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By Tara-Nicholle Nelson | Broker in San Francisco, CA

SELLERS: 5 Things Not to Do at Your Open House

If you watch real estate reality TV, you might have noticed that some brokers and agents have elevated the art of the Open House to an entirely new level. The fresh-baked cookies of yester-year seem to have been replaced by invite-only shindigs with free-flowing champagne, fine art showings and free Botox for attendees.

Sellers, don’t be daunted.

As usual, reality TV is a dramatic exaggeration of what is - or should be - going in real life.  Everyday home owners and their agents have upped the ante on hospitality, but the focus of most successful Open Houses is still the same: showcasing the house to the right population of prospective buyers and brokers.

Sometimes, to keep the right focus, it’s best to eliminate the things we shouldn’t do. To help you stay focused on the items you and your agent agree will make your Open House a hit, here are a handful of things smart sellers should avoid doing:   

1.  DON’T: Attend or pretend.   A seller’s place at an Open House is elsewhere. It used to be that only looky-loos and just-starting buyers showed up at Open Houses. But it’s increasingly common for serious, qualified, time-strapped buyers to tour Open House with their agents every weekend, rather than seeing individual properties scattershot throughout the week. 

These serious buyers like to have serious conversations. In fact, the more serious the buyer, the more intense the conversation, critique and debate they might want to have about your home - pro and con. When buyers get serious about a property, they tear it apart, verbally, as part of the process of deciding whether they could live there, what changes they would need to make to it, and so forth. These conversations are part of the process of vetting and buying a home - precisely the process you’re hoping your Open House will prompt and promote.

Simply put, buyers are unlikely to have that level of back-and-forth with each other and with their agent while a seller is onsite than they are when the seller is absent.

And whatever you do, don’t give into the temptation to show up to the Open House and pretending you’re just another buyer. (Don’t laugh folks - I’ve seen it done).  It will only make you and your agent a bit crazier. I’ve seen many a seller get offended and fixated on things buyers have said about their homes.  That can becomecounterproductive to the emotional detachment you need to make wise home-selling decisions. To boot, chances are good the real buyers won’t be fooled by your act. Rather, they’ll think you’re off-your-rocker, too.

Your agent will be happy to consolidate, sort through and deliver the most useful insights from buyer and broker feedback provided at the Open House in a way you can use to drive your future pricing and marketing decisions.

2.  DON’T: Create distractions vs. attractions. When it comes to hospitality and the perks you can lure prospective buyers to attend your Open House, it’s essential to walk the sometimes-fine line between (a) attracting true potential buyers for your home and (b) creating a circus atmosphere, making your home a disregarded footnote in the Open House Experience.

Sometimes, the line is not-so fine.  Iced lemonade on a scorching summer day? ATTRACTION. Botox? Distraction. 

But other times, the line can blur.  Treats that showcase the home in its best light or relieve some of the discomforts of a long, hot day of house hunting can prompt target buyers to stay longer, see more of the home or see the home from a perspective they might not have otherwise. Basic refreshments, art that highlights the home and even higher end treats suitable to the price point of the home (like an espresso bar) fall onto the “attraction” side of the fence.

There are exceptions to this rule, but face-painting, live entertainment and even fully catered meals can easily slide over the line, registering as distractions.

Note: This rule is not quite as applicable for broker’s Open Houses as it is for Open Houses that are targeted to the general public. Brokers have to choose from sometimes dozens of listings every week to peruse. And 90% of qualified buyers will be represented by a broker. If your agent is inclined to be a bit over-the-top in luring agents and brokers to their open house, that can be a sensible and successful strategy.

3.  DON’T: Ignore seasonal preferences. Recently, researchers found that buyers place a higher value on homes with swimming pools and central air conditioning in the summer, compared with what they would pay during the winter. Right or wrong, it’s a truth about humanity that behavioral economists call the projection bias: the tendency to overestimate the chances that your future tastes will be the same as your preferences in the moment.

This is the same phenomenon that renders it foolhardy to grocery shop while hungry, or to buy 10 neon items of clothing because you’re in a colorful state of mind this month. (Okay, so I might have personally done that last one.)

It’s easy to get fixated on painting your walls “Buy Me Beige” and handling other staging musts in the time leading up to an Open House. But it behooves you to also play up any seasonally compelling aspects of your home as part of your property preparation and home marketing regimen. If you have a pool, as your agent to make sure the Open House or yard signs mention it prominently. Take care to stage it by ensuring it is crystal clear and surrounded with chaise lounges or other attractive outdoor furniture. In fact, if you do offer attendees refreshments, poolside might be the spot to serve them, for a summertime Open House.

As well, crank up the A/C and work with your agent to showcase any energy-efficient features your home is equipped with, as well as their impact on your summertime energy bills. (In some areas, it’s common for sellers to leave disclosures and even utitlity bills - with all sensitive information redacted - in a property during the Open House.  If you have solar panels, dual-paned windows or a new, efficient A/C unit, make sure your binder shows off the lower operating costs for your home.)

4.  DON’T: Complicate buyers’ access to the property.  There’s a reason it’s called an Open House. The objective is to grant buyers relatively free access to see and fall in love with your home.  Don’t undermine your own Open House by blocking buyers from a room, closet, basement or area of the yard, unless safety absolutely dictates.  Anything you do that requires a buyer to come back and see it at another time just puts one more roadblock between them and buying your home – and that’s the opposite of the desired effect. 

In the same vein, if there are common Open House hours in your area, do your best to align your home’s Open House hours with those. You want to make your home maximally accessible for viewing by those buyers who are devoting 2 hours every Sunday afternoon to perusing target properties. If you hold your Open House at hours wildly different than the norm, you’ll shrink the pool of buyers who can attend.

5.  DON’T: Neglect the neighbors. Conventional real estate wisdom says agents invite neighbors to open houses because they often turn into seller clients.  And this is true. But here’s another truth - your neighbors are the people most likely to know other people who want to live in your neighborhood.  (Read: target buyers for your home.) 

Also, neighbors who are caught off-guard by Open House traffic, who have taken up all the parking on the street or who have decided to hold their trombone quartet practice at precisely the same time as your Open House can actually have a negative impact the attendance and effectiveness of your Open House.   

The best practice is to be sure your neighbors are informed and even invited to your Open House.

Sellers:  What’s your biggest Open House question, concern or challenge?

ALL:  What Open House don’ts have you been seeing lately?

ALL: You should follow Tara and Trulia on Facebook!


