How to Host an Open House
Real estate agents are split on whether Open Houses are an effective tool for them to sell a house. But it’s also their job to be available in the middle of a weekday to show a home to prospective buyers. For FSBO sellers, Open Houses provide a convenient way to reach as many prospective buyers as possible without taking off work or packing one-off tours into an already crammed schedule.
When they do host Open Houses, real estate agents will schedule them on a non-holiday Sunday and budget about 12 hours to prepare. So before you decide on a day, think about the weekends when you will have the most time and thus the greatest chance for being successful. Below you find some important Open House tips for sellers.
Step 1: Check Out the Competition
Before you even begin preparing your home for the Open House, tour other Open Houses in your area. Pay attention to the way the homes are staged and the way the agents talk about them. What features do they point out and how do buyers react? Use this as a guide for how to prepare your home and how to talk about it.
Step 2: Declutter, Clean, and Stage
When buyers tour homes they want to see the best version of the space. That means you need to remove all personal items (photographs, collector’s items, anything political and religious), and you need to clean every cupboard and closet and remove any non-essential items — put them in storage if you can’t bear to part with them. (Check out The Home Seller’s Guide to Decluttering Your House.) Then you need to clean every nook and cranny in the entire house.
This should be much easier once most of your belongings have been removed. If cleaning isn’t your strong suit, consider hiring a professional cleaning service. Prospective buyers want to move into a clean space and it’ll be hard for them to picture your home that way if you don’t deep clean it prior to the Open House.
The idea behind staging is that you’re showing the buyer what it would be like to live in your home. And while that might seem like an obvious point to make, the right furniture in the right setup can transform an otherwise awkward or cramped space into a room with purpose. You can hire a professional stager or you can read 5 Inexpensive Ways to Stage Your Home on Your Own.
Step 3: Prepare Marketing Materials
First, you’ll need to take good photos of the exterior and interior of your home. If you don’t own a decent camera, consider buying one with at least five megapixels and then read 5 FSBO Real Estate Property Photography Tips.
Then use those photos to make a website for your listing. You can use a service like FlatFeeDesigns or get fancy with Squarespace or WordPress, just make sure to include all the pertinent info such as square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, property address, your contact information (cell phone number and email), special features and any recent upgrades or improvements. (For more tips, read How To Create A Website For Your FSBO Listing.)
Once you’ve created a website, you’ll need to make a property brochure to hand out at your open house and to use as a marketing tool beforehand. These will need to include all of the information above as well as your property’s website URL, the real estate taxes, neighborhood amenities and school information.
Step 4: Get Prospective Buyers in Your Door
Put a professional “For Sale” sign in your yard with a flyer holder and then stuff it with those brochures. You should also hand out brochures to 100 of your closest neighbors, post them on community boards and have at least 50 for prospective buyers to take on the day of the Open House. Another great way to get buyers in your door is to advertise your Open House on social media and by creating a listing on the MLS, Craigslist, Trulia, Zillow and FSBO sites. (See Accelerating Your Home Sale with Social Media.)
You want to advertise your Open House by the Wednesday before you’ll host it. This gives buyers’ agents and unrepresented buyers a chance to see your property, do some research and put you on their tour schedule.
The day of your Open House, put up signs directing potential buyers to your home. Place them at the two busiest intersections closest to your house and then one on each corner of your street facing opposite directions. You can also tie balloons to the signs so they catch the eyes of people driving by.
Step 5: Host Like a Professional
Buyers generally don’t like to tour homes when sellers are present because they don’t want to hurt the sellers’ feelings if they don’t like certain aspects of the home. But you can make buyers comfortable by acting professionally. Emotionally disconnect from the home you may have loved and lived in for years and treat it like an asset you are selling. That way you won’t take anything prospective buyers say personally.
About a half hour before the Open House is supposed to start, brew a pot of coffee and throw some premade cookie dough in the oven. That way your home smells welcoming and you have some refreshments to offer visitors. Place coffee mugs and bottles of water next to the plate of cookies, a stack of property brochures and a sign in sheet. Ask for people to leave their name, email and phone number so that you can follow up with them later. Not everyone will leave this information but those who do are most likely interested in buying.
When people start walking through the door, smile and greet them warmly. Tell them to feel free to tour the home at their leisure and then offer to answer any questions they might have. That way they have the space to talk candidly about the pros and cons of the home without worrying about offending you. When they do ask you questions, answer truthfully and whatever you do, don’t get defensive. This will likely be the largest investment they make in their lifetime (like it was yours) and they’re just trying to make the right decision for them.
Hosting your own Open House can be a nerve-wracking process and you will probably need to have more than one before you find a serious buyer. But with preparation and professionalism, you can make this an important tactic for selling your home FSBO.