How to make your “for sale by owner” open house feel professional

So, you have decided to sell your house “by owner”. Hosting an open house without the help of a real estate agent can be tricky, especially if you’re not used to entertaining or having strangers in your home. What can you do to make your guests (and yourself) feel comfortable and maximize your chances of selling?

What to Do to Prepare

Let interested buyers know when to show up

Once you decide the dates for your open house, be sure to include the times in any ads you have created for your house. You can also put up signs around the neighbourhood advertising the house along with the date, time and address about a week in advance.

Increase curb appeal

Any small work that can be done on the exterior of your home should be done before you start advertising. If you don’t have a hidden place for unsightly things like garbage cans and shovels, find a place to hide them out of sight (this goes for inside the house too).

Hide anything valuable beforehand

Go through all the rooms and ask yourself, “Would I feel uncomfortable if someone I didn’t know touched or saw this?” and “Would it break my heart if this broke?” If the answer is “Yes” to either, find out what to do with it. Maybe you want to rent storage space, put valuables in a secure box, or ship a few items to a relative’s house for a few weeks.

Put away personal items

Your guests need to be able to envision living there, so as beautiful as your family photos are, they will only serve as a distraction and make it difficult for potential buyers to envision their future in this space.

Create a sense of space when guests walk in

No shoes or other garments should be visible when your guests walk in. Help your closets appear more spacious by removing all off-season apparel. Any bulky furniture near your door should be gone—the last thing you want is for your guests to feel crowded as soon as they enter.

Clean, clean, clean!

You want to give the impression that you take pride in the upkeep of your home. Kitchen, bathroom and all cabinets should be sparkling clean. Empty all of your trash and recycling bins; there should be no visible dust or dirt. Hire a professional cleaner if necessary. Kitchen clutter and all unnecessary items should be out of sight. If you have pets, get rid of all accessories for the duration of the open house. Litter boxes should be put out a few days in advance if possible, as the smell of cat urine can be a big inconvenience to buyers. If you can’t completely remove these items from your home, make sure they are spotless and odor-free.

Dehumidify anywhere that needs it

Your basement, cellar and laundry area might benefit from running a dehumidifier for a few days before the showing. If anywhere has a musty smell, be sure to use a dehumidifier as well as an air freshener.

Occupy the entire family

Find a place for your kids and pets to go during open house (backyard doesn’t count). Make sure they stay away during the entire open house. If all family members are helping you, make sure everyone knows exactly what they will be doing and how they should treat guests.

Showcase what they won’t see

If putting on an open house during winter, you might want to have a prominently placed photo of your garden or yard in full summer splendour. If your house looks like it is straight out of a Christmas card when covered in snow, include a picture of that. If you live in a great neighbourhood with lots of amenities, find a way to showcase them.

Create magic with light

Open all your curtains wide to let the light in. If a window has an unattractive view, leave up a sheer or semi-sheer window covering. Turn on all the lights, and add a few spotlights to dark corners.

Encourage interaction

Don’t lock or close doors completely and drape some inviting throws over furniture. Put cards with more information throughout your home, encouraging them on their journey and calling attention to key things, such as a recent furnace replacement, a low overhang they might bump their head on, an original fireplace, or any other details a buyer might want highlighted.

Make it feel fresh with flowers

Grab a few simple bouquets on the day of the open house to add a lovely scent and a splash of colour.

Welcoming Guests

Be friendly and inviting

Once someone is in the door, don’t give them a list of house rules. Welcome them warmly, let them know that you are available if they have any questions or concerns, and invite them to take as long as they like. Offering some snacks or refreshments is a good way to encourage them to relax and take their time.

Don’t crowd them

Think about how awkward you feel when a salesperson follows you closely through a store. Be available if they want to talk, but let them have privacy to discuss the home without the current owner hearing every word.

Make sure they are physically comfortable

Offer to carry their coats when they come in if they show up during the colder months. Make sure the thermostat is set to a comfortable temperature. Turn on the heat (or air conditioning) for a moment before the show starts, and turn it down when people start arriving to avoid being distracted by a noisy furnace or air conditioner. Avoid scents that people may be allergic to, such as air fresheners, perfumes, or scented candles. If you’re creating an enticing smell by pretend baking, make sure you have some real baked goods to offer guests.

Get feedback

Leave a guestbook or some question cards out, and encourage people to fill them out. If you missed the mark on something, they will hopefully let you know so that you can do better next time. Happy selling!

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