By soulsentwined,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 09:24
I have attended open houses where the owner was present. They didn't self identify but it was obvious by the fact that they stood in one room the entire time scowling whenever comments were made about the home. These were empty houses so it is not like the owners were currently living there. Frankly I found it rude and inappropriate. As a potential buyer I should be able to discuss the condition of the home or potential changes I'd like to make without receiving dirty looks from lurking homeowners. They are not fooling anyone.
By Holly L,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 09:45
As a buyer, I always loved it when the owner was around when I looked at a house. I got to learn things about the house that I never would have found out from even the most diligent agent whether it was history or why a certain quirky attribute was done the way it was. ALL of the houses that I have ever put a bid on had the owner either at the open house or home while me and my agent were looking through it.
By Ken Burton,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 09:49
Great advice! How do you feel about asking people to remove their shoes (slippers are provided). I live in a restored 175 year old house with beautiful pine floors...high heels and shoes with gravel stuck to them leave scars and dents.
By knotmassager,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 10:18
I like the idea of being able to ask the owner questions, but wouldn't feel as free to make comments if they were there. I viewed an amazing 4600 Sq Ft home in the country the had lots of wood walls and ceilings. The husband worked at a mill and and picked all the wood. It would have been neat to have him tell us more and be able to ask what certain areas were used for like the mammoth basement you could get lost in.
By Michael J Carroll,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 10:23
Don't assume your agent is going to clean your house for you.
By Joanne Bernardini,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 10:27
Great suggestions! I especially like it that you mentioned how important it is for sellers not to attend their open house! It really irritates buyers.
By Tracey Jackson,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 10:38
@ Michael, I have showed put to host an open house where beds were unmade, dishes in the sink and an overflowing cat litter box stunk up the place!! I held it open as-is and gave the brutal feedback to the sellers. Bear in mind, I had given them a checklist outlining the steps for maximizing open houses!
By Robin,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 10:41
@Ken - when we've been seriously house hunting, we've looked at dozens of houses during a day. The shoe thing got to be such an irritation, when we saw the slippers at the door, we turned around and left for the next house. If you're concerned about the floors, I'd recommend renting carpet runners for the sensitive areas for your open house. It's just not very welcoming to insist on removing shoes.
By Carol King,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 10:46
All good suggestions!
By Shelley Cole,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 10:58
Clean out your closet. An overstuffed closet means the closet space is inadequate. Remove any extra furnishings and personal doo-dads. Makes rooms look more spacious. Open windows if possible. Fresh air. Get rid of anything that smells bad, old food, laundry, cat box, dads sneakers. Smells are very important. Run soap or lemon down the drains. Boil some cinnamon or bake cookies. Use new or ironed linens on the beds. Turn on all the lights. Offer take-home flyers with info.
By Carol Smith,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 11:10
My agent thinks that open houses do not generate the interest you would think. Since pictures and all important information (square footage, room dimensions, amenities, etc.) are all online, open houses have become unnecessary and a waste of time. If someone is sincerely interested in the house after they have checked out the home online, they will make an appointment to view it. That has been our experience.
By Meggie,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 11:16
I have never used a realtor to sell a house. All three that we have sold were sold to open house buyers on the first day, for asking price. We had no refreshments and no gimmicks. What we had, on the table by the entrance, was an appraisal and an inspection, both done by licensed professionals. No, not a "fair market analysis" or the opinion of Realtors regarding the value of the property, but the same kind of Professional Appraisal that is done by a bank appraiser. Same applied to the Inspection report, completed by one of the most reputable companies in our area.
We welcomed people into the house and told them to look around and let us know if they have any questions. We did not hover, we did not listen, we did not walk around with the individuals. One of our houses was sold to a realtor. We make no judgements about PreQualified potential buyers. The pre qualified buyer may lose a job tomorrow and the potential buyer with a score in the 500s could have a collection of coins that could buy the house outright. I recall an incident that required us to provide personal information to the homeowner prior to being given an appointment for a viewing. We could easily have purchased that house, based on price, but were completely turned off by this unusual approach.

Please, please, do not make me remove my shoes. PROVIDE BOOTIES. No way am I going to walk in my socks or bare feet on your floors and then reinsert them into my clean shoes. If asked to remove my shoes I leave. You can purchase disposable booties online for pennies per pair.
By Ken Burton,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 11:18

Thanks for the feedback....instead of looking at taking one's shoes off as a negative,why couldn't a potential buyer look at it as " The seller has and continues to take good care of his house"? Perhaps that's how an agent showing the house should present the request.

By Kim,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 11:19
Smells are important. I don't need the old cookie baking smell... just a home that smells clean, polished, even a lightly scented candle. Nothing too stong, just an impression that the home is taken care of. As we look, one of my first impressions, entering the home, is the scent.
By Meggie,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 11:31
Mr. Burton, with the utmost respect to your perspective, if provided booties to place over my shoes, I will not think any differently of the seller's care and protection of the home than if I am asked to place my clean socks or bare feet on someone's floor. I do not even do that in my own home and will definitely not do it on any other floor. Not everyone may feel this way but if only 10% of potential buyers do, I would think that the investment of a few dollars for booties would be worth the effort.
By Casey S.,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 11:43
When we were house hunter last year, we went to several open houses. It was typically for houses we were curious about but not seriously interested in. The ones we were really interested in we scheduled a viewing the same day we saw the ad. When the right house comes along, you have to jump on it!

One of the houses we bid on (scheduled viewing) was attended by the owner. It was nice having him there to describe the condition of everything. But our conversation was limited to only complimentary things while he was around. He did go outside and let us look around on our own, saying "I'll be out front. Just let me know if you need anything, and take your time."

It turned out to not be a good thing for him though. One of the potential buyers gave him a sob story and he had decided already that he wanted to sell to them before we even looked at the house. We both bid equally, and he just excepted their offer without opening it up for further bidding. His loss, and we ended getting a house we were even happier with!
By Karen Spitzner,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 11:50
Meggie, who wrote she sold 3 homes without a realtor, at her first open house, may have received higher offers, if the house had visibility to more buyers. The price from a Bank Appraiser may not have been aligned with market value.
By Meggie,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:06
Ms. Spitzner, you are absolutely correct and we knew that from the outset. We did not get the appraisal from a Bank Appraiser but from an independent one, point being that it was a full appraisal and report. Though we agree that the offers may have been higher, they may not have been 6% higher and it was important to us not to have the house on the market for months and suffer through dozens of showings in order to get a higher offer that would have been offset by the commission . I do respect your perspective and professional experience though.
By Gail Simring,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:07
If the weather is rainy, snowy and wet, I don't mind taking shoes off, but it is a thoughtful courtesy to have 'slip on booties' by the door. And yes, it is usually easier for my clients when the sellers are not home. Buyers may want some privacy as they open cabinets to view quality, or closets to see space. Certainly I agree that beds should be made, etc. Your realtor should be able to assist in staging and making suggestions on what should go, and what should stay and or be moved.
By Amsotin,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:13
I absolutely HATE HATE HATE... when the owners are the ones giving the open house and you feel awkward about looking in closets of opening drawers, as well as the owners don't stage and have their personal belongings stuffed in closets and in corners of the house. Buyers come to see how great the house is for THEIR stuff not your stuff/clutter. If you are going to have an open house, box up 80% of your stuff and put into storage then keep only absolutely needed items that can be easily picked up in 3 min. Next CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN inside and outside like you have never cleaned before and with less stuff should be easy to keep the cleaning up. In summer make sure landscape has been tended to.
By Richdiet,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:15
All good sugggestions but scent. BE CAREFUL! I have asthma and sometimes entered an open house where the highly scented candles (spray) have turned me right back out the door. I'll take freshly baked cookie smell any day over scent. Remember that in the powder room as well.
By Karen Spitzner,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:23
Meggie, one thing I want to point out is that a "Bank" appraiser and an independent appraiser are the same. Banks and mortgage companies send out randomly chosen appraisers. But I understand that your for-sale-by-owner process worked out well for you, limiting the showings and getting a price that you were happy with.
By Connie Cordova,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:24
this is my personal\ situaion regarding removing my shoes...I do NOT, and tell the agent at an open house the truth, I have lymphedema and cannot remove my shoes and expect to get them back on after viewing the home, PERIOD. What's especially vexing is asking you to remove you shoes and not poviding booties or a chair to sit down and apply booties. I WILL put on booties over my shoes upon request
By prolixer,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:24
Open houses are primarily for the benefit of realtors to find new clients to work with, they are not for selling the house. Serious buyers do not wait for an open house to look at a home, they have their realtor get them inside to see it as soon as they can. Open houses are often held weeks after a home is listed, a serious buyer wants to see a home that interests them asap. Again, open houses are done by realtors to drum up more business for themselves by finding new clients who are not working with a realtor yet.
By Stgcret,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:25
All this advice is great if you have an agent. How about FSBO homes for sale? How could the seller not be at an Open House, not having an agent? Might as well have a sign at the front door saying; take anything you want!
By soulsentwined,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:28
I've attended open houses that were held the first week the home was listed. I inquired about viewing the home as soon as it was listed but they didn't want viewings before the open house as they were still living in the home.
By soulsentwined,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:29
I've heard of FSBO leaving when the buyer's agent comes with clients so that they can view the home without the seller there.
By carmacutter,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:44
While it is true agents do make contacts during open houses, I must say that I have sold my last 2 houses as a result of the first open house. Both homes had multiple offers and both were sold above asking. And yes one sold in the fall of 2012. The first was staged professionally, the second I staged myself. Definitely remove clutter especially those kitchen counters! As far as shoes, a lot of people will just take them off out of courtesy. In homes with wood floors those blue shoe covers
Can get slippery, something for the seller to think about. In regard to show casing tge season. In my last home we had a beautiful yard with flowers out. We removed the screens- windows washed for a better view. A note was left that all screens were in the garage.
By Ingrid (ilona) Motz,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:45
All great comments! Thank you Meggie for not wasting my time and other agents asking us for free market analysis with no intention of listing with any of us. You hire an appraiser and pay for professional services. Having a home inspection is also an excellent idea. I ask sellers to get one before listing, but most will not spend the money. You are doing everything right, Meggie. Have you considered going into real estate? You would be good!
By Larry,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:45
Re the Shoes thing, I agree with exception of Hawaii....everyone takes off shoes, EVERYONE
By Mary D.,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:45
As my sister was my agent for both of my home sales 7 years apart, I felt I was leaving the house in good care for the open houses, so I made a point of saying hello and then hightailing it out to take my dogs for a walk at the beginning as people were coming in. I was pleasantly surprised both times to come back and find prospective buyers waiting patiently for my return to get a little history of the house and to ask me about particulars, such as, well, the crack in the basement floor and how troublesome it was as far as water leakage, etc. I was honest (water leaked in only in nor'easters and the basement wasn't really suited for finishing) and I gave them a rundown of the house's occupants since the 1920's, keeping it light and including the hippy lady artist in the late 60's whose bright orange shag rug remnants could still be found in the underside of the steps going up to the bedrooms. I think it helped the prospective buyers see that it wasn't a house, it was a HOME. With the slipper/floor issue, I never saw that either, but you have to keep in mind that people buying houses have kids who will be running around in shoes and cleats, not tiptoeing around in fuzzy socks. If the floor is that sensitive to damage, it certainly wouldn't be suitable and therefore it would chase young parents away and you lose a good chunk of your target audience. Also, in the summer, acs and ceiling fans on full blast, you want them to ahhhh in relief when they come in. First house, 9 months on the market, no offers in that time, second house, first ones who saw it at the open house bought it.
By Sandra,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:52
I would have thought taking your shoes off in someone else's house was just a matter of common courtesy. We certainly took off our shoes in every house that we viewed as did our agent and it didn't bother us.
By Sam Shueh,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 12:55
In a sellers market we often have agents who brag about how great the conditions and tons of upgrades (e.g. $110K was put into the home) etc. In reality, the money put in has a diminishing effect on the return. On over priced homes they try to downplay the homes by insisting on homes how much homes should be sold for. These agents typically turn off interested buyers.

