Reader Question: It has been many years since we last sold a home. We have agreed to an open house if it is still on the market after 30 days. Are there any specific suggestions you can offer?
-- Don and Martha G.
Monty's Answer: Without having seen the house or knowing the market, the tips below are qualified to that extent. If your neighborhood is red-hot, it may explain why the agent is waiting before scheduling an open house. If waiting is your idea, then consider announcing the open house when it hits the new MLS listings. In many markets the best activity is the first week it is on the market. A quick open house could accelerate the sale, and the price, to take advantage of the early surge.
Open house signals
From a home buyer's point of view, the open house is a non-threatening, non-committal exercise to check out the house and the neighborhood. When you agree to an open house, you are sending subtle signals to home buyers that suggest a buyer convenience and a seriousness about selling. Attendees utilize all their senses; hearing, smell, sight, taste (water) and touch. As strange as this may sound, as you prepare for an open house, think about it like this; home buyers are shopping to eliminate your house -- they buy the house they can't eliminate.
Don't let your home be eliminated for the wrong reasons
Ask your agent for other suggestions as they know your home and the market. Some agents have specific promotional tools they use to advertise the event such as email and social media. Here are nine more tips to consider to prepare for the occasion:
1. Invite your neighbors. Many homebuyers pick a neighborhood or home because they have a friend, co-worker or relative living there. Seeing the house may trigger a thought, "Hey, Jason and Ann might want to see this house. They have talked about moving for a couple of years."
2. Be conscious of environmental concerns. There is significantly more information today for homebuyers that are easy to find, plus, more rules and regulations. Asbestos, radon, and lead-based paint concerns are common, and by eliminating this type of concern with an up-front home inspection, you gain an edge in the marketplace.
3. Ask your agent, a friend or neighbor with a keen sense of smell to walk through your home and check for odors. Tell them they are doing you a favor. Many people do not have a good sense of smell, but many do. Eliminate odors from the home buying equation. Animals, tobacco, cooking and mold commonly generate odor. The homeowner can become desensitized to odors, so get an independent opinion.
4. Do all the windows, doors, and cabinets in the house open and close properly? The appliance functions? Heating and cooling? Faucets and drains? Electrical, and more? Consider a good home inspection to determine what needs fixing, then fix it. Some home inspectors will do a follow-up with the buyer to verify nothing has changed for a discounted fee. Another option is to hire a good handyman to spend a half-day or day repairing or replacing minor items. Why invest the time and money? A buyer goes on high alert when they find a flaw and start looking harder for more. If they didn't fix the door latch, what else needs repair?
5. Remove your valuables. It is a good idea to transfer or secure certain items before the open house. Remove cash, handguns, prescription drugs, heirlooms and jewelry that are small enough to vanish quietly. While this type of crime is very uncommon, it has happened. Also, ask your agent to bring a coworker, or friend, along.
6. Remove clutter. Kitchen counters, hallways, desktops and tabletops should have minimal objects. Organized closets appear larger. Clean windows display pride of ownership. You want to demonstrate the house is in move-in condition.
7. Open next Sunday. Ask the agent for a sign that announces a future open house about a week in advance to provide advanced notice to interested parties.
8. No pets. We all love our pets, but not all people do. They can distract the viewers from the reason they came to your home.
9. No lurking. Do not hang around to offer your help. It is not hard to spot the homeowner. One of the primary benefits of having your home open for a potential buyer is the feeling of freedom to investigate without offense or obligation.
-- Richard Montgomery gives no nonsense real estate advice to readers most pressing questions. He is a real estate industry veteran who has championed industry reform for over a quarter century. Send him questions at DearMonty.com.