Whether you are using a realtor or trying a “for sale by owner”, an open house can be a very effective tool in the process of selling your home. You notice that I use the term—can be. An open house should be well planned and executed. It is an opportunity to present your home in the best possible light to a large number of potential buyers. You don’t want to waste this opportunity, so start planning about four weeks in advance, execute your plan and sell your home.
About four weeks before your open house date, make plans for your kids and pets. Call grandparents, friends, neighbors, and/or kennels. Having plans for kids and pets will leave your house clean, neat and smelling fresh on the day of your open house. It will also free you up to concentrate on last minute preparations and details. Have friends or a realtor tour your home and point out maintenance issues that you have become blind to, like scratches on the walls, running toilets, dirty doors. Then line up contractors to fix the issues or schedule the time to fix some items yourself. At this point you should also start the de-clutter process. Don’t just stuff things in the closet. Buyers will open all your closets and assess the space available in them. Store all your off season clothing items and sporting goods somewhere off premise. Make an appointment with a carpet cleaner or reserve a rug doctor for about two days before your open house. Also make an appointment with a professional cleaning company for one day before the open house. This will leave your home spic and span for the big day.
About three weeks before the open house, continue the de-clutter process and remove all personal pictures and kids’ art work. You want the buyer to picture themselves in the home. Buy big fluffy towels for the bathrooms and fancy hand soaps. These are things you can take to your new home, but give your current bathroom spaces and upscale feel. Buy new doormats for a good first impression. Start collecting some small boxes to store personal items in on the big day.
About two weeks before the open house, continue to de-clutter. A great time for a yard sale or Goodwill run. Rent a pressure washer and pressure wash your siding, your deck, your driveway, your sidewalk, and anything else that could use a good wash. Clean all your hard to reach spots—ceiling fans, top of cabinets, and behind furniture. Clean all your door knobs and light fixtures. A clean and shiny home makes buyer fell like your home is move in ready.
About a week before the open house, continue to de-clutter. Make sure buyers can get a good look at your furnace, your fuse box and all appliances. They will want to see a current service sticker on your furnace and look inside appliances, make sure they are clean. Organize your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Buyers will open them and judge how much they can hold. Unorganized kitchens look like they lack storage. If you’re using a realtor, read and edit the brochure that was prepared on your home. If you are not using a realtor, create a one page flyer on your home—square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, special features, heating source, taxes, etc. Make multiple copies.
Two days before your open house, de-clutter your yard. Get all toys, hoses and pet stuff put away. Mow your lawn—mowing the day of will bother buyers with allergies. Buy ready to cook cookie dough and a bag of lemons. Lay out the new doormats that you bought. They will still look good for your open house, but won’t look like you’re trying too hard.
One day before the open house, put up lots of open house signs where drivers can see them and point the way to your open house. Put away all counter top appliances in the kitchen and put away all throw rugs. Put up post it notes around the house pointing out key features like central AC, new appliances, electric dog fence, or an irrigation system or create a room by room list of features and make copies for buyers and leave them beside your home flyer.
The day of the open house, drop the kids and the pets off. Put all checkbooks, bank statements, prescription drugs, jewelry, and piggybanks in a safe or in the trunk of your car. Better safe than sorry. Bake the cookie dough, brew a pot of coffee, and put the lemons in a glass bowl. Your home will smell warm and inviting. Set the dining table for a special occasion and uncover your BBQ grill. Remove all soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. from the bathrooms. Put them in the small boxes you got earlier and put them under the sink. Put out the new towels and fancy soaps.
An hour before your open house, put out the cookies on a nice platter with a small sign that says—help yourself. Open all your curtains and turn on all your lights. Your house should be as bright as possible. If you are using a realtor, take advantage of no kids and pets and see a movie, go to the gym or take a nice ride. Let your realtor do their job. If you are not, greet people graciously, direct them to look around, answer any questions that you are asked, but generally stay out of the way and don’t play salesman. Let your hard work do the selling.
Lastly—Sell your home.
Rick is a realtor, real estate author, and longtime Windham resident. You can reach Rick with any of your real estate questions at columnist@TheWindhamEagle.com.