I think a good agent is the one telling the truth and give the facts. Honesty always pays....
By ericklund,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:01
I sold my home a couple of years ago. I had watched enough HGTV to know to clean and stage appropriately. My home was priced slightly above market and I knew it. I was trying to leave some wiggle room in the negotiations. My home was on the market for 3 days in a horrible market, and I received 4 offers, one of them for cash and asking price. All four offers were received on the third day at an open house my realtor set up. I was NOT present during the open house, however, I came back an hour after it was supposed to be over, and two potential buyers were still there. I gladly answered all the questions they had for me, and I received nothing but praise for the way my home looked. I cannot stress enough how important it is to make your home inviting and welcoming. My home had all the upgrades buyers wanted, but had I not staged the home properly, those items may have gotten lost in the clutter. Every closet was cleaned and organized, the insides of every cupboard were as well. The inside of the appliances were scrubbed and contents organized too. Another important area NOT to forget is the garage. Many times the garage looks chaotic, dirty, and disorganized. I took the time to clean and paint the inside, put up shelving to organize lawn items, and make sure any stains on the concrete were removed. The house showed like it was brand new, and gave the impression it was well maintained and needed nothing - except a new owner. I attribute to my fast sale at asking price in a terrible market to all of these things. When I sell my next home you can bet I will do everything the same way.
By Meggie,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:02
Ms Spitzner, thank you for your gracious reply. Yes, I am aware of that and as awkward as I may have worded it, that is precisely what I was attempting to convey. The reason I specified and tried to differentiate between a Professional appraiser (including one that is used by a bank during the process of applying for a mortgage) vs. a "market analysis" or a list of realtors' opinions of the value of a property is because the latter two are not the standard used by the professional, licensed appraiser who produces a complete report.
We have seen properties that were provided with the "opinions" of realtors who attended the Realtors' open house, which were relatively meaningless. A market analysis may be somewhat helpful but if one applies for a mortgage and a bonafide Appraisal is done by the buyer or the Bank's appraiser, the difference can be significant and ultimately the purchase price will need to reflect an actual appraisal.

Foolish and wasteful as this may have been, we have never made an offer on a property, without getting a professional appraisal, as we have not sold one without it. When one thinks of the prices of houses, from hundreds of thousands into millions, what is a mere $350, when it comes to knowing the appraised value of a property? As a buyer I would like to know that I am making a fair offer and as a seller I need to know what a buyer's appraiser will come up with when that part of the process is reached. Incidentally, I find the appraisal process objectionable but that is nobody's problem by my own.

For us, at least, the same principal applied when looking at the cost of an inspection. We never wished to be in a position to comment on the potential life of our roof, oil burner or the existence of mold or termites. We believe it is important to know as much about our own property as a buyer will, in regard to assessments that are outside our area of expertise. Under $1000 for that kind of information? A bargain, in our opinion and much less than we could lose, potentially, by being presented with numbers by others, without having our own.
Thank you for the dialogue.
By Matt Bowen,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:05
What if you the seller is conducting the Open House, because the realtor cannot be present?
By Ken Burton,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:07
All, thanks for your comments on shoes...with one exception ,that being health, it appears that if booties are provided then it's ok to ask for prospective buyers to remove their shoes. Please re read my initial question asking if it was ok .....I stated "slippers" are provided....my choice of a word for booties.
By SJ,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:13
absolutely agree with Holly I like owners being there. We recently purchased a house and the owners were there at our request. Even the dog was running around which i didnt mind. They were welcoming and easygoing which added to the homey appeal of the house. They answered all our questions about the house and neighborhood things an agent wouldnt know. I left the first showing feeling very comfortable with the house and area, did a 2nd showing, and that was it .
By Anne Peters,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:15
All agents should be more careful running an ioen house. Do not let in more than 1 buyer @ a time.
Once in a great while, there is a professional thief who enters under crowded circumstances,
purposely, so no one will be in the same room while he quickly looks around for "a quick steal".
I put a note on the door, "Please be patient, while I show this house to another buyer, feel free to
look @ the backyard! I'll be as quick as I can" If the potential buyer gets angry & leaves, I chalk it up
to the fact that they couldn't have been that interested. Better to lose a customer & protect the seller's home from damage or thievery. When possible, I have another realtor w/me to show 2
different customers simultaineously. I never let them go thru by themselves! Home owners
definitely should not do this either. All children must stay w/their parents & hold their hand if
they are very little. No husband in 1 room & wife in the other. You can't monitor it that way.
Many buyers today do not have good manners & resent this, they must realize a broker's first
loyalty is to the owner. The realtors I know run an open house to sell that house, a new viable
customer is a rare thing these days! I'm 40 yrs in this business, sometimes you call them back
but most times if they are interested, they call you. by owner/broker.....Anne
By Anne Peters,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:16
All agents should be more careful running an ioen house. Do not let in more than 1 buyer @ a time.
Once in a great while, there is a professional thief who enters under crowded circumstances,
purposely, so no one will be in the same room while he quickly looks around for "a quick steal".
I put a note on the door, "Please be patient, while I show this house to another buyer, feel free to
look @ the backyard! I'll be as quick as I can" If the potential buyer gets angry & leaves, I chalk it up
to the fact that they couldn't have been that interested. Better to lose a customer & protect the seller's home from damage or thievery. When possible, I have another realtor w/me to show 2
different customers simultaineously. I never let them go thru by themselves! Home owners
definitely should not do this either. All children must stay w/their parents & hold their hand if
they are very little. No husband in 1 room & wife in the other. You can't monitor it that way.
Many buyers today do not have good manners & resent this, they must realize a broker's first
loyalty is to the owner. The realtors I know run an open house to sell that house, a new viable
customer is a rare thing these days! I'm 40 yrs in this business, sometimes you call them back
but most times if they are interested, they call you. by owner/broker.....Anne
By Meggie,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:16
Ms. Motz, you are making me blush. Thank you very much. In all honesty, we make every attempt to be fair as buyers as well as sellers. As for joining your profession, I am afraid I would not have the grace necessary to tolerate some of the attitudes exhibited by the occasional buyer or seller.

