Avoid these 10 Real Estate Open House Mistakes
Once you’ve made the decision to sell your house, it’s time to start the preparation ahead of the marketing of the house.
After all, as a home buyer, don’t you prefer to view properties in their best possible conditions?
Your real estate agent undoubtedly informed you about the necessity of holding open houses in order to showcase the property’s best features, allowing interested home buyers to stop by & make that important first impression of the house.
And even though, you, as the home seller, won’t be around during those open houses (at least, let’s hope so!), there are quite a few things you might (not) do which could potentially jeopardize the marketing of your home!
In order to not only reduce the number of interested home buyers you’re chasing away, but ideally retain the highest number of buyers, there are some essential open house mistakes you can easily avoid when your home is being viewed during open houses:
Open House Mistake #1 – Leaving a dirty house
To start this list, it’s the most obvious one, yet the one that most home sellers seem to struggle with!
Even though your organized chaos at the home office (especially if you’re a self-employed person, such as a real estate agent) is something you’ve gotten used to over the years, any visiting home buyer is likely not to have the same fuzzy feeling of your busy-ness.
Nevermind the leftover dishes nicely piled up in the kitchen sink!
Obvious to you & me, yes, but unfortunately, not to everyone!
Come on, is it really that much to ask to have a clean and presentable home for those interested home buyers?
So, regardless how your home looks right now, it’s time for a proper clean – either by your lonely self, with a bunch of friends, or even a professional cleaning service – to make sure your home gives a great first impression!
Whatever you choose to do, make sure your house is clean-clean-clean!
Open House Mistake #2 – Bad first impression due to unimpressive curb appeal
Whilst not everyone lives in a gorgeous mansion with full-time staff to take care of the property’s upkeep throughout the year, any homeowner needs to step up to the plate when it comes to basic house maintenance!
After all, you only have one chance at making that first impression on those interested buyers as they turn into your property!
How does your home’s curb appeal look like? Go stand outside in your driveway (perhaps ask a good friend to assist) and look back with a critical eye to detect areas which might require some extra attention ahead of the marketing of the property.
Any leftover DIY material lying around on the sides of the house? Gardening tools spread all over? Gutters cleaned? Paint on the outside walls starting to peel?
Open House Mistake #3 – Not maintaining the yard
As part of the curb appeal point made just above, the garden also plays an important part in maintaining the outside of your home.
No, you don’t need to be Martha Stewart in order to make your landscaping look amazing! All you have to do is taking care of your basic landscaping maintenance, which includes cutting the lawn, trimming the hedges, focusing on having the sidewalk toward the house look nicely edged and obviously, removing any & all dead plants.
Of course, if you’d like to put some extra money towards presentation, you could always get some of those landscaping decorations at your local nursery store. Perhaps try to stay away from those awkward-looking gnome statutes which tend to just stare at you – but that’s just my personal impression!
In the end, just try to make your house look more presentable to an interested buyer!
And, as you’ve noticed, the abovementioned info won’t take up a lot of time, nor does it require a certain level of landscaping skills: just some basic elbow grease will go a long way in getting the job done.
Open House Mistake #4 – Leaving your pets hanging around
Your pet might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you and your family, but once you’ve decided to start the process, having a pet around when selling a property will create a few problems!
Right off the bat, homeowners tend to prefer locking their pets in a certain part of the house during the open house. However, besides not being able to access that portion of the property, the pet’s behavior (i.e. non-stop barking, howling, scratching doors etc) might be somewhat uncomfortable for the visiting home buyers and real estate agent trying to do a viewing.
And yes, it’s bad for business if those visiting buyers are more interested in the well-being of the pet than the actual viewing of the house!
Practically-speaking, the best solutions would be to either:
(1) take your pet along for a few hours and visit the local park or friends, or
(2) leave your pet with some close friends who will entertain the pet during the hours of the open house.
Even though most of us might be animal lovers, recent studies indicate that 36% of people are actually cynophobic (also known as fear of dogs, which is one of the most commonly found phobias around).
Open House Mistake #5 – Unwelcome odors
Somewhat in-line with the previous point of having pets around, those smells associated with pets will undoubtedly be a serious turn-off for any interested home buyer.
Any out-of-place smell in the house will have a negative effect on the buyers’ sentiment of the house. Whether it be a lingering cigarette smoke in certain parts of the house (i.e. most non-smokers will immediately reek a recently extinguished cigarette), leftover pet “belongings” in the backyard which have created a true minefield, (nevermind the embarrassment for the agent trying to explain the buyers to ‘follow his footsteps’ in the garden), or any other uncomfortable smell.
So, try to get rid of those smells in the days or weeks running up to the open house – either by properly airing out the ‘smoking sections’, scooping up Fifi’s recent bombs, or deep-cleaning the carpets – so that negative effect on the visiting buyers won’t be as drastic, or might be non-existent altogether!
