Showing Your Home
You've done your research on the local market and determined your sales price. You've cleaned your home from top to bottom and perhaps even hired a professional cleaning company to do the really gritty jobs. You've taken down the family photos and your collection of ceramic cartoon characters. You've removed all your valuables, from jewelry and fur coats to financial documents and antique silver candelabras. You or your agent has placed the advertisement for your open house in the Sunday real estate section.
Now you're ready for the main event. It's show time!
Open House Know-how
Many sellers dread open houses and some do whatever they can to avoid them. No one looks forward to strangers trooping through their home, no matter how much you've prepared yourself for the idea. But real estate professionals say that open houses remain one of the best ways to get the word out that your home is for sale. Though agents say sales are rarely made as a direct result of open houses, open houses create buzz about your home and that can indeed lead to a sale.
Agents often hold at least two open houses for a new listing. One is mid-week and is aimed at other real estate agents. These open houses are extremely useful to sellers since agents will then have an idea whether to steer their buyers toward your house. Then your agent will also hold a general open house - probably on a Sunday afternoon - advertised in the newspaper. (Agents also use these open houses to get their name out to prospective buyers; it's part marketing for your house, and part marketing for your agent.)
In addition, some agents like to have a more low-key "neighborhood" open house on the Saturday before the general Sunday open house. The Saturday "neighborhood" open house serves the purpose of letting the neighbors come through and assuage their curiosity and it keeps them out of the way on Sunday, when presumably more serious house hunters may be touring your home.
One Seattle agent who admits that open houses only occasionally result directly in sales says he nevertheless firmly believes in holding general open houses. "If I had a client who didn't want an open house or a lock box I would question how motivated that client was," said the agent. "I also sometimes get clients who don't want buyers coming through at certain times of the day, or certain days of the week. But sellers need to be very flexible. The first thing I try to get across when working with a seller is that once the home goes on the market it's not your home anymore. It's a house that's for sale."
Lock Box Culture
Lock boxes are another source of annoyance for some sellers. Basically a lock box is a small, locked box attached to the house's front door or somewhere very near the front door. Licensed real estate agents whose firms belong to the local MLS can open lock boxes and remove a key to the house. This means those agents can bring house hunters through the house at times that are convenient to them, probably during the day when you and your family are not at home. The agents will leave a card to let you know they were there with clients. Most local MLS organizations have policies that prohibit agents from bringing house hunters at certain times of the day, such as before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m., and some lock boxes are programmed simply not to open during those off hours.
But if you think your house is so appealing that you don't need a lock box, consider this: A typical agent working with house hunters may find a dozen homes that his client wants to look at, and 11 of them have lock boxes. Your home doesn't have a lock box and the agent will have to call you or your agent to make special arrangements to see the house. Can you guess the likely outcome? The buyer's agent takes his clients to the 11 homes with lock boxes, at which point everyone is exhausted. Why bother with the "problem" home without the lock box? You get the idea. Accessibility translates into less time on the market.
Seller's Tip: If you're selling your home yourself you'll have to go out of your way to make it easy for house hunters to tour your home. Without a lock box, you or a friend will have to be at your home to meet agents and their clients. And you must always remember that having you as the seller at the house is, according to most real estate pros, a significant disadvantage. House hunters are less likely to open closets, dawdle in bathrooms, and check out your new basement if you're hanging over their shoulder or watching TV in the living room. And if they don't linger, they won't have a lasting impression of your home. If you absolutely must be at home while potential buyers are there, try to stay busy in the yard or garage. Above all, do not follow them around the house pointing out your remodeling projects or the cute wallpaper you hung in the kids' rooms.
Next article: Open House Checklist
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- Last edited October 18 2007
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