6 Step Guide to Showing Your Home
By Steve Flanagan
The time is fast approaching when buyers will be taking your tour and giving serious consideration to buying your home. You’ve priced your home, written a great description, decluttered and staged, taken great photos and deployed a solid marketing plan. You are now ON. How you conduct your home showings and open houses will have a major impact on how quickly your home sells. Follow our six “B”s of showing and we’re confident you’ll do great.
1. Be Organized
Ready, Set, Show
No last minute surprise showings is one benefit of selling the home yourself. Although potential buyers could just ring your doorbell, in most instances you will be scheduling showings and will have some lead time as well as the opportunity to find out a little bit about buyers via the Internet before they arrive.
As you decide what hours to offer visitors and how many time slots per day or week you will make available, keep several things in mind:
a) Offer timing that works for you, but put some thought into stretching your availability into as many time slots as possible to accommodate buyers. Flexibility is the key.
b) On the other hand, don’t over schedule yourself. Make sure you have time between showings to record your impressions about your visitors and decompress a bit before the next appointment. This will be especially crucial to keep in mind on weekends when you might be tempted to offer back-to-back slots all day Saturday and Sunday. Leave yourself time, too, to replenish refreshments and make sure all is in order in the house before your next showing.
c) Consider offering showing opportunities on so-called “bank” holidays like President’s Day and Veteran’s Day, even if you have to take the day off of work. Many school, government and financial services industry employees are off those days and might want to use the time for house hunting.
Showing Know How
Selling by owner means you can extend a warm greeting to buyers. Ask them what characteristics are most important to them in a home. Then, as you show the house point out features that match their characteristics. Also, offer suggestions if a room could be adapted to meet their needs. Point out areas with the potential for multiple uses such as spaces that could become a homework hub, a reading corner or place to pay bills.
Show the buyers supporting documentation on the property such as the disclosure statement as well as any homeowner association and condo documents. Keep copies of your utility bills on hand so you can show potential home buyers what those costs might be if they buy your home. Have a copy of the survey available in case they ask about lot lines.
As you take people through the house, let them enter the room first. Be ready to answer questions and offer information but also give them a chance to react to the space. Keep the discussions centered on the house rather than your relationship with the house. You want buyers to begin envisioning building their own memories in the home.
Host an Open House or Two
Pick a time when open houses are typically held in your area. In many places Sunday afternoons are typical. Let your neighbors know you are holding an open house. Gather directional signs to put up at intersections directing people to your house.
Follow all the protocols for a showing with a few additional steps.
• Make sure you have copies of listing sheets and any brochures ready for viewers. If possible have your spouse or a friend on hand, so you have an extra person in the house. Station them in a location other than the front door or have them move between the rooms.
• Have anyone attending fill out the signup sheet before going through the house. And be sure to follow up with a phone call or an email the next week.
• Consider having another open house just for your neighbors. Plan on refreshments and make it a neighborhood event.
2. Be Informed
• Buyers usually ask a lot of questions, especially regarding schools and crime. Answer with facts rather than opinions. For example, if your local district or schools have won awards point them out. ForSaleByOwner.com has links to sources of information on schools as well as crime statistics.
• Become familiar with the Fair Housing Act so you don’t inadvertently violate its statutes.
• If you are under any duress to sell or have a tight deadline, don’t volunteer this information in your conversations with potential buyers. You don’t want to invite a lowball offer which might come if buyers think you are selling under stress.
• If the buyers are accompanied by a buyer agent, ask the agent if the buyers are prequalified; what their timeline is and what other houses they’ve seen or are considering.
• Be sure you have the correct spelling of buyers’ names and their phone numbers and follow up by phone of email the next day. Offer to answer any additional questions they may have.
3. Be Ready
If every space isn’t sparkling, clean again or have a professional cleaning done. The key to readying your house for showings is all the deep cleaning, which you’ve already done, and advance planning to make it easier to keep it “buyer ready” day-to-day.
For example, if you don’t have a place to keep dirty laundry, decide ahead of time where you will stash your gym clothes or your child’s soccer uniform. In bathrooms, decide where you can keep toiletries out of sight during showings. If you can, purchase a new set of towels for each bathroom and only bring them out when buyers are coming through or for an open house. Consider dark colored towels and belt them with drapery cords. It creates a pristine look since the decorative ties imply the towels are untouched and also conveys the feeling that the entire room is in the same condition. Double check bathrooms. They really do have to sparkle. Right before a showing, give fixtures and faucets a quick once over to renew the shine. Make sure counters and sinks are clean.
Be sure the view from any doorway is attractive, especially powder rooms and small bathrooms since many buyers won’t actually go into the room. Make sure what they can see is bright and appealing. Don’t forget what’s reflected in the mirror too.
Right before a showing, open the shades and turn on the lights (even during the day). General advice is to make everything light and bright, but also let common sense be your guide. If the lights in your kitchen can be as bright as an operating room, you might want to bring them down a bit.
Furniture That Flows
Arrange furniture so there is a flow to the home but also so buyers stop and take notice of important features. Create focal points or furniture groupings around places you want to highlight. If your rooms are crammed with furniture, rearrange items and, if necessary, store them off site while the house is on the market. The goal is to create a feeling of effortless movement from one space to another.
