Like everything else, open houses have gone digital, which means it’s no longer enough to just clean up your home and throw in a few neighborhood signs. Homes now require an online presence that, much like online dating, woos prospective buyers into seeing them in person.
The way buyers find and visit homes has changed, and so the way you should be selling yours has changed with it. We’ve compiled four open house tips for sellers to be sure your open house is a success— impressing buyers both on and offline. Read on to find out how you can get ready for market day and host your best possible open house.
Get Creative and Innovative When You Market Your Home
Probably one of the biggest changes to the housing marketplace in recent years is how much of it gets done online. Says Teresa Mears of US News, “According to 2014 data from the National Association of Realtors, 92 percent of homebuyers use the Internet in their search, and that makes listing your open house online important.” Buyers aren’t just locating homes for sale online, they’re also deciding (based on listings they find and what they look like) which homes are actually worth visiting.
So even if you like to live out of the limelight, your house is going to need a killer social media life. Work with your real estate agent to create an appealing online profile for your home: Align on your home’s best features, familiarize your agent with neighborhood benefits, and stage your property so that it photographs well.
If you don’t make buyers fall in love with your home’s profile, it’s likely they’ll never even get to see it in person. Says Dana Dratch of Bankrate, “Because most buyers start their searches on computers, you need a professional presentation online.”
But where to post your perfected home profile? You’ll want to cast a wide net and post your home’s profile in as many places as possible. “Make sure your open house is listed in the multiple listing service as well as on all the major real estate portals and Craigslist,” says Mears. “You can also share the information on Nextdoor.com and neighborhood email lists.”
And don’t forget about some of the old-school marketing tricks you can do offline as well. While you shouldn’t rely exclusively on signs and flyers, these things still never hurt and are especially important the closer you get to your open house date.
“In addition to putting a sign on your front lawn,” says Mear “put signs at major intersections directing people to the house. Tying balloons to the signs makes them more visible.” You want to be sure people can easily find your house, otherwise all your online marketing efforts will be for nothing.
Another great strategy is to switch up your signs as you get closer to the date of your open house. Swap out “for sale” signs with “open house” ones using something called riders. Says Dratch, “Called ‘riders’ because they ride on top of your ‘for sale’ sign, the attachments are available from home improvement stores and you can usually get them pre-printed with ‘Open house Saturday’ or ‘Open house Sunday’.”
Give Your House A Mini-Makeover
Don’t worry, this won’t be quite like an HGTV makeover, but there’s still a few things you should do to get your home open-house ready. Clean, fresh, and inviting are all good words to keep in mind when preparing your home. Be sure to spend at least a day or two doing a major cleaning, then make a cleaning schedule you can stick to in the weeks before your open house.
Pay special attention to the exterior of your home as well as the entrance— these first impressions are important. Make the inside feel bright and inviting, and don’t leave any messes or smells lingering from food, pets, or kids. Says real estate agent Moureen Hardy of Orange County, California, “The property has to be in pristine condition when you have the open house.”
Be sure to neutralize rooms in your home as much as possible. Remove family photos and paint over walls that are too bright or too dark. Says Dratch, “If you have anything that could be considered the least bit controversial (like an animal head on the wall, or a photo of you with a polarizing politico), take it down for the duration.”
Houses should also be minimally furnished. “If the house has too many pieces of furniture and knickknacks,” says Mears, “it’s hard for potential buyers to see the home’s features.” Homes should be decorated sparsely and with a neutral and elegant design in mind— in other words, you want your home to appeal to as many buyers as possible.
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Highlight Your Home’s Best Features
Every home has features that are more desirable than others. Taking the time to understand what the greatest assets of your home (and neighborhood) are will help you to have a competitive edge in the market.
Spend some time gathering information about great local restaurants and regular local events. Sit down with your realtor and add this information to your home’s online profile and decide if there’s a need to print out flyers for the day of the open house as well.
Work with your realtor to identify the parts of your home that will most appeal to buyers. Stage these areas well and be sure to take good photos that highlight these features. Some realtors and sellers even go as far as adding little notes around the home on the day of open house that highlight its most desirable features. For example, “Walk in closet, check it out.” Decide with your realtor how you can best showcase these assets to your buyers, making sure to highlight them online, in person, or both.
One of the best ways you can advocate for your home on the day of open house is to invite the neighbors. “Many times neighbors attend open houses, even if they’re not looking to move, out of curiosity,” says Mears. “Most agents encourage that, and some even send flyers to neighbors because they may have friends and relatives who are looking for a home.” Top real estate agent Maribel Sotuyo of Houston, Texas says, “Your neighbors will always know someone. Your friends and neighbors are your best avenue as far as marketing a home for you.”
While having your neighbors poke around your home might not be your idea of a successful open house, it almost always means you have a better chance of selling. Ultimately, you want as many people to see your home as possible, even the neighbors. “They’re the people who want their friends to come move into the neighborhood,” says Pat Vredevoogd Combs, former president of the National Association of Realtors. “They’re my scouts.”
Run Errands During Showings–Don’t Stick Around
One thing you may not be expecting as a first-time seller is that real estate agents will often want you out of the house for showings. After helping with the open house prep in one form or another, this might feel like a rejection— but it’s not.
In fact, there’s a lot of strategy behind having homeowners out during these events. Says Sotuyo, “Here’s what tends to happen: When someone walks in a home they’re not going to love every single thing about it and [homeowners] want to justify things— that does more harm than good.”
Sotuyo also explains that homeowners have been known to bring up issues in the home without meaning to, often as a way of justifying certain features or renovation decisions they made.
Overall, agents want buyers to have a chance to visualize the home as their own, which is pretty hard (not to mention awkward) with its former tenant looming. “If you have an agent, there’s no reason for you to attend your own open house,” says Dratch. “So grab the pets and get out of the way. Buyers need to picture themselves in the house. That’s more difficult if you’re around.”