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10 Things You Shouldn't Do When Holding An Open House

By Today's Guest Contributor · Mar 1, 2016 · Real Estate

10 Things You Shouldn't Do When Holding An Open House

Image courtesy of BeSmartee, How Not To Hold An Open House

This article was written by an actual open house enthusiast - not a real estate professional. Take a step in this open house visitor's shoes to see what turns them off :).

I'm an avid collector of open house visits. Any weekend you will find me somewhere in Sonoma County touring open homes. Through this hobby, I've witnessed many open houses done right and a handful of missteps which could cost a potential sale. Please read the open house "don't tips" below and pass along to your realtor friends.

1. Don't leave your dog at home

Please pay to kennel your dog or take Fido to a friend's house. Dogs like to protect their domain. You want open house visitors to feel free to roam your property and open doors. A nervous or feisty dog about the premises will not help you close any deal.

2. Don't leave prescription medication out

do not leave rx out

It is something that shouldn't have to be said, but I have seen this more than once. Homeowners leave their prescription medication lined up on the bathroom counter. It may be okay in your daily life, but leaving out your medication out to the public may invite theft or disclose a sensitive medical condition. Stash your medication in a shoe box, drawer or take it with you in a zip lock bag.

3. Don't ignore the floor

In other words, vacuum. I realize replacing the carpet maybe a financial stretch for some homeowners, but please do not host any open house without vacuuming the carpets and sweeping out the corners (steaming the carpets would be great as well, but vacuum at a minimum). There is nothing more off-putting than carpets with ages of dust and lint on top. If something as simple as floor maintenance has not occurred, prospective buyers may wonder what other home improvements have been left undone.

4. Don't bother baking cookies

Baking cookies is a tool that realtors learned long ago. What is more homey than the smell of freshly baked cookies? If the scent of cookies taps into your emotional attachment of a home, then your are instantly more interested as a buyer. BUT I must point out, if you've recently installed new carpet or painted the interior walls, the fumes from these synthetic materials will cancel any cookie aroma. Offer cookies as a snack if you wish, but the act of baking is not necessary.

5. Don't light too many candles

do not light too many candles

A candle lit in the kitchen or bathroom is customary and perhaps pleasant. The key here is not to light too many candles. A candle lit in every room will alarm buyers. What are you trying to hide? The smell of mildew? Pets? If so, work on those problems first with a deep clean or new paint. Do not expect candles burning in every room to hide your home's flaws.

6. Don't take your own pictures

The minute you list your house for sale and advertise an open house, links to the open house and pictures of your home are instantly available to the world. If you want heavy traffic at your open house, you must make the best first impression possible. Dimly lit pictures or pictures with dirty dishes or laundry baskets will keep people away. A professional photographer will know how to angle the shots to get the best view of each room. The photographer will shoot around your everyday life (i.e. dirty dishes) so that your house is 'picture perfect'.

7. Don't cancel on account of the weather

If you have a beautiful Better Homes & Gardens type house, priced to sell, the weather will not keep prospective buyers away. This was the case with one open house I saw recently. It was pouring down rain, but yet it was one of the busiest open houses I've ever visited. I later found out that the owner received six written offers on the house.

8. Don't stay home

Again this is something that shouldn't have to be said, but I've experienced it twice. Once the homeowner sat in the front room chatting with the realtor, and the other time the homeowner sat and worked at his desk. Just as with the advice not to leave your dog at home, don't stay at home during an open house. People will not feel free to roam your house and really look. They will feel hurried and uncomfortable; traits you don't want prospective buyers to feel. Hire a realtor you trust and let them be the watchful eye of the property, never feel you have to do it yourself.

9. Don't require people to sign in

If your realtor would like to build their list of prospective buyers in the future then having to sign in is fine. The key here is not to make signing in mandatory. People are shopping for homes and you want them to feel comfortable enough to have an immediate attachment with the house. Being questioned and required to sign your name or fill out a form is off-putting. I went to one open house where I was required to sign in. After I signed, the realtor picked up the sheet and questioned the exact spelling of my name and confirmed my phone number. At this particular open house I was told it was for security purposes. I found the explanation odd because the home looked like nobody lived in it.

10. Don't forget to flush the toilets

There's no need for a lot of detail here. Just consider this a gentle reminder to make one last sweep through the house as before you leave on open house day. Your young child may have used the bathroom and forgot the all important flush.

About the Author: Elle MacNab is a writer living in Sonoma County. She keeps a weekly Open House Blog as she queries to find the literary agent of her dreams. Follow her on Twitter @ellemacnab.


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