Monday, December 1, 2008

The 'Open House Show'

An open house invites potential buyers to dream big-time, in real time, in the very same space they may one day call home. That's some grand prize. But the open house is, after all, the original reality show.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com
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Deadline Newsroom - The open house is the original reality show.

It invites potential buyers to dream big-time, in real time, in the very same space they may one day call home. That's some grand prize.

But that's not all.

• An open house gets buyers into the neighborhood to check out amenities and proximity to schools, jobs, shopping and other attractions. A home, after all, isn't an island.

• An open house generates in-person feedback on the home's condition and its price.

• An open house exposes the home to buyers who may not currently be working with an agent and, as such, are not aware of the home's availability.

• An open house can flip hesitant buyers already interested in the home when, during the tour, they learn they've got some competition.

• An open house can snare impulse buyers, who see the house for sale and, with just one look, fall in love.

However, botch the open house production and your show will immediately go into reruns -- or worse, cancellation.

Successful open house production

Here's what the experts say you need to know to get buyers to tune in to your open house and make an offer you can't refuse.

Clean house. Be sure the home for sale is Spic and Span -- as clean and as neat as possible. Think model home with a neutral, depersonalized setting. No political posters, no personal photos. Also, remove the clutter. Empty the garbage cans, clean out the closets and polish the fixtures.

Find good help. Consider hiring someone to clean house, someone to manicure the landscaping or, perhaps, painters to put on a fresh coat inside and out. Do a walk through with your agent before the open home and ask your agent about staging.

Spruce things up. A home inspection can point you to features that need work. Add a new shower curtain, fresh towels, and new guest soaps to every bath. Set the dining table with pretty dishes and candles. Buy a fresh doormat with a clever saying, like "One small step."

Appeal to the senses. Served baked goods, coffee, tea and soft drinks to create a homey feel. Use disposables to keep the kitchen tidy. Otherwise, pipe in some soft music and add flowers in main rooms for a touch of principal rooms for a touch of color. Remove a major piece of furniture or two from each room to give it a sense of spaciousness. Light a fire in the hearth. Likewise, closet those kitchen appliances and bathroom items to give the illusion of more counter space.

Lighten up. Open the window covers. Turn on all the lights. Even during the day, lighting adds sparkle.

Lose the pets. It's best to temporarily board Fido and Fluffy elsewhere. If that's not possible, confine them to a cage or room, basement or bath and let the listing agent know where they are.

Protect stuff. Lock up your family jewels, electronic gadgets, cash and other valuables. Even with a real estate salesperson on site, it’s impossible to watch everyone all the time.

Twice is nice. Sunday afternoon is a good time to attract visitors, but don't forget Saturday. The extra weekend day open house avoids alienating those who worship at a house of faith on one day or the other. Plan to start early and stay late, say, after weekend sporting events.

Spread the news. Mail post cards to invite neighbors and prospects. Also list the event in the local newspaper and on Web sites and other publications.

Avoid hosting. Real estate agents should attend open houses to be available for questions, to provide property and neighborhood information and to get valuable feedback by watching and listening to potential buyers. Most advice suggests you stay at someone else's home during your open house. It’s awkward for prospective buyers to look in your closets and express their opinions of your home with you hanging around. On the other hand, some advice suggests sellers put in a brief appearance, but only after you are well coached by your listing agent. In any event, let the agent make the decision.

© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist, parlayed 30 years of old-school journalism into a digital real estate news service, the San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews Group -- DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service and Web site and the Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's news back shop. Perkins is also the National Real Estate Examiner. All the news that really hits home from three locations -- that's location, location, location!

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