The amount of work, time, financial and emotional investment that realtors make, simply to be "used" is inconceivable to me. I believe that nothing is more valuable in life, than time. To be stealing time from another human being and do so consciously is unforgivable.
Thank you, again, for your kind comments and sorry about the inclusion of personal philosophy and the great departure from the subject at hand.
By Meggie,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:22
Opps, that would be PRINCIPLE not principal.
By ropelekath1,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:33
My fear is that items may go missing. The agent often allows the 'visitor' to roam around the home, on their own, more often than not. I had a bottle of pain medication prescribed for post op pain, taken from my medicine cabinet, when we sold our first home in University Park, Florida. The other thing that I find distasteful about open houses is people come in and pick up your personal property and sit on your furniture. These people aren't your guests or friends. You don't know them. They are strangers. If the agent is not assertive they will turn a blind eye to these people, as they fear insulting them and turning them off. There is a nice way of being assertive and protective of the seller client, without being aggressive. The seller is paying the agent for their service, and they have a right to insist that the agent protect their property. When we were selling our home on Longboat Key, the agent actually told me that a woman laid down on top of my bed, to see if she could see the water(thebay) whilst lying in bed. I frankly don't like open houses, because of this.
By D.F. Haas,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:38
As a seller this is what I'd recommend: secure anything you don't want broken or taken (?); if you have pets it's best not to have them present; even so, you might want to notify visitors that yours is a "pet zone" in case they are allergic; clean it like your mother-in-law is coming for a visit; stay away- if you are FSBO have friends hold the open house for you. If potential buyers have questions they are dying to ask you they can find a way to get the answer some other way- or time.
By Lorikyle6,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 13:47
Where do I put my dog if I need to keep access to all the property open?
By Ken Burton,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:00

I came home after my open house was to have ended and found a prospective buyer peeling the paint on a $19,000 oil painting to see if it was real! I was speechless, the agent (who was also an art collector) said nothing to the "buyer".

Because of this incident I will only list my house with an agent who knows the value of possessions and with whom I've discussed my concerns.
By Bettie Shetter,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:01
As a Realtor, I often ask sellers to relate to me, stories about their home and neighborhood. And what they love about their home. I find personal stories helps buyers to relax and see it more as a HOME than HOUSE:0)
By Elizabeth,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:04
Guests arrived at my open house two hours before it was scheduled to open, so I was still there when they arrived- certainly not my intention! One of them actually asked me how much I owed on the property! I didn't think I had to answer that and so I didn't. Fortunately, it didn't cost me any goodwill; I had an offer by the end of the day.
By deborah,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:14
Thank you--great article. This came right when I was replying that I would love to conduct an open house for another agent--the listing agent (I had sent some inquiries). I haven't yet done many so this was a helpful resource. I won't be asking people to take their shoes off, as I also have found this a bit annoying. This home has tile floors anyway.
By Joseph Artysiewicz,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:23
I agree with Holly L., (June 13th, 9:45) I have done 100's of open houses, both on weekdays and weekends, and I can honestly say that there is not a better salesperson than a home owner who is proud of their house and neighborhood. I simply say to the potential buyer that the home owner happens to be here if you have any questions and they usually do. Neither I or the seller follow the potential buyers through the house. This gives the buyers a chance to talk among themselves. A buyer can learn more by talking with the seller for 15 minutes than they will ever learn working through the agent. This interaction builds a rapport and trust between the buyer and seller that makes the whole sales process much more enjoyable.

I am amazed when I see Realtors doing open houses from 12pm to 2pm or 1pm to 3pm. How many homes can a buyer see in the 12pm to 3pm time frame? I do open houses from 12pm to 6pm. Keep up the good work Realtors and I will continue getting your potential buyers from 3pm to 6pm.
By Jgolfmag,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:24
Good advice, what is the standard amount of time an open house showing should be advertised to the public, what avenues should be used to advertise the open house for maximum exposure?
By Michele Allison-Elwell CBR,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:32
Prepping for the sale is very important. Cleaning , packing , shining , staging. Agents should be telling sellers all valuables , collectables ,fragile items ,drugs,medications, guns and bullets should all be out of sight. Locked up. Common sense.Buyers will look in your medicine cabinet , hall closets , linen closets , kitchen cabinets and draws. Mail should be put away too. Tough times calls for sellers and agents to be more aware. Best to do by appointment or 2 agents per open house.
I showed a property 2 weeks ago to a buyer. Old house old 1970's carpeting. I had on high heels , but no nylons that day. My toe nails were not painted either.I was not happy about this request. The agent asked us to take off our shoes. I said are you kidding?There are no hardwood floors in here. Do you have booties? No . Really ? Come on. If you expect people to take off the shoes, then get a runner or provide some booties or new socks to keep or maybe even stretch plastic bowl covers or something.or at least plastic shopping bags to slip over your shoes and tie around your ankle.
Clean with organic cleaners or just plain Dawn and vinegar. It wont leave a lingering smell and it makes everything shiny and vinegar kills germs. Cheap simple , does the trick and won't attack anyone with allergies and smell sensitivity. Plug in and candles are bad.
Buyer should not be offended if asked for a prequalification. It saves wasted time.
By Rahlo,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:33
As a buyer, seller, and former real estate agent, IMHO a house should smell CLEAN - meaning - NO noticeable scents or fragrances of ANY kind - from kitty litter to dog smell to cookies baking to scented candles to potpourri on the stove. When the scent of the latter three hit my nose, the first question I ask myself is "What really crummy scent or thing (animal smell OR musty smell, etc.) are the seller and the agent trying to hide?
By norsvelt,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:33
Open Houses these days are 'passe', with the internet, I surfed for the info and photos, and bought my recent house. Realtors/ Sellers, put plenty of photos up, leaving main areas out leaves me thinking there is something wrong with your house.If take my shoes off per seller request, then should I step on a nail/pin then YOU are responsible for injuries sustained.. No I won't take my shoes off, nor will I put on slippers others have worn. I skim the house and want to get out. Sellers, please bear the above in mind.
By brarylady,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:43
RE shoes. I wear heavy-duty orthotics in my shoes. Consequently I never wander about shoeless, even within my own home. But for open houses, I bring my own over-the-shoe disposable booties or use the ones provided at the door.
By platamoose,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 14:56
When we sold our home, I put together a very elaborate photo book on our history of the home -- with bullet points for quick reading. The first question I was asked was, "WHY do you want to sell? "Read -- "Is there something wrong with the home?" So on page #1 -- I explained that we wanted to move from Minnesota to Colorado to live in the mountains. End of discussion.
We did lot of quality updating to our 1930s home -- before and after shots were welcomed.
A drawing of garden plants was provided, too. Just a few ideas.
By majorwife97,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 15:05
I sold my home as a licensed agent, and I held many open houses. I held them for at least 3 hours, being the home owner, I opened closets, drawers, shower curtains, etc. I cleaned the house better than I had ever cleaned it before, and always made sure it smelled fresh. I removed EVERYTHING from the counters in the kitchen, except the coffee pot, bottles of water for people, and a bowl with individually wrapped chocolates. I also had a drawing for a gift card to a restaurant. :-)
By John,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 15:17
Ken, I do hope you called the police and had the cretins arrested for criminal damaging.

