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Today’s open house operates a little differently than in years past. Now, before home buyers even step foot over the threshold, they’ve scoured a home’s online advertisements, memorizing the slightest details of the homes they like best.
Previously an open house was a way to learn about a home without prior knowledge. Home buyers took their time, asked questions, and pondered possibilities—there might have been a social aspect, too, as they interacted with the agent and other buyers over freshly baked cookies.
For home buyers today, an open house is an insurance policy, ensuring their hours of research and instincts are accurate. If all checks out and you’ve estimated your home’s value correctly, there’s a good chance you’ll have multiple offers at the end of the open house. But, you’ll have to live up to the home shopper’s expectations, hopes, and dreams they’ve imagined simply by viewing your property online.
Use this guide to get your home ready for the best buyers!
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Preparing for Your Open House
Decide if You'll Work with an Agent or Plan a For Sale By Owner (FSBO)
Early on, you’ll need to decide if you’re working with a real estate agent or selling your home for sale by owner. Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll play a role in your open house!
Learn more: Demystifying a For Sale By Owner.
Prepping for Your Open House
Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to prepare for an open house. It’s never a bad idea to start a couple of months ahead and begin to purge your home. Schedule extra donation and trash pickups and research storage space if your agent recommends thinning the furniture to show off a larger space.
Always remember you’re preparing your property to meet buyers’ demands. You may like living a certain way, but if it doesn’t match the local buyer’s pool, then your home won’t move as quickly or sell for as much.
Declutter Your Home
Light. Fresh. Airy. These are the words buyers commonly use to describe what they’re looking for in a home. It’s up to you to deliver. If you think about the big picture, you’re also preparing for a future move. Cut the clutter. You certainly don’t want to box up unwanted items. A good purge helps save money on moving costs.
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Time for Deep Cleaning
It's no exaggeration to say that buyers notice small details, including if your baseboards and window coverings are clean. It doesn’t seem like these nitpicky items should make or break a sale, but if the little dirty items throughout the house add up, they could take away a buyer’s interest if they feel you haven’t kept up the house well.
Bad smells are a massive turn-off for buyers. Everyone has a bit of “nose-blindness” when it comes to their own home. You should recognize that open house attendees could leave without touring the whole house if they detect pet, food, or moisture odors. You may need to shampoo your carpets and rugs and clean the furniture and window covering fabric.
It may be worth your while to hire a professional cleaning crew close to the open house date for a deep clean. Don’t forget to clean out the garage, closets, and other storage space buyers will likely peek into.
Neutralize Your Home Decor
Neutralizing is a two-part strategy.
1. Remove most personal items, especially photographs. Too many personal effects may prevent buyers from envisioning their belongings in your home.
2. If you love color and your house is a vivid reflection of your paint choices, you may want to repaint with a neutral color to capture a larger swatch of buyers who appreciate the move-in ready quality. Buyers also like neutral paint because it’s easier to see how their furniture works in the rooms.
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At some point during the getting-the-house-ready-to-sell process, you may consider either DIY home staging or, if your market dictates, hiring a professional stager before your open house.
Home staging is another tool to market and showcase your home. Staging lets buyers see the house fitting into their lifestyle. You may just need a few staging tips, but professional stagers can transform an ordinary house into an extraordinary home. These are some of the fixes they might suggest.
- Rearranging furniture placement to accentuate traffic flow and spaciousness.
- Offering a color consult to choose new paint for walls, trim, and ceiling.
- A full-service staging plan that includes minor renovations like hardwood flooring and fixture updates.
- The option to rent furniture and home accessories for marketing photography and open houses.
The image of your house’s exterior projects is critical to your sale, not only for your open house but also because it’s the calling card for your marketing plan. There’s a reason the lead picture on a home advertisement is the front shot of the exterior.
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Curb appeal sets the tone for what buyers will find inside, so don’t ignore the chance to spruce up your yard space. Here are suggestions to improve any home’s curb appeal.
- Powerwash: siding, sidewalk, patio, deck, porch
- Landscape: weeding, tree, and bush trimming, mowing, edging
- Plant: flower pots, flower beds, hanging planters
- Update: address numbers, mailbox, front door color, lighting
The Power of Photos
Now that your house is picture-perfect, you need photos to show off your property. Next, you’ll add the photographs to your on and offline marketing strategy.
If you plan DIY photos, you’ll need a few tips.
- Take advantage of natural light by opening window coverings.
- Photograph multiple angles of stand-out rooms like a spa-quality primary bath or the bells and whistles in the chef’s kitchen.
- Never upload dark photos.
- Find out which orientation works best with your marketing platform. In most cases, it’s landscape.
Need more photo help? Read Pro Real Estate Photo Tips for Selling or Renting Your Home, 3 Easy Steps to Take Amazing Photos for Your Home Listing, and 4 Don’ts for Your Home Listing Photos for guidance.
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Depending on your local real estate market’s trends, you may want to hire a professional photographer to boost your marketing presence, especially if you own a luxury property or could benefit from drone photography.
Selling an empty house? No problem! Learn what virtual staging can offer: Virtual Staging Your Home—What You Need to Know.
