Open House Etiquette
Tips for Sellers
First, talk to your Real Estate Agent about their specific goals for the open house. If there are any upcoming open houses in your neighborhood, stop by! You may get some ideas about what works and what doesn’t, as well as scoping out comparable properties. If there aren’t any open houses in your neighborhood, attend one or two nearby with the same price point as your home. That way, you’ll get a feel for how a similar home is presented, opened to the public, and how visitors respond and give feedback.
Prep the Home
Here is where you can really buckle down and improve your chances of interest in your home. Though agents will do some of these things on the day of, if they are already prepared, your agent can focus on marketing and learning about the home before the open house begins.
Unsurprisingly, our first suggestion is to get the home “hotel clean.” What does this mean? Think about how you feel when you’re on vacation and first open the door to your hotel room. It feels fresh, new, ready, welcoming, nothing out of place, and feels like a clean slate, right? It feels like you can instantly relax. So as a seller, this means digging in and cleaning every visible surface, including baseboards, the front of cupboards, and windows (how will they appreciate those nice views otherwise!). However, don’t overdo it with scented cleaning products, candles, or air-fresheners. Even if it is something you like, it can be off-putting to visitors, and may even suggest that you are trying to mask other smells. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, it is worth hiring a professional for a one-time deep clean.
A few safety recommendations: take down family pictures, especially any of your children, and remove any calendars or schedules that could indicate when you’ll be home or not. Though the agent running the open house will request every guest sign in for security, we strongly recommend securing or removing any valuables, especially small portable ones. Lastly, remove any guns, narcotic medications, or painkillers from the home. This is important for liability reasons, but occasionally we see reports of open house guests stealing prescription medication, especially if kept in a medicine cabinet.
It’s Clean! But You’re Not Quite Done…
Now on to aesthetics. Listen to your agent’s recommendations about staging or furniture placement – it’s amazing what small changes can do! Open all shades and turn on all lights, close toilet seats, and shower curtains. The goal is to present your home as spacious as possible so buyers can imagine themselves and their lifestyles in the home. So, if you have a kid’s room, ensure all toys are neatly organized in boxes, and hidden under beds, for example. Your buyer might be envisioning the room as an office, craft room, or retreat for guests, and this will help! If a toy or two are presented in the bedroom, we recommend that they are cleaned, sparkly, and unbroken – there’s nothing more distracting than seeing toys with grime, old peanut butter, and drool marks.
Stow any pet paraphernalia where it can be seen – this includes bowls, toys, beds, cat trees – everything. Our experience tells us that buyers have a much more negative impression of homes with cats, so be sure a home with cats can pass for a home without cats. This means no smell of cats, no cat boxes, no cat food, no cat toys. Ask a friend to come over and provide candid feedback on whether or not they can tell a cat lives in the house.
Remember our rule about not using scented cleaning products? That rule still holds, EXCEPT for our super duper insider tip: run a load of clothes (or an empty cycle) with Downy fabric softener before the open house. It has to be Downy Original – don’t substitute. Downy has a very recognizable and clean smell, and we haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t like the smell of clean laundry.
Move cars from the driveway and in front of the house to give the impression of spaciousness from the jump. Because you are hoping for lots of foot traffic, turn ceiling fans on low for airflow. Lastly, add a chair to the entryway to aid anyone that may need to be seated to remove their shoes or put on booties before their tour.
Leave the Property
Even though most buyers are curious, this really is important. It can be off-putting or even uncomfortable for potential buyers if you are in the home. If you have pets, make arrangements for them to be with your or boarded during the open house – it’s probably less stressful for them anyway!
Be Receptive to Feedback
Even though your home and style are personal to you, your house is now a commodity that you want others to see value in. If there is a consensus in feedback after the open house, try not to take it personally and address the issues noted. Preparation and openness make all the difference in hosting a successful open house!
Tips for Buyers
First Off, Be a Good Guest
When you enter the home, you will be asked to either remove your shoes or put on booties over your shoes. If you know you plan to go to open houses, wear slip on shoes with socks to make it quick and easy. The next step is signing in. Though you may not love the idea of giving out contact info, remember that the open house is not a public event and it is still someone’s home. For security reasons, this is integral for protecting the homeowner.
- Respect the posted times – if you are early, it is a good opportunity to drive or walk around the neighborhood to get a sense of what living there might be like.
- Don’t bring any food or drinks
- Ask before taking any photos or video
- Unless you have a service animal, leave pets at home
- Supervise kids
- Be respectful of seller’s property. Want to check out the storage in closets or drawers but they aren’t open? Ask the agent running the open house if they can open them for you. Or, if you are interested in the specifics of the home, schedule a dedicated showing.
Even Better, Be a Smart Guest
Remember that the seller’s agent is there to advocate for their client, not for you. Of course they are happy to answer questions (and you should definitely ask them!) but keep your cards close to the vest – you don’t want to disclose anything that could weaken your position in negotiations if you decide this home is the one. For instance, mentioning that you are on a tight timeline to buy isn’t a great idea. Agents and sellers want an active open house – if you are wondering if you are invited, YOU ARE!