The paintings are not even part of what they are evaluating for purchase!
By Ellen Johnston,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 15:25
Yes, clean your home and try to declutter as much as possible. Remember though, a house might not sell right away, it could take months in certain areas, people need their things. The TV programs have turned buyers into "quasi TV stars" they all walk around moaning how they want granite countertops and stainless steel appliances on a paper bag budget. People need to be realistic about their budget and long term commitment to a house. I have owned 5 homes, been an agent, and now have a FSBO. I have had agents allow people to walk around my home unescorted without having any kind of identification, agents who allow children to jump on furniture! I have seen agents open sellers furniture and look in. Better yet, how about my listing agent that was knocking my kitchen and telling the buyer how outdated it was. Fired!!! I tell buyers to open closets and cabinets, even sit on my living room sofa to get a feel for the size of the room. The truth is you will not please everyone, if a buyer is going to be "turned" off because they have to remove their shoes, oh please, spare me the spoiled brat mentality. How about respect for someone else's belongings/property? My favorite home was one which I saw on a rainy dark night, that had about three working lightbulbs, a smelly basement, and cigarette stained ceilings, but I was in love within five minutes and could see the potential. It was beautiful after all the renovations were completed. Alas, had to sell when I got a divorce... I digress. There is no way to predict who you will turn on or off, make your property presentable, clean. and priced appropriately and the rest is fate.
By Lesley Jones,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 15:26
please stop sending me these email - thanks
By Alyssa Burgin,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 15:32
Very expensive pieces of men's clothing were stolen during the Open House at one of my properties. I thought the agent, a friend, was a little nonchalant about how often that sort of thing presumably occurred. Turns out he was the thief--he accidentally wore a shirt that I recognized because I had tailored it in a very special way. Now I don't trust agents,or anyone else, to keep their hands off my property. I can't remove everything...
By Sherry and Gwen,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 15:33
As a Realtor out of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, my overall opinion of the seller being present during open houses is that it's off putting. Generally, a potential buyer does not like to have the homeowner present during a showing unless specifically requested. As for Anne Peters' comments about agents only showing the property one client at a time, i respectfully disagree, that is referred to as a private showing. If you choose to have an open house, it's an open house. Chances are those customers are looking at several homes in a limited amount of time, therefore keeping potential buyers from viewing the home could prove detrimental to the seller. Open houses definitely come with some risks which we always disclose to a homeowner to enable them to make their decision.
By Wally,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 15:45
When we put our house up for sale as FSBO, we also had independent appraisal and inspection report copies sitting out. We also had a fact sheet with dates of upgrades - furnace,A/C, roof, etc. We also had copies of blank contracts and business cards of the title company we were going to use. We let the potential buyers go thru as we sat out on the deck. If they had questions please call us.
We left our two dogs with neighbors during the open house so not to bother anyone.
Spent two months cleaning, painting, new inexpensive carpets, yards groomed and bit of landscaping. Had our older tub re-glazed, put unneeded items in storage.
Had a buyer that day!
By Jamie Edson,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 15:52
Some one asked about their dog. Is your dog worth $100,000? I watched a seller lose that amount of money because she would not find an alternative place for her dog to be during the marketing of her home. The market was spiraling downward quickly, and there was no lockbox on the door due to the dog. If you have a dog, find another temporary home for it, while you are marketing your house, at least until a buyer has been accepted. I have a dog myself, but I would do the same with my own, even if it meant moving twice.

When I show homes, I suggest to the buyers to wear shoes that are easy on/ easy off, and I do the same. When I list homes, I ask people to remove their shoes before viewing. I would not consider a buyer serious who was too put off to do this, unless it was for health reasons. I am not thrilled to see a basket of used booties by the door when I walk in. Really adds to the decor!

I just won in a 13 offer situation, because I took the buyers to the home when I KNEW the seller would be there. They loved my buyers and that was that.

I have found that most buyers have agents, when they go on Sundays. I don't always get to go with my buyers, but it is always my preference. I have had listing agents steal buyers from me, although not lately.

I think that one of the most important things an agent can do is properly photograph every room and show every room in the listing. I know my clients just recently got a deal because the master bath was not included in the photos and also because the ones taken were of poor quality. I am sure it was not viewed by as many because of it. I believe it cost the sellers in the neighborhood of $25,000 to have the photos be of marginal quality...
By Brian Christie,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 16:00
It is true that sellers shouldn't be present during open houses. I am agent and attended a Brokers Open 2 days ago where the sellers were home and working out of 2 rooms of the home during the open house. I felt intimidated when walking into the rooms where they were working and was in and out very quickly because I didn't want to "bother" them. The agent holding the open house should have instructed the sellers to vacate while she was trying to sell their $2m listing.
By Ken Burton,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 16:02
No, I didn't call the police. The "buyers" were just so ignorant that I simply spoke to the broker and never used her again.

The broker I hired ,upon entering the house, knew exactly what he was looking at as he toured the rooms. There was no need to explain to him the value of my collection.

I did however remove any small items that could easily be pocketed if the broker's attention was averted.

I'm of two opinions when it comes to allowing people to freely tour your home unaccompanied by the broker. As a buyer I felt very uncomfortable as the broker who was showing me the house always stood three feet behind me,yet as a seller I understand the need to have the broker accompanying the buyer through the house. Perhaps the most comfortable way ,from a buyer's perspective, is if the broker engages (without distracting the showing) the buyer in conversation about the house as THEY toured it .
By alkin,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 16:04
The real estate market seems to be one big con game put up by the Realtors - who have a vestedit interest of being the middle man/woman for every transaction. They either guile you with charm or instill fear by ominous warning about the bigor

This is one industry that's just waiting to be shafted over by online technology.
Lets give it a couple of more years and Realtors would go the way of the street corner shoe mender.
By Bronwyn Merritt,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 16:44
My only comment regarding appraisal vs market analysis is that they both rely on comparable, recent sales, if done properly. And they can both be way off sale price. But in a hot market, selling your own home can be a great thing. The tougher the market, the tougher it is for us realtors as well!
By Meggie,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 16:49
Ms. Edson, no one need keep USED booties anywhere on the premises. Used booties should be in the garbage, where they belong. The idea is to use DISPOSABLE covers. The implication is, one pair per user. They are not very costly and can be purchased by the hundred. This may be one of those issues about which people may agree to disagree and one can either call people "spoiled brats", as Ms. Johnston did or accept the fact that some of us choose not to walk on ANY floors barefooted for HYGIENE reasons. You are willing to make an exception for "health reasons" but not for alternate reasons.