Marketing Your Open House Online
By now, it’s widely known that the first place the vast majority of home buyers search for a home is online. Whether it’s your real estate agent’s website and social media or your personal accounts, you’ll need to get the word out about your open house.
If you’re selling with an agent, talk to them about which social media marketing they’ll handle for you and which you should handle on your own. Most likely, you’ll benefit from adding the open house information to your personal social accounts as well.
Add some creativity to your marketing and read The Best Do's and Don’ts for Your Home Listing for more inspiration.
Connect with MilitaryByOwner Advertising, Inc.
MilitaryByOwner connects military buyers and sellers aross the country through online real estate advertising, making it a dependable option for spreading the word about your open house details.
MilitaryByOwner showcases open houses and homes for sale on their social media channels each week. Since military buyers, sellers, and renters are so unique, it’s a perfect way to get them the information they need when they need it. Whether you’re selling your home as a FSBO or through an agent, you’re welcome to add your listing to MilitaryByOwner!
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When Should You Schedule Your Open House?
Like most topics associated with real estate, your location and local buyers’ pool dictate when you should hold your open house. Most likely, the weekends (Sundays are the traditional favorite) offer the best opportunities, but the timeframe, usually somewhere between 11 a.m and 4:00 p.m, could fluctuate a little depending on local traffic and lifestyle patterns.
Post the Home's Details 2-3 Weeks Before Your Open House
Your fabulous photos will speak thousands of words, but you’ll need to add a short and sweet description of your home’s highlights, whether it’s a commuter’s dream, a recently renovated kitchen, or a backyard oasis, drop in the best of the best details. Don’t forget to include the open house information: date, time, and, if needed, specific landmarks or directions.
You may need to tailor the description slightly to fit the restrictions on social platforms, but a basic template saves you time. Don’t forget to include relevant hashtags like #openhouse, #househunting, and #curbappeal. Customize them if possible by adding your city’s name or local area’s highly searched terms.
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Plan a Small Preview Event for Friends and Neighbors
There’s nothing like the power of word-of-mouth advertising. If it's in your time and money budget, consider hosting a small, invite-only preview of your property a few days before the official open house. Your neighbors are definitely interested in your home, especially if they’ve watched from afar the renovations and repair process. So harness their curiosity—you never know who they could share the listing with.
Open House Day
An open house is exciting for everyone, but your job on the day is different depending on whether you’re working with an agent or handling the event on your own. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Open House Signage
A couple of days before the open house, you or your agent should add signs to street corners around your home, directing traffic to your open house. Get street pointer and yard signs from MilitaryByOwner here!
Don’t lose potential buyers because they can’t find the property. Use enough signs to make your house easy to find. Be respectful of neighborhood rules about signage, but the signs should clearly guide your buyers to an exciting event.
If Your Real Estate Agent Is Running the Open House
You’ll probably feel excitement and a little nervousness when open house day arrives. After the showing, you could head off to the next chapter of your life if the right buyer comes through. But, this is the day for your agent to shine.
If you're working with an agent, trust their judgment and ideas of home staging and easy repairs. Often, they'll also employ another agent or assistant for each floor of the home if the home is large. Let them do their job! You should also have manuals and service reports of appliances, water heaters, etc. handy. You will want to have them for the new homeowner, but it's nice to display them at the open house as well.
You’ll leave the house (bring the kids, dog, and cat with you) for a couple of hours and let them work their magic. Your agent will share good news and lessons learned right after the open house is over.
A For Sale By Owner Open House
By now, you should know just about every detail of your house, from the square footage and average utility bills to the local school districts. Buyers will ask general and specific questions about most topics, so get ready. You’ll also want to prepare the house for visitors.
- Turn on all of the lights.
- Open all of the blinds.
- Prepare the snacks.
- Bake cookies for a homey smell and a tasty treat for guests.
- Gather your marketing materials.
- Play soft music throughout the home.
- Don't make it awkward for the home searcher. Examples include talking too much or following them around with every move. Be there for questions, but allow them to talk privately, too.
- Park a couple of cars on the street to give the appearance that there are multiple people in the house.
- During COVID, it was typical to make an appointment for an open house. This is still an option!
Some other tips from 4 Tips for Hosting an Effective Open House:
- Never do an open house solo. Whether you're using a real estate agent or selling your home as a FSBO, have at least one other person in the house, ideally one person for each level of the home. This will help with safety and security of belongings, along with being available to give facts about the home or answer questions.
- Have a sign-in sheet to collect name, email, and phone number.
- If you prefer people to take off their shoes, make a sign or have a basket of booties they can use.
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After the Open House
After the open house, it’s time to start considering your options. If the reception was hot, you’ll have plenty of follow-ups and potential offers. If it was neutral, you should consider boosting one of the key selling elements like curb appeal or neutralizing paint. If the open house didn’t drum up interest, it’s time to reevaluate whether or not you need a real estate agent’s help, a bigger marketing plan, a price change, or possibly all three.
When it comes to the actual open house, this may be one of the easiest parts of your home selling journey, since you’ve done the time-intensive prep work already. For more tips for your home sale, download our free Guide to Selling Your Home below.
By Dawn M. Smith
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