Any agent will confirm that you can be guaranteed that those unpleasant odors will send visiting buyers out of the house in no time!
That anticipated 30-minute tour of the house suddenly became a 3-minute speed walk!
Open House Mistake #6 – Keeping the lights off
You’ve been told you can save electricity by keeping the lights off in the rooms you’re not physically in. Certain rooms might even catch some sunlight during the day, so of course, you’ve turned off all those lights.
Whilst that’s the correct way to go about reducing one’s electricity bill, it’s not something you ought to be focusing on during an open house!
If you’d like to help out the agent, please make a habit of turning on all the lights ahead of the open house (or any buyer viewing for that matter).
Every. Single. Light.
Besides the sun disappearing behind dark clouds on any given day, specifically during the grey autumn and winter months, daylight disappears even quicker and eventually, parts of your home will turn into darker areas in the midst of the open house!
And that’s not exactly how you’d like to present your home to visiting buyers, now is it?
Open House Mistake #7 – Keeping confidential documents scattered around
Part of cleaning of the house mentioned earlier should be the removal of confidential documents which are very likely all over the house.
There’s no reason why any of your medical, financial, or even utility bills ought to be easily accessible for anyone of the public to see!
And if you’re thinking of quickly stuffing them in some top drawer in the living room, let’s not forget that inquisitive buyers aren’t afraid of pulling open drawers, closet doors, etc to make themselves more familiar with the house. (Whether they ought to is a completely different blog article!)
Plus, not everyone visiting the open house might have the best of intentions, which means they’ll specifically be looking for such personal information.
Open House Mistake #8 – Don’t become your own open house DJ
Studies have shown that the speed, rhythm and volume of in-store music affect the pace of customer flow through the store.
Why should it be any different at open houses?
Well, while there might be plenty of reasons why music ought to be played at retail stores, one needs to be very, very careful in doing so at open houses!
Depending on the type of music you’re playing, you might offend certain buyers (as you can’t please them all).
And, not only that, certain “glass-is-half-full” people might even suspect that you’re trying to cover up certain sounds while being in the house (i.e. noisy neighbors, busy traffic road etc), regardless whether that’s actually the case.
Open House Mistake #9 – Not paying attention to the home temperature
Even though this might seem like something insignificant and small, it can have an important impact on the visiting home buyers’ impression of the house.
Isn’t it the point of an open house to showcase the best that your home has to offer?
Why should that buyer in the middle of winter have to face (freezing) cold temperatures in a number of the rooms, just because you happen to not use them very often? At least raise the temperature to a room temperature level for the open houses!
Likewise, during some of these hot summer months, you may find yourself in a part of the house that’s sweltering hot! Why not turn the A/C on ahead of time, or perhaps create a draft to cool down that side of the house?
Bottom line: no matter what the temperature is outside, make sure that your home has the perfect room temperature inside.
The last thing you want is buyers to start asking questions whether you’re having (maintenance) issues in order to keep the rooms at a constant temperature.
Open House Mistake #10 – Attending the open house
And last but definitely not least, as a home seller, as much as you would like to, you cannot be attending your own open house!
It may sound a bit harsh, but here are quickly a couple of reasons why this cannot happen:
- You might be divulging information which is irrelevant to the sale of the property, yet enough to chase away the home buyer;
- Any interested home buyer will not feel comfortable asking pertinent questions to the agent while the home seller is hanging around;
- Your real estate agent has built up a relationship with the interested home buyers, knows which features they will be drawn to and will make sure to emphasize them during the tour.
Home Seller: Avoid these 10 Real Estate Open House Mistakes — Summary
- Make sure your house is clean & all tidied up
- Take a look outside and improve your home’s curb appeal
- Give your landscaping some proper attention
- Leave your pet(s) with your best friend for a few hours
- Get rid of any unpleasant smells
- Turn on all the lights in the house
- Stash away any personal documents
- Be careful what type of background music you play
- Try to keep the temperature constant in all the rooms
- Ensure you’re not around during open houses
Hopefully, these basic open house tips are straightforward enough to implement, and more importantly, will inform you, as the home seller, which open house mistakes to avoid!
Don’t let a potential deal slip through your fingers!
Related Resources on Real Estate Open Houses:
- Top 8 Open House Mistakes a Seller Can Make via Dustin Brohm
- Open Houses: Do They Work or Not? via Jeff Nelson
- The Drawbacks of an Open House via Bill Gassett
- The Pros And Cons Of Open Houses In Real Estate via Kyle Hiscock
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About the author: The above article “Home Sellers: Avoid these 10 Real Estate Open House Mistakes” was written by Xavier De Buck, your Johannesburg (South Africa) real estate agent. Xavier has been nationally recognized and awarded for providing service excellence, exceptional property sales, whilst exhibiting the highest level of professionalism. With over 15 years combined experience as a real estate agent and real estate investor, if you’re thinking of buying or selling a home in Johannesburg, Xavier would love to share his property knowledge and expertise.
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