Why not make it easier for everyone? I have no problem bringing MY OWN booties, NEW ONES, if I am informed that a seller expects me to remove my shoes. I do the same at the airport, so why not solve this seemingly petty argument by having realtors and FSBO sellers inform the visitors in advance, that they will be asked to remove their shoes? A home owner has every right to expect certain behaviors when one enters the premises but a buyer also has the right to follow personal hygiene standards. This does not have to be an irresolvable issue unless one makes it so.
By mjblacklaw,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 17:00
The selling agent can have a sign in sheet near the coffee or water bottles with lists for "Comments" and "Questions." The agent can edit the comments in regard to the sellers' feelings but pass on helpful info. The questions should let you know which buyers are serious and the seller can offer to be there if any potential buyer comes back. I will soon put my home on the market since my children are grown and I will have many stories about how great the neighborhood is for young families and information about schools, etc.
By Jimself1,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 17:31
WOW! I m about to have my first open house tomorrow and have been decluttering, cleaning, and general getting rid of personal items that only I most likely love- I am so glad I read this series of posts as I think I have followed most of the positive items appropriately. My realtor did suggest those disposable booties and I thought that if my floor cant take a few people walking on it, I should have shopped around better- So thank everyone for their expertise.......
By jzj01,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 17:40
If someone asks you to remove your shoes in his or her home it is appropriate for you to do so. This is the norm in many, many communities and when looking at houses you should expect to have to remove your shoes. Of course there are exceptions to this such as an illness.
By Ken Burton,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 18:12

Wow! Well said!
By colorstuff,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 18:12
I'm sorry, but if I'm buying, the ONE person I absolutely want available is the seller/owner. No realtor on earth knows the property like the person who lived there. Expecting them to be gone is just nuts.
By Penny Williams,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 18:40
I just sold my country home, on my own. I listed it in our small local newspaper for five (5) days with a brief description. I had a current appraisal and was confident it was 'spot on', so with each call received I advised prospects that there was NO room for negotiation. I believe this kept 'lookers' to a minimum. The home sold the first day with a back-up waiting in the wings in case the new buyers financing fell through or they got cold feet or were hit by a Mack truck before the closing. Why would anyone willingly give up 6 % of their profit? Common sense in prepping your investment for sale and educating yourself on the home's true value plus drawing-up an air-tight contract go a long way in making the sale a relatively painless process. My total cost for handling the sale myself? The price of the newspaper ad, my time invested in a thorough cleaning/staging/personalizing of an on-line contract, an independent appraisal and a small box of over-the-shoe booties. HINT: I met each of my viewers at their vehicle & at the home door I removed my flip-flops & each prospect followed suit with nary a comment.
By meredithandmarley,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 19:10
We are in the process of selling our home and have a small sign at the door requesting that visitors remove shoes (provided by our agent). It is STANDARD in our community (Anchorage, Alaska) that people remove shoes in all seasons whether selling a house or just visiting. Due to volcanic ash year-round, snow in the winter, and slush/mud during break-up, wearing shoes inside is generally not done for the majority of the population. If you are buying in a community you've not lived in before, don't be quick to judge things like the shoe removal policy. In some places, it serves a very valid purpose!
By Manuela Palmero,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 19:27
Sellers please pack ALL personal photos. Buyers can not visualize them selves in the house with all your photos hanging on the walls. Clean, and pack, pack, pack, put away all your personal belongings. Clear tables, counters, and closets. Put away all plastic plants too. Clean, clean, and pack and box...
By Tammy Davis,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 19:39
As a Real Estate Agent I never want my seller at the open house. I don't them to hear any unkind comments about their home and I don't want them to freely give information. After we are in contract, have escrow papers signed and do our final walk thru just before closing...then I like the buyer and seller to meet and discuss particulars about the property, such as how sprinklers work, using the house alarm, etc.

Tammy Davis, Realty World Providence Properties
Hollister, Ca
By A New York Woman,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 19:52
I like open houses and I think they are very helpful understanding the relative dimensions of a house. The photography that is being used by most realtors is deceptive. Often times the rooms are not as wide nor as long as they appear in the on-line photos.
The ideal 'open house' is an empty house. Rugs, carpets, sofas, beds, tables and etc. are often used to hide potential 'deal breaking' flaws. I realize that it may not be possible for a seller to move out of the house right away and may have to wait to sell before the house is empty. That is unfortunate but If I have to look at the seller's belongings I don't take the open house seriously. I am left to look at the celing, the edges around rugs and hopefully around windows. I would never make an offer on a house that I cannot fully see and cannot walk around unhindered. I need to look at the house and the details. I need to be able to imagine myself moving about the house and judging 'house fit'.
As for the booties, I don't mind them but if the floor is slippery the booties increase hazards, then I won't wear them. Old folks like me can't be expected to manuver the booties without a chair or a bench to sit on. I do not feel comfortable sitting on the seller's designer furniture even if I am told it is ok, to me it isn't. I would not want a bunch of strange fannies sitting on my 18th century French fauteils.
By Jubalstroop,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 20:48
I am getting ready to put my house on the market. There is no way that I would leave when my house is being shown. There are too many lax agents who let buyers wander by themselves. I've been to open houses and seen people look through dresser drawers. I have a built in pool and a barn with horses. Parents do not watch their children and I do not want to get sued if an accident occurs.

As far as emptying my house, that is not an option. My family still lives here. It will be clean and decluttered but to pack everything that indicates that the house is lived in is plain nuts. Are people that lacking in imagination that a framed picture will not allow them to picture their own pictures in a house? As long as I am living there, the house will be decorated to my taste, my books will be on the shelves and some pictures will be on the walls.
By Banessa,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 22:50
One thing I like to know about purchasing a house is for example:Did anyone die in the home.Check for cracks because it might be a sign of a sink hole which I find it's a serious situation.Neighborhood crimes,the schools,jobs, & anything along that line.
By Banessa,  Thu Jun 13 2013, 22:53
Just remember that purchasing a home is your life.
By Nancy,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 00:01
by Nancy..... I would worry if I were selling my house on my own.... too many crazy people in this world.... they are more apt to visit a for-sale-by-owner than go to see a house with a realtor...also, buyers mentally deduct commission from their asking price....!!!
By Owlba67,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 00:10
I'm not an agent, but I'm a neighbor of a house that has been for sale several times. The "Don't neglect the neighbors" suggestion was GREAT! Please be aware though, that a little common courtesy to those neighbors would be great. The Open House traffic can be something else. WE've had a house for sale a few times on our cul de sac and we've had our driveways blocked, loud visitors to the Open House, and the like. First of all, we never knew when there was going to be an open house. We knew when the signs were placed on OUR property without being asked, and all of a sudden, we couldn't drive into our driveway (we're on a cul-de-sac). It got to the point where we had to park one of our cars near the driveways so that we could get in and out. We've also experienced cars parking in front of our driveway. It would be a great courtesy if the realtors would let neighbors know when open houses are occurring.
By Bill,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 00:42
All the comments about removing shoes or not is amusing to one who lives here in Hawaii. No one would even THINK about wearing shoes or slippers in to the house! They are ALWAYS left outside the door. That goes whether you're visiting a neighbor or going to an open house.
By Dinece Carmichael, CDPE, RFC,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 01:27
I co-hosted an Open House with a Prudential Agent several weeks back and she cleaned the entryway during a slow down in traffic which proved to me - sometimes 3% is a reasonable fee for ten minutes of sweeping.

