What you can learn by visiting open houses

When you’re in the market to buy a house, you often learn the best ways to sell one. Many of those lessons come when you visit an open house. An open house is a great way to produce traffic. For two to four hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, a dozen or more potential buyers may come have a look. If they like what they see, they may make an offer.

The key, then, is to make them like what they see.

Kansas City real estate agent Lettiann Southerland, author of the 2015 book “Homes that Cook: Best Kept Secrets for Buying, Selling and Creating a Home,” says her number one advice to sellers whose agent is showing their property during an open house is to go away. Believe it or not, she says sellers often try to hang around while people traipse through their home. Not only that, she has seen cases where the owner will pretend to be a potential buyer, something she calls “crazy behavior.”

Her book has some helpful tips, including:

Highlight the attractions – If it’s a pleasant summer day, consider having your agent serve iced tea on your spacious screened porch. If it’s a cold January day, how about a roaring fire in the fireplace? It can show potential buyers just how nice and comfortable your home is.

An open house should be open –There should be no locked door or padlocked outbuildings. Potential buyers need to see everything. If you are worried about valuables, remove them from the property during the open house. Get on the bandwagon – Ever wonder why most open houses are on a weekend afternoon? Because people going to one open house want to go to three or four others. Having your open house on an off time may get you the market to yourself, it will just be a tiny market.

Enlist your neighbors – Some people are resentful when their neighbors drop in to their open house, because they are simply there out of curiosity. But don’t fight it, they can actually help. Make a point of letting neighbors know that your agent will be holding an open house and they are welcome to come. Give them a couple of fliers they can hand out to friends or family members.

Light it up – Lighting is incredibly important to selling a house. Make sure there are no dark spots. Up the light bulb wattage if necessary.

De-clutter – Look around your house with objective eyes, and when you see something out of place, remove it. That goes for closets too. A good rule of thumb is to have closets contain no more than one-half capacity.

Price it right – Selling a home can be an emotional experience. If you want to sell, take the emotion out of it, as much as possible.

It’s worth the price of an appraisal to find out what the market for your home is. If you think the appraisal is too low, then don’t sell your house. But if you really want to sell it, Southerland says consider pricing it about 15% below the appraised value.

If you’re planning to sell your home, spend a Sunday afternoon visiting open houses. Take notes on what you think the seller is doing right – and wrong – and act accordingly.




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