As published in the Savannah Morning News - 20 October 2012
Showing Your Home and the Pros and Cons of Open Houses
Last week in Part 1, we covered preparing the outside, the front porch, and specific things to do on the inside to prepare your home for showings. To see last week’s Part 1 article (and all past articles), visit GraciousMoves.com and click on “Blog”. Now here’s Part 2:
Remove anything personal from sight throughout the house. That goes for jewelry, money, and personal papers. Lock up valuables, personal information, passports, etc. in an armoire, cupboard or file cabinet with a key. Keep your identity safeguarded and your jewelry secure.
Remove anything that is not included in the sale: Remember when we discussed taking down the special chandelier, or anything attached that you want to take with you to your next home? Be sure this is completed before you start showing the home. It never fails, the one thing that means a lot to you, will also be the one thing the buyer wants included in a contract to purchase your home. Make your life easier and postpone showing the house until the removal and associated patchwork is complete.
“About the Home”: Create a printed, framed document that you can leave for the buyers in a conspicuous place, like an entry table. Tell them why you chose this house to make your home, and what you love about it. Talk about the morning sun that streams through your windows, or the privacy you enjoy in your gardens. Tell them how you have enjoyed your home for entertaining family and friends, and how they love to hang out in the kitchen while you prepare gourmet delights. You get the idea; this is something that only you can share because you know the house better than anyone. Tell your story.
Pictures speak a thousand words: If you have beautiful azaleas or other blooming plants that are not in season, take some pictures of your gardens and put them in an album to be displayed with your “About the Home” story. Open the album to a particularly nice page and leave it on the entry table. If you have show-off gardens, or fabulous maples that pop with Fall color, buyers will love to see how your home looks at different times of the year.
Turn on the music: Playing soft, background music is always a good idea. Remember, you are romancing the buyer, so music is a very nice touch.
Let there be light: Not only are you trying to brighten things up by opening all the curtains and blinds, be sure and turn on the lights in every room. Unless there is sunlight streaming through the windows, always turn on lamps. If you think about model homes you have toured, the lamps are always lit, and the goal here is to make the house look as light, airy and spacious as possible.
Make yourself scarce: Okay, you are ready! You have done everything you can do, and it’s time to leave. Yes, it is best if you leave the house, and let your Realtor® do what they know how to do. Buyers need to be able to speak freely, so if there are any objections, their agent can help solve them. With you present, they only say the things they think you want to hear. With you there, it is still “your house”, and you want them to imagine it as their own.
Also, Sellers tend to say too much. They talk about why they are moving and their motivation to get on with their lives, and consequently remove all bargaining power your Realtor® has regarding negotiations. The best thing you can do is disappear until the showing is over. This subject will come up again in future articles. I cannot stress this more strongly: the less said the better, and communicating through your agent is the smartest way to go.
Sellers can “un-sell” a house. Pleeeeze do not talk to the buyers, and the best way to avoid it is to be absent when they are there.
Collect Realtor® cards: When Realtors show your property, they usually leave a business card on the entry table, kitchen counter or other conspicuous place. Collect the cards and give them to your listing agent. They can follow up with these agents and help counter any objections to your property, which can possibly entice an agent to come back in for a second showing. I also call and thank them for showing the property to obtain feedback for my sellers, and contact them whenever there is a change to the listing that might rekindle their buyer’s interest.
What about Open Houses?
I am a strong proponent of Open Houses, although I know a lot of you feel invaded and unsure of who is coming through your home. Occasionally a seller will not allow open houses. In my 27 years of selling experience, I can tell you they are missing the boat.
I have sold my own homes and those of my client’s as a direct result of open houses. First of all, it’s not just your “nosy neighbors” that come through your home when it is advertised correctly. Secondly, you want your neighbors to see your home! They love to choose their next neighbor, and if they have friends moving to the neighborhood, they will tell them about it. Occasionally you will have neighbors that have always admired your house, and will want to buy it themselves. I have sold two of my homes to neighbors on my street.
Here are the open houses I hold to get the job done:
Just for the neighbors: I do a wine and cheese reception and hand deliver invitations to their doors. If I can talk to them directly, and invite them personally, I do.
Just for the Realtors®: This is always a good idea. I have giveaways and attract them with gas cards, lunch, and other goodies to get them out to your house. It only takes one buyer, and they are working with them daily, so you can’t skip the Realtors®. In any market, utilizing the Realtor® community allows 1500 or so agents work for you to get your house sold. In this market, you need their help.
Just for buyers: Do the cookies, ice tea, lemonade and coffee. Advertise it in the Open House section of the Savannah Morning News, and other publications that pertain to your neighborhood. A great ad description of your property will attract buyers. Your Realtor® will know where to place these ads.
Preparing your home: Prepare your home for an open house just like you would for any showing, and you will get the most return on your investment of time. It’s a lot of work, but everything you have done to prepare your house for sale is now going to count. In most cases, it’s a numbers game, and open houses are a part of a total marketing plan that increases your opportunity of selling your home.
The final word on open houses: the more people that see your house, the greater your chances of finding the right buyer.
Next week we will discuss the next step, Negotiating an Offer. Stay tuned!