The seller was neither present or required because this agent knew her listing, its history, the fact the owner was over 102 years old and the original/sole owner, the details in the rehabilitation she demanded before she died in preparation for her post-mortem sale of the home. Home owners come in all natures and expectations but if they think someone wants to walk into a disheveled home with stinky cat litter and dirty dishes in the sink then they are not serious. I remember reading another article that suggested the home owner "pre-pack" many of their rarely used personal items to open the space of the home. Those words are great advice! A cluttered home hides a potential buyers vision. And in this market of low inventory, it is always important to keep your edge over the competition. Open houses are happening just a few doors down from one another more and more often.
By Dorothy,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 02:34
Great, great advice and opinions from all. As a new agent on the block this was definitely an ice breaker for me.
By Carolynn Middleton,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 03:08
As a realtor when having an open house I ask the seller their preference shoes off or on for our Open House Guests. Personally in a nice clean house I prefer they remove shoes we do at my own home.
By Wally,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 05:44
Talking to the neighbors is a good idea. When we looked at this one house, the neighbor was out and he came over. It was on a Sunday. What we didn't realize is in the backyard, over the cinder block wall was a landscaping and rock crushing business. He told us that during the day, dust settled over everything and made a mess. We almost put a contract on the house until we heard that.
By Pcs961,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 06:36
I would never ever have an open house without being there. I had an open house last year while selling my home. 2 weeks later my identity was stolen. Someone at the open house went through some drawers and located a credit card that I never use. They called the bank with card in hand and changed the address and requested a new card.....yes, it's that easy. A new card was sent to the thieves at a FedEx office. I found out by coincidence....checked the balances and noticed charges I didn't make.
Open houses are an easy mark for thieves....they work in pairs to distract on site brokers. Next time I will be there and require identification and registration before anyone gets into my home. Think about it......so stupid to open the doors to anyone that wants to come in ? Never ever again
By Pam Dalton,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 07:19
One more to add to the list - during the Open House take your cat, dog or ferret out of the house. Even if you have a basement you do not want a barking dog - even a little one - in the house. Not only that, hide food bowls or tell take signs that you even OWN a pet. And obviously, since you already KNOW you house shouldn't smell like you have one, there will be no 'heads up' to prompt anyone to be looking specifically for pet damage. Also, burning candles to me is a no no. It may seem nice, but to me it prompts a buyer to wonder what the owner is masking. Your home should smell clean, not perfumey.
By Lisa,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 07:57
Several good inputs by D.F.Haas, ropelekath1, and especially Anne Peters. I studied the market myself and disagreed with our agent about list price. She wanted to list at $434K, I felt $479K was correct price (based on comps and then went down about $20K because here in CT everyone is shooting for the stars). Our agent was impressed with my "staging," but doubted our listing price (she was wrong). She wanted to underprice and get a quick sale. Buyers up here always offer less than asking price by about $20K-$40K. I insisted on an open house within 30 days of listing. She said it's only for neighbors and looky-lous (she was wrong). She also placed an expensive ad in the newspaper, which I asked her not to, save the money for what works such as online advertising, which is where today's people are looking. When I'm house-hunting that's what I do versus relying on an agent to provide me with listings because they usually will only send what they themselves have listed, which means I'd miss out on terrific opportunities to look at all homes available. The newspaper ad generated zero phone calls or communications, yet she insisted she was spending $200/day to have the house there. I believe she was using our home to promote her agency more than anything else. Although the first showing request came in less than two hours of posting the home on MLS, we could tell almost immediately when it was actively showing through searches on Trulia, Zillow, and HomeFinder because the requests for showings increased dramatically.

We had our open house on the same day we held a moving sale. We actually had people lining up to see the home. When 20 minutes went by and she still hadn't arrived, I asked my husband to take the first family and show them around the outside and explain the boundaries, electrical service, and outbuildings. I'm so glad that the people who lined up to see the home at open house were able to wait until our agent got there to see the inside because the first family there made an offer that very night. We could have shown the house ourselves, but the agent would still get her full commission with us doing the work. We got feedback from several who came for the open house that the agent just stood in the kitchen and didn't accompany anyone throughout the house, which was perturbing since our belongings such as jewelry and expensive collectibles were in the home. We had approximately 8 families with children in tow and about 12 couples/partners that stopped in to see the moving sale before proceeding inside to the open house. Some people came into the home directly through the front door without stopping in to the moving sale (in garage and driveway). About one-half of the people who we knew of came out to find us to ask particular questions about the property. We made a point of asking how they learned about the open house and home for sale. Just as I suspected, most of them found the home themselves while searching online, not through their own agent, or the newspaper. The ones who put in the offer had a buyer broker working for them, but they found the house themselves doing a daily search of properties. In fact, they called to schedule a showing the week of the open house and our agent declined, she told them to come to the open house on Saturday instead. Can you imagine?

Their offer was for $40K below asking price, we countered, they came up $20K, we decided to accept their offer despite our agent suggesting that we should ask for more because they came up so quickly, however, because our agent was not forthcoming with information or diligence, we were concerned that she would allow the sale to grow cold and these buyers wanted a two-week closing. The buyer's agent zoomed over to our home the next day with the papers (not our agent). From that day forward we pretty much only dealt with the buyer's agent because our agent was unresponsive, even to the buyer's agent.

We have been advised that we should contact the board of realtors about our agent's behavior.

The big take away for us from this whole ordeal... do as much as you can yourselves with decluttering and staging, familiarize yourself with the market in your area, price the home well, have mats for wiping feet but know that some people just don't have manners and the house will need cleaning after the open house, some buyers appreciate a home that can handle heavy traffic because they have kids and big dogs (these people will be turned off by booties), secure all valuables and assume that strangers will be roaming your home unaccompanied, serious home buyers do not purchase immediately without a bit of shopping first (they look at several homes, maybe twenty before purchasing), the home has to appraise for the purchase price or higher or the deal is off so don't over-price the house, and it pays to get a quality agent versus saving 2% on the commission.
By Eugene Candeloro,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 08:16
The sellers should not attend the open house. If buyers are interested they can request a second visit and invite the sellers to be present so they can get inside information.
By Sheryll,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 11:26
It was a bit uncomfortable in the sense that my family didn't want to offend their family; but we looked at several homes with owners present and learned much more about the home. That didn't dissuade us; the ones we decided against were lovely; but too small. Nothing the owner could do about that. The home we finally bought had it's owners and their children in it. It was fine. We had our inspector out when they were in the home packing; I mean, they live there ~ so, it was good. They even answered questions about utility bills. We commented the house seemed dark with all the windows and the lady of the house quickly offered that she preferred the blinds closed; that's the only reason it was dark and she preceded to run around and start opening blinds; something an agent would have not done. In moments, it was the light, bright, airy house we dreamed of. Had the homeowner not been there; we would have left thinking it was a dark home. She saved the day, actually. :-) If you are going to stay as a homeowner be prepared that the new person will hate your taste and want to redo everything. What's wrong with that? Just don't take it personally.
By Sheryll,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 11:32
Essentially, for the homeowner, it's like a job interview: don't say too much. If an interviewer says something you don't like you don't "frown" at them. You deal. Same thing with being at your own open house. Don't do the agent's job. Let them show it. Fade into the background and serve lemonade or whatever. But, it's your stuff, too, and people are going through it if your house isn't vacant. So, I think it's your right to be there IF you can handle the criticism. It may inhibit people from tearing your house apart verbally. They need to do that to fit their stuff in your place. It is a business decision that affects every aspect of their lives, too. The buyer has the RIGHT to be picky and figure out how much it will cost them to undo what you've done to the place. You might Invite them to take photos if they seem quiet so they can compare later. Might even put, "FEEL FREE to take photos on a sign." One seller didn't have a pool at a showing; but, they had the pool company come out and work up a rendering which was placed prominently on an easel in the staged home. It showed a pool in their yard and how it might look. Very clever with little expense or risk to them; just idea placement. The Realtors really don't want the homeowners at showings; they don't think you competent to "handle what you hear." If you aren't able to; don't be there. And if you run off a prospective buyer, don't blame the Relator if they asked you not to be there. But, it IS your property; it's just their commission. :-) And for our family, it made no difference if homeowners were present or not ~ except we stayed at the house with owners a bit longer and considered it more because they were nicer and we had a bit more "attachment" to the home. Now, that may be an inconvenience to your Realtor as they may have an appointment schedule they want to keep. We still have a picture of the former homeowners inside our kitchen cabinet. And they gave us a lovely housewarming card and a lucky bamboo plant. :-) Do what you feel is right. A Realtor is an adviser; not your boss.
By bjeubanksnc,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 11:42
3. Put away personal items.

Repeat ad nauseum BEFORE you ever let anyone view the house. I did this and my house sold in 3 days to the first person who viewed it. And this was in an area and market where the average time to sell a house was one year.

