10 tricks for hosting an open house that make buyers say "Wow!"

An open house is a buyer's opportunity to give your house a try. For the seller, an open house is a chance to open the doors and impress buyers with the big reveal. These tricks can help you make your open house a success.

1. Time it right

Your agent will typically hold an open house for two to three hours between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, when buyers have time and flexibility away from their jobs. To maximize your foot traffic, avoid having your open house during holidays, big community events (marathon days, for example), or unofficial "holidays" like Super Bowl Sunday.

2. Let your agent take the lead

In your own personal Open House Show, your real estate agent has two roles. To you, they are the director, giving you instructions on how to prepare for open house day, and what to do during the event. To buyers, your agent is the host. They will welcome viewers, introduce your home's impressive features, and take questions from the audience.

Your job is to make your house look like a million bucks — or more like $300,000, depending on your price range. The job of your agent, an expert on your local real estate market and what makes buyers tick, is to take care of the rest. That will include staging your home, and by that we mean depersonalize and declutter, and remove old stuff that nobody wants to see. Consider displaying a bouquet of fresh flowers in the entryway, setting your dining room table to make it look inviting, or turning on your outdoor sprinklers shortly before visitors arrive to make your lawn sparkle.

3. Clean like crazy

When your home is on the market, you need to keep it in showing shape — not only for the open house, but also for any scheduled showings with buyers. Make sure appliances, windows, and mirrors are fingerprint-free. Clean and organize your closets, cabinets, and under the sinks (during the open house, buyers are allowed to be nosy). Clear every bit of clutter and get rid of it or put it in storage.

4. Do a smell check

If buyers get a whiff of something funky, they're going to run—not walk—out of your open house. A week prior to the open house, ask your agent or a neighbor to do an honest, no-holds-barred smell check. Some possible smell solutions:

  • If your house has the aroma of your beloved pet(s), deep clean the carpets, relocate the litter box, and take steps to eliminate all olfactory traces of Fluffy.
  • If the basement is dank and musty, buy a dehumidifier to remove air moisture and run a fan to circulate the air.
  • If the kitchen drain stinks, drop in a cup of baking soda, then two cups of white vinegar. Enjoy the bubbling, then let the mixture sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Finally run hot water for 15 to 30 seconds to flush the odor.

5. Put your valuables away

Though your agent will be at the open house, you're inviting strangers into your home. Securely store checkbooks, jewelry, prescription medications, family heirlooms, and other valuables. Alert your neighbors to your open house date — as a courtesy, but also to ask that they let you know if they notice any suspicious activity, in the unlikely event suspicious activity occurs. Make sure your agent signs visitors in and asks them to show I.D., so that you have a record of who was in your house. Finally, lock windows and doors after the open house.

6. Let the light in

Light doesn't only (literally) brighten up your space. It also makes rooms look and feel larger. On open house day, open all curtains and blinds to let natural light in. Replace every single burnt-out light bulb in and outside the home — buyers should see a working light every time they flip a switch.

7. Give your house some extra curb appeal

Buyers will judge your house on its outsides. So make last-minute improvements to turn up your home.  For example, adding a walkway, plants, edging, patio.  These things can recoup more of their costs at resale than even popular interior projects, like kitchen and bath remodels, according to the National Association of REALTORS® "Remodeling Impact Report."

Cut the grass, prune the trees, and trim the shrubs. Touch up porch fixtures and furniture with a little paint and plant new shrubs or set out potted flowers. Small, relatively low-budget outdoor enhancements will make your home look all the more enticing to buyers and can add some last-minute value to its price.

8. Draw attention to your home's best features

Prior to the open house, post (friendly, aesthetically pleasing) signs around the house with calls to action such as, "look down, new hardwood floors," or "gas fireplace, push this button." Buyers will likely appreciate the help, and that they're working with a conscientious seller.

10. Serve refreshments

Serving warm cookies or freshly baked brownies at an open house is one of the oldest tricks in the book. That's because it works; buyers love being greeted with a sweet treat and a cold or warm beverage, depending on the time of year. Refreshments also give people a reason to stay longer; no one will rush off because they're hungry or thirsty.

What to do during and after the open house

Once you've done everything you can to make your house look and feel amazing to buyers—and your agent is on site to assume their hosting duties—the time during your open house is yours to enjoy. Go to the park, get a three-course lunch, do whatever you like as long as you're free to take calls.

The important thing is to stay open to buyers' feedback, and to follow your agent's advice about how to respond. Based on buyers' reactions, your agent may recommend that you make certain repairs, do some painting, or invest in additional staging before your next open house. Whatever they advise, it's not personal — it's just the business of selling your home.

Visit the ECAR web site at easternctrealtors.com.

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