are also inviting. Open all the curtains and window blinds (unless you have a really bad view) to let in the light and turn on interior lights.
Remember that potential buyers and looky-loos alike will open closets, drawers, and even medicine chests, so be sure they’re tidy and anything you want kept secure or private, such as jewelry or prescription medications, is removed. Ideally, you or your REALTOR® will accompany visitors through the property, but if several people arrive at the same time, some may be wandering around alone.
The bottom line is that you want visitors to be able to pictures themselves living in this wonderful, welcoming, well-maintained house. A small platter of fresh-baked cookies with a bowl of seasonal fresh fruit and cheerful napkins can be that final inviting touch to make open-house visitors feel at home.
When Marilyn Pribus and her husband sold their California house before moving to Charlottesville, the eventual buyer became interested in the property (which wasn’t at all what he thought he was looking for) during an Open House.