Before an open house or showing, put valuables, jewelry, passports, financial information, bank statements and other financial information out of sight. The same goes for medications. Tour through the house to detect and correct any tripping hazards or other impediments to free movement.
Clean Sweep in the Kitchen
Make a clean sweep of kitchen counters before showings. This might sound daunting but planning ahead of time where to stow countertop appliances out of sight makes this task easier. Kitchen counters are usually magnets for paper — mail, kid’s notices from schools, newspapers. Corral these items in a basket or clear out a drawer that you can use to keep them during showings. And don’t forget buyers will look in kitchen drawers and cabinets as well as appliances.
Children and Pets: Out of Sight
During showings and open houses, make care arrangements for children and pets ahead of time. If possible, have someone watch your children, preferably off the premises. If you are unable to have your pets off the property, consider crating them. Then they won’t be in the way and there won’t be a chance that someone will inadvertently let them out the door. Better yet, set up a secure corner or space for their crates. Dress it up with new bedding and a few toys in coordinating colors. Be sure water bowls are sparkling. If necessary, buy new ones and, yes, make sure they blend with the color scheme.
Maximize Curb Appeal
Curb appeal sells, especially when you consider that 75 percent of buyers who found a home that appealed to them on the Internet followed up by driving by or viewing the home. You want to ensure they don’t discard your home as a potential by what they see from the curb. It’s not uncommon to hear reports from agents of buyers who refuse to get out of the car based on what the home looks like on the outside.
As a seller, the challenge is to see your house as a buyer does. The best place to begin, say professional home stagers, is across the street from your house. Even take a picture. You will be surprised how much objectivity you gain.
Remove anything that distracts or makes it seem the property is not well maintained. Make sure the lawn is raked and shrubs are trimmed. Foundation plants should be below the windows, which will also enhance the amount of light inside the house. Make sure the pathway to the front door is visible, so trim overgrown ground cover. Add dark mulch for a pleasing contrast to green grass and add seasonal plants for a pop of color and to visually lead viewers to the entry.
The entry really sets the tone for the house. Stage this area just as you do the rest of the home. A planter coordinated with the color of the house and seasonal plants is a welcoming accessory.
Ensure the front door operates smoothly. Make sure it is clean or repaint it to make the house pop. Shine or replace house numbers and replace a cracked door bell. Basically, you will want to replace anything that looks worn, since this is where buyers set their expectations for the rest of the house.
If the house needs paint, consider repainting if your budget and time allow. Some stagers swear by rich and interesting colors. Paint retailers have lots of color information and recommended colors for various architectural styles. Explore online apps from manufacturers such as Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Behr and others that allow you to virtually experiment with colors on your entire house or just one part, such as the trim.
And don’t forget to paint the mailbox if it needs it and if possible move trash cans out of the sight.
4. Be Enthused
That’s a commodity that real estate agents typically possess in mass quantity. It’s practically a requirement for the job. Channel your inner agent by being certain that you maintain a high level of enthusiasm whenever you interact with a potential buyer. Very few people will respond to a dreary showing presentation. You don’t want to pretend your love for your home knows no bounds (if it did, why would you sell it?), but you want all potential buyers to know that you view your home as a real asset and a great place to live.
5. Be an Advocate
No one knows your home better than you. From the time you sit down to write your listing ad through the showing process and negotiating an offer, stand firm behind your view of what you home is worth and what its strengths are, and tell the world. Be prepared to answer the challenging questions about your home by putting even your home’s weaknesses in their best light. Look through your home receipts and warranties as appropriate, and do Internet research to bolster you knowledge base.
Here’s an example: Let’s say your home’s heat source is a 20-year-old boiler. Home buyers could be wary of a furnace that old, but in reality the lifetime for boilers is 50 years or more, and water-based heating systems are very efficient. A little time spent researching the pluses of such system will help prepare to answer any question about your boiler with a positive spin.
And when you’re done…
Nothing is more important than following up an open house or a showing with a call to anyone who has viewed your house. Be courteous. This is an opportunity to start a conversation about the property, especially if they seem willing to talk. The important thing is to gauge your questions based on the type of response you are getting. Ask if they have any questions regarding the home. Find out it if it suits their needs. If they are not interested, you could ask why.
If you do end up reducing the price, you can also call to tell them about the price reduction and ask if they would be interested in seeing the property again.
6. Be Safe
In today’s world, you just never know. You’d like to trust anyone who comes to view your home, but when strangers are involved trust needs to end at your front door. For your personal safety and to secure possessions as best as possible, follow these suggestions and read our article about safety during showings. By doing so, you will vastly improve the security of your home showings and open houses.
Rule #1: Don’t show your home or conduct open houses alone. There’s just too much risk involved if an unstable person shows up at your door.
Rule #2: Coordinate you schedule with your neighbors if possible so they are alert to any odd happenings while you have visitors in your home.
Rule #3: Store out of sight (or even off premises) as much of your stuff as possible throughout the showing process.
Rule #4: Create a plan for securing/hiding/removing any items of value that remain in the home before each showing and open house.