Even though home buyers and casual prospects search the internet for information on properties for sale, 52 percent of respondents to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) survey said they also rely on open houses to learn about a home.
Obviously, open houses are still a big deal. Preparing for the big day when your clients open up their homes is also a big deal. It requires work from you and the seller—but it can benefit both parties.
Why Open Houses Still Matter
In our digital age, when home buyers can go online to learn everything they need to know about a property (and then work with their agents or with the seller’s agent to schedule a showing), an open house may seem a bit obsolete. Not many direct sales result from open houses (about 7 percent, according to NAR statistics), and it takes a fair amount of work to prepare for one. However, open houses will often drive sales of other properties and generate additional transactions from sellers and neighbors. Most importantly, open houses expand and grow an agent’s sphere-of-influence and prospect database which drive the majority of transactions for real estate agents. Real estate is about relationships and open houses are the perfect way to get face-to-face with more consumers, resulting in more relationships and ultimately, more transactions.
All the effort sellers put into an open house better prepares the property for future showings. Neighbors often visit the event and tell friends and family about this great house on the block that’s for sale. When the home finally does sell, moving becomes easier because staging and decluttering means your clients’ possessions are already somewhat organized.
For real estate agents, an open house is showtime—a chance to not only sell the home, but also sell yourself as a trustworthy ally. Many semi-serious buyers come to open houses without a buyer’s agent; this is your time to impress them and offer to show them other listings (either yours or those of other agents). Open houses also save everyone time: People can see the property at their own pace and on an evening or a weekend, rather than upending weekday schedules with private showings.
Responsibilities for the Seller Before the Big Day
Preparing a property for sale kills two birds with one carefully staged stone. Many of the tasks required to get a home ready to list and show overlap with preparations for an open house. Most of this advance work will fall to the seller, though the real estate agent can provide guidance and advice throughout the process. These responsibilities include:
- Decluttering the house: A lack of clutter makes a home seem more spacious and helps open house guests better imagine what their belongings will look like in the house.
- Deep cleaning: Encourage sellers to hire a professional maid service to give the house a thorough cleaning beyond a quick vacuum and mop.
- Staging: Besides decluttering, smart staging makes a home seem fresher, newer, and more appealing to prospects. Professional staging services can help with this, and over time, agents become better at recognizing what positively stands out during an open house.
- Yardwork: Unless you’re hosting an open house in winter, the lawn and gardens will be the first thing visitors see when they pull up to the property. Be sure the grass is mowed, shrubbery and trees are pruned, and weeds are cleared.
Of course, agents can help their clients with some of these tasks, including painting, moving things to storage, planting flowers, deep cleaning, and more. Chipping in gets the job done faster and ensures the property is ready to impress people at the open house.
Responsibilities for the Seller on the Big Day
Sellers shouldn’t stick around for the open house—even if they’re well-intentioned, they tend to hover or interject themselves into conversations, particularly if someone is criticizing the property. Before they leave, encourage them to take these last steps:
- Take the pets with them: At the very least, move the animals to an inaccessible part of the house. Fish tanks are OK; that cage with a rat or tank with a snake is not. Also, remove any food dishes, litter boxes, and pet beds.
- Hide valuables: This is one area sellers must be responsible for and includes jewelry boxes, portable electronics, portable computer drives, prescription medications, and anything else that could be easily pocketed. In addition to hiding valuables, instruct your clients to turn off desktop computers and lock away any important documents
- Remove all photographs from the home. You want the visitors to envision themselves in their new home - rather than envisioning the current homeowner.
- Bring in the newspaper and mail: And don’t just leave them on the counter.
- Clean one last time: Quickly vacuum, sweep, and dust. Don’t leave any dishes in the sink or used towels in the bathroom. Empty garbage cans.
- Shovel in winter: Also, if sidewalks are icy, put rock salt on them ahead of the open house so they’ll be safe in time for the start of the event.
- Let the sunshine in: Open drapes, curtains, and blinds.
- Don’t leave your cars in the driveway: Park them either in the garage or down the street (not in front).
- Get the temperature right: The seller should set the thermostat to the right temperature so visitors feel toasty or cool (depending on the season) as soon as they walk in.
- Pro Tip: If possible, leave the front door cracked open or wide-open with a screen door: You want the entry to be inviting AND you want to remove as many barriers to entry as possible - and a closed door is sometimes a big barrier.
Of course, these are things you can help the seller with. But on the day of open house, you’ll be busy with other things, including securing and setting out refreshments, placing signs around the neighborhood, and promoting the event on social media. Give your clients this list and ask them to attend to as many as they can. They want the open house to be successful as much as you do. As a result of all your hard work, hopefully the property will impress a visitor who will eventually become the buyer.