So, you have finally done it-- you have decided to sell your home. You probably are relieved that you have finally gotten to this point, but you may be asking yourself, ‘what now?’. Well, once you have found a real estate agent, it’s time to prepare your home to be shown. Your home can be shown to prospective buyers in many ways, but the one that needs the most preparation and the most work is an open house. Like the name suggests, your home will be open for the public to tour and see. This can be a great opportunity to advertise your home, but there are some key things that need to be done before you start inflating balloons and setting up signs.
Go in with a plan
Like most ventures, an open house is an event that takes a great amount of coordination. When planning your open house, sit down with your real estate agent and establish what you want to accomplish with your open house. Once you have those goals set you will know better how to proceed.
When making this plan you need to remember: 1) at your open house your home is going to be open to the public, anyone can walk through. This means you will need to take any valuables (jewelry, collectables, money etc) off the premises. It also means that every closet, bedroom, medicine cabinet and crawl space needs to be presentable. If people are seriously interested in your home, they will want to see everything, so, keep that in mind as you plan and prepare.
Another thing to keep in mind 2) is to plan your open house on a day and time when traffic in your neighborhood is not at a high volume. If there are a lot of cars, bikes and/or people moving past your home, on top of the those coming to see it, people will think it is always busy and will be less likely to buy.
The first thing you need to do when preparing to show your house, whether it be an open house or not, is to fix anything that is broken. If a brick has broken off the side of your house, reaffix it; if your roof is in disrepair, get it fixed; if your fence is falling over, straighten it. The better the condition of your home, the faster it will sell.
Clutter is the worst enemy of a good open house. Before you open your doors to the public, or even start cleaning, decluttering your home should be a top priority. If there is clutter in your home, it will be harder for prospective buyers to visualize it as their own. It doesn’t matter where you put your extra stuff, it just needs to be out of the house. It is recommended to take out about half of your belongings. This will free up a lot of space and make you home feel more open.
Another thing that will help prospective buyers to feel at home in your home is to depersonalize it. This means to take out any personal pictures, artwork and unique effects. The goal here is to make your home as neutral as possible. Depersonalizing can even mean repainting the walls to a more neutral color. The more neutral it is, the better people can imagine their things in your home.
The way a home smells can change a person’s whole experience at an open house. Most people don’t walk into a house that smells like a fish market and leave wanting to buy the home. You want to make your home to have a neutral smell. Though you may like the smell of fish, a prospective buyer may not. When preparing your home, remove things with strong smells. Have a friend, or someone who isn’t used to the way your home smells, come in and help you adjust the smells of your home. Try to avoid pungent smells or spraying heavy layers of air freshener as this might aggravate some people’s allergies.
Many people throw a batch of chocolate chip cookies into the oven to give the house a more homey smell. (Note: cinnamon rolls, bread and other baked goods are also effective at neutralizing the smells in your home. However, avoid baking peanut butter cookies, or anything with a large amount of peanut butter in it. There are people so highly allergic to peanut butter that they can be affected by even trace particles of it in the air).
The expression goes, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ and the same goes for houses. However, the prettier your home looks on the outside the more likely people will walk in the door. Make sure that the trees and bushes are trimmed, the paint is touched up, and there is no clutter in the yard. You may also consider taking down any flags, lawn ornaments (yes, the gnomes too), or sporting equipment (basketball hoops, etc). Again we are shooting for neutrality, so, make the outside of your home simple and tidy.
Cleaning is by far the most time consuming part of preparing for an open house. You want your home to be as clean as possible; no one wants another person’s mess. So, vacuum the floors, wash the windows, and sweep the patio and you will be one step closer to selling your home.
Remember to be as detailed as you can, especially in the main areas of the home. Here is a list of items that are commonly forgotten when cleaning: baseboards, lamps, every inch of the bathroom, stoves and microwaves, and under the washer and dryer.
Stage: Make it Beautiful
The next step is to stage your home. This is the process of arranging your home to look perfect. You’ll want to move the furniture, lamps, etc to be aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. Staging also involves setting the table with nice, but neutral, dishes, hanging towels in the bathroom, adding fake books to bookshelves etc. These serve as icing on the cake, making the house look more complete.
Lastly… Have Refreshments
It’s always great to have some sort of handout for guests when they come to your open house. This can be anything from mints to cookies (since you baked them earlier for the smell) to water bottles and so on. Just have something for them to snack on if they wish. The only thing to remember is that whatever you handout, you will be picking out of the carpet later. So, pick something that is easy to clean up.
This is just a basic list of things to do to prepare for an open house. Consult your real estate agent as well for more detailed instructions.