An open house will often attract the interests of buyers, sellers, real estate agents, as well as, nosy neighbours. If successful, your open house will help increase the overall demand for your home and ideally result in an offer. My wife and I bought our second home days after walking through an open house on a whim. She claims she knew instantly it was the “perfect” home for our growing family. Although I still tease her about excitedly sharing this news out loud in front of the selling realtor, she still has no regrets. (Perhaps a future blog will explore things buyers should never say or do while house hunting😉).
Changes in technology and buyers having access to high quality photos and 3D/360 degree videos online have some people debating whether open houses are even necessary. However, others believe they are more important than ever and argue that open houses present a ton of potential for generating offers. I believe the first step is to decide whether an open house is the way to go for you as a seller. If you choose to go ahead and host an open house the next step is to prepare your home and showcase its strengths! Here are some of my top tips to ensure your open house is a success!
10 Successful Open House Tips
Homeowners are used to seeing their own belongings and often don’t realize they are a problem for others. They assume potential buyers will overlook the clutter and focus on the home’s potential. However, showing a cluttered home to a potential buyer during an open house is a big mistake. Buyers get turned off when countertops are full of magazines, small appliances and trinkets. Cluttered and disorganized linen closets, kitchen cabinets and bedroom closets make it appear that your home doesn’t have enough storage. Do whatever it takes to make every room in your home feel spacious and inviting. Start packing and move extra clothing, small appliances and oversized furniture out of the home. Rent storage if necessary. Your entry way should be clear and I suggest removing all visible personal items from your washrooms (toothbrushes, makeup, shampoo, razors and shaving cream) and placing them in a basket or container that can easily be tucked away and retrieved later. I guarantee serious buyers will spend time in your kitchen, will open your closets and will try to envision whether there is space or not in your home for their belongings!
Think about creating neutral spaces in your home so potential buyers can picture their family living in the house, not yours! It’s great that you love your grandchildren with all your heart or that you are the Calgary Flame’s biggest fan, however, the photos, politics and religious art need to go if you want to maximize your open house. Think of this change as a temporary effort with permission to put everything back where you think it belongs after your open house (or even better, after you sell your home).
Buyers will notice if your home is not clean and will wonder whether other areas of home maintenance have been neglected also. If cleaning is not your strength hire a cleaning service to take care of your kitchen, bathroom and other areas you might overlook. Kitchen countertops and appliances should be cleaned, inside and out. If there is a dishwasher in the home, it should be empty and clean. Bathroom fixtures such as the toilet, tub, shower, sinks, and mirrors should be spotless. Garbages should be empty and toilet brushes out of sight. Beds should be made and laundry areas, regardless of whether they are main floor or below grade, should be spotless! All detergents and related cleaning products should be stored out of sight.
Clear out Odors
People get used to the smell of their home. Odours from food, pets or cigarettes
can have a strong impact on buyers so make
sure you get a second honest opinion before hosting an open house. Shampoo your carpets and if you have pets, give them baths and make sure litter boxes are clean. Open windows, place room fresheners or light scented candles in strategic areas to produce a pleasant and fresh atmosphere for potential buyers.
The time to fix leaky faucets, slow running drains, broken screens or holes in your walls is prior to an open house. Ensure burnt-out light bulbs are replaced and broken cabinets are repaired so you can showcase your home’s best features. If you ignore these areas buyers will see these noticeable problems and wonder why these easy fixes were not addressed prior to your open house. It creates doubt in the buyer’s mind about how well your home has been maintained and can seriously affect whether they decide to write an offer or not.
Rev Up Your Curb Appeal
A small amount of time in and around your yard will make a considerable difference to your home’s first impression. Mow your lawn, sweep your walkways, clear out weeds, refresh your flower beds and prune your shrubs, especially if they are blocking your windows. Washing your windows is also a must. Put flowers in empty pots and ensure your gutters and roof are clear. On the day of your open house do a quick walk around of your property and make sure loose garbage or debris is removed. Garbage and recycling bins should be out of sight. During the winter ensure your driveway and walkways are shovelled and cleared.
If you back onto an alley take a few minutes to ensure the area behind your home is also cleared of abandoned furniture and/or garbage. “Out of sight” can also be “out of mind” for neighbours who intended to take their broken furniture to the dump yet have forgotten it there all winter. Junk filled alleyways can be a huge turn off for buyers who will worry about investing in a community where neighbours don’t take care of their properties.
Stage Your Home
This is the fun part! Buy plush new towels for your towel rack (you can take these with you when you move!) or fluffy, neutral cushions for your beds and chairs. Brighten and lighten each room by ensuring all window treatments in the home are open to allow as much natural light into the space as possible. Turn on all the lights, even during the daytime, including your outside entrance, garage, closet and basement lights. Stage your dining room table to help buyers envision what it will be like to entertain in the house. Fresh flowers or a bowl of fruit are additional props that can help potential buyers see themselves living in the space. If possible, dim the light above the dining area to create a nice ambiance. Turn off the television, stereo and radio or chose easy listening music that won’t turn off your visitors.
Protect Your Valuables
Make sure anything of value that can be easily removed from your home or property, including electronics, jewelry and prescription medication, is stored before hosting an open house. To prevent identity theft remove anything with your personal information on it from view. Bills, credit card receipts, bank statements , passports and other important documentation should also be stored away or placed in a locked cabinet.
Sellers must leave their home unless they are selling without a realtor. I know it is tempting to stick around and showcase all of the wonderful features of your home and property. However, buyers feel more comfortable, stay longer and give more honest feedback when the owner is gone. Make sure you take your pets and children as well. Pets in particular, can be a real turn-off to buyers, especially buyers who have allergies or who are nervous around animals.
Ask For Feedback
Ask your realtor to share the feedback received from people who attended the open house. Without it, you won’t know for sure what features of your home impressed buyers and what areas of your home and property can be improved upon. Buyer feedback is essential because in the end, it doesn’t really matter what the seller thinks is valuable, it’s the buyer’s opinion that matters. And the primary goal as a seller is to replace your “Open House” sign with a “Sold” sign.