How to make your open house a success

Open houses are an important tool when putting your house on the market. But there’s a lot more to selling a home than simply letting a herd of strangers tramp through on the weekends. If you want to stage a successful open house, here are some tips.

Getting the Word Out

The first step of any successful open house is making sure people know about it. Unfortunately, many people don’t do anything beyond staking a sign in front of the house or at the end of the street. While this can be a helpful step, most people these days take to the Internet to aid their housing search. If you are working with a real estate agent, make sure you open house is listed in the MLS, the all-important database that agents rely on to know what’s on the market. Agents working on behalf of buyers will check this database regularly, and let their clients know that a new open house has been listed. You can also submit listings to real estate websites such as Zillow and Trulia, which should greatly increase your chances of landing a buyer.

Avoid Window Shoppers

Open houses are notorious for attracting people who are just browsing and are not really serious about buying a home. You’ll want to ensure that you’re focusing your attention on serious buyers, not people looking to kill a Sunday afternoon. However, it shouldn’t be too hard to spot the serious buyers in the crowd. They’ll often by accompanied by a buyer’s agent, ask very specific questions about things like local schools or remodeling history, and may mention they’ve been pre-approved for a loan.

Tone it Down

Sure, you might love bright colors and bold design, but few things will scare potential buyers off faster than a house with too much personality. To sell a home you need buyers to be able to look past your design choices and envision themselves living there. So before your open house, make sure to keep it neutral: repaint with soft colors and stow away any loud furnishings.

Take Care of Distractions

You might love your pets, but that doesn’t mean potential buyers will too. Dogs and cats can get in the way, intimidate buyers or even trigger allergic reactions. Before you hold an open house, make sure to board your pets with a friend or family member. You also want to eliminate traces of your pets, which means cleaning out the litter box, vacuuming up pet hair and giving your home a thorough deodorizing.

Keep Things Safe

Not everyone visiting an open house has the best intentions. During an open house, you’ll want to take some precautions to keep your belongings safe from a visitor with sticky fingers. While you probably don't have to worry about a thief making off with your big screen TV, you’ll want to lock away pharmaceuticals, laptops, smartphones, jewelry and other valuables that are easy to pocket. You might also consider asking guests to sign in with a valid ID, which will help you keep track of who’s coming and going. And while you want guests to feel free to roam about the house, you will want to make sure that they are not left in a room unattended.

Take the Day Off

If you’ve hired a real estate agent to sell your home, keep in mind: It’s their job to sell the place, not yours. Many buyers are not particularly interested in getting to meet the previous owners, and you’ll likely hurt your chances of a sale by hanging around. Buyers want to feel comfortable while they give the home a close look, and it’s hard to do that with the current owners breathing down their necks. So take the day off and let the real estate agent do the job for you.