As a buyer, I can tell you the scent issue was huge with us. We ended up buying a house where there had been no smoking, no scented candles, no plug-ins, no sprays, etc. I refuse to even set foot in a smoker's house. Also, I will never look at another house where the owner is present. I don't feel free to truly look at the house while the owner is there. Yes, there are people who will be unscrupulous, but they will be that way regardless of who is there, and your watchfulness will only run off honest, serious buyers.

And the shoe issue - seriously folks, that's what welcome mats are for.
By Christian Beltrame,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 13:24
I recently attended a sort of open house where the owner stayed in the back patio, enjoying his beautiful backyard.
He was both out of the way and available for questions.
By Tom.Cannon,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 17:22
Clutter with owner occupant 'stuff' is the single biggest turnoff and obscures the qualities. Some good comments here. thanks and good article.
By S Reed -850-960-7268,  Fri Jun 14 2013, 20:36
I dont like the idea of NO ONE following the people around the house(like a Realtor should) I always do. WOuld you let a complete stranger come in your house and roam around not knowing what they are doing. A Realtor brought people in my house. while one was talking to her, the other one stole a gold coin I had. I didnt notice until they were gone. I was outside and came in and noticed he was walking really fast around the house.He seemed odd. How does A realtor know if the people they show houses to are honest? you don't know. that's my point. i think the booties are fine. i put them at the door and people either use them or they don't. Respectable people will use them if they are physically able. Some older people aren't able to use them. Just put them there and let the people decide. Some put them on, some don't and others take their shoes off. No harm. Really and truly, it's like this. No cookies, no wine or anything else will sell a house. If Buyers have the money and like the layout and location, they will make an offer. Even some people don't have enough money to purchase a home they are looking at. too many realtors show anything to potential buyers whether they can afford it or not. I had a couple that could afford $250,000 and when they wanted to look at a $650,000 house. I told them I didn't want to waste the Sellers time. the sellers work hard to get their house in order FOR A LOOKER that can't afford it. they cut me off at that point. that is fine. I hate people that waste my time and other people's times. Some Buyers need to be more respectful of others. Also had realtors show a Vacant house. they left doors unlock and standing wide open. Later a mirror was missing. the doors left opened happened about 3 times. So no, I dont like anyone I dont know or have seen running through my house.
By The Bells,  Sat Jun 15 2013, 05:01
Great content and insight for sellers!
By Joseph Artysiewicz,  Sat Jun 15 2013, 08:53
Even though open houses work, don't do them if either you or the seller do not fell comfortable. Following visitors around the house does not work because it is impossible to do when you have 2 or more visitors at the same time. If you decide to have an open house, welcome neighbors with open arms. If someone appears to be interested in the house you can discuss price and mortgage approval. Other than that there is no need to discuss either. Treat everyone as visitors to your house. Make them feel welcome. You never know for sure who is the real buyer. I personally like having the owner available for questions that potential buyers may have. The can be in the yard or on the deck. Once someone leaves the open house it may be difficult to contact them with the answer. Owners who are proud of their house and neighborhood are the best sales people.
By Michael Wong,  Sat Jun 15 2013, 10:32
I don't mean to offend people on here who say they've lost property during an open house, but isn't it simple, common sense to remove all portable valuables before letting strangers into your home?
The problem is not open houses unattended by the owner, but lack of street smarts.
By Robert Denner,  Sat Jun 15 2013, 11:41
We are selling a house ourselves right now and we have our aunt showing the house for us so that we are not present. Do you think this is inappropriate as well?
By keylady19,  Sat Jun 15 2013, 11:46
I was a broker/Realtor in Laurel, Md some years ago. Two men came in to inquire about homes for sale. While I was showing one of them what was on the market in his price range, the other had gone to my desk, removed my check book and left the office. I didn't notice the theft till the bank called to ask me me if I had made a rather large prurchase. My point is, if this can happen in an office, what in the world makes an agent think it can't happen in a home. Never, never, let anyone walk around the home unaccompanied by the agent.. That's just good common sense. Besides that, if you're not with them you won't see the "I like this home" signs that buyers make while they're going thru the rooms. Little things sometimes. Like the look the wife gives her husband. Shame on the agent who isn't there.
By Joseph Artysiewicz,  Sat Jun 15 2013, 16:28

If you do not feel comfortable having people walking around the house without being accompanied by an agent you should not be doing open houses. When there are 2 or more families in a house with a finished basement and 2 or 3 stories, plus the outside, 1 or even 2 agents can not watch everyone all of the time. The only solution would be to let only 1 family in at a time. I do not think that would go over to well. I can picture 3 or 4 families waiting on the front porch or front sidewalk waiting for their turn to see the house.
By Robert Guth,  Sun Jun 16 2013, 17:15
I can admit, I have been that lurking seller too many times. I need to stop because I take a lot of pride in the renovations I make to my remodels, and when in the house, I have heard things that made me want to choke people. But its my fault. Like they say....if you cant take the heat, get out of the kitchen you are trying to sell. :0( But honestly, I just wanted to hear the feedback because I am always trying to improve. What I have learned is that you can not please everyone. I have heard one couple remark at how much wonderful closet space a property had, and the next couple, the wife said "There's too many closets. I don't have enough things to fill them". I had one lady standing in a beautiful, spacious, formal living room, say: "There isn't a formal living room".
By 2012skeeter,  Mon Jun 17 2013, 07:17
Once at an open house my wife and I discovered the owner hiding under a bed, taking notes...weird...but we bought the house immediately.
By Meggie,  Mon Jun 17 2013, 15:17
@ skeeter. Your experience finally convinced me to come back with another comment, which also addresses the issue of light fingered visitors. I do not know if this solution would curtail all stealing or other inappropriate behavior but may be worth trying.
Why not install some cameras and inform all visitors with a generic sticker on the front door that the premises are under 24/7 surveillance? Costco and BJ sell really good, 8 camera systems for approximately $200-300 dollars.
I would think stealing would be greatly reduced or eliminated and home owners would not have to hide under beds to be informed of potential buyers' feedback/opinion of their bedroom, since clearly they would be limited to hearing only the comments made in that location.
THe sign on the door or front yard would not be placed there for the open house, so it need not offend anyone. It would simply be a warning to anyone approaching the property, any time, for any reason, including those attending the open house.
By Jennifer G,  Tue Jun 18 2013, 11:43
Thanks- great suggestions. We are selling for sale by owner, so we were at our open house. We stayed in the foyer, however, and did not do a guided tour. I'd actually love to have feedback from buyers searching the market, but I realize we don't have that luxury when listing ourselves.
By Kenny Le,  Tue Jun 18 2013, 19:53
i like to go all out and buy wine and cheese.. those who buy my house is going to the the drinking type
By Joan Brothers,  Wed Jun 19 2013, 09:49
I think this writer did a complete and humorous job on this article! I particularly like the #4- don't complicate the access to the property. We are brokers in Manhattan and we always are amazed to find how difficult it is to gain entrance to the apartment from the owners! Nicely written and great for owners to reference. Joan Brothers, President, Manhattan Boutique Real Estate, 212-308-2482 http://www.mbreny.com
By Jim,  Wed Jun 19 2013, 12:41
While it may be intimidating if a homeowner is present, let me share my experience. A realtor called and wanted to show the home at 6 o'clock. We left and came back at 7. 15 minutes later, the front doorbell rang and the realtor and her clients were there apologizing for being late, got hung up at another property, blah, blah. So, we hung out on the patio while they toured the home. I quickly learned why they were late. The husband was taking pictures!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hasn't made an offer, saw all the pictures he needed to on the Internet posting and still- taking pictures! Of my cat, my antique clocks, furniture- pretty much everything in the home! I had to put my foot down. I don't mind if someone has prequalified, is a serious buyer and needs to take a picture to see how their furniture would look with the living room layout but this was a trip to an amusement park. It was completely inconsiderate. If you want to know why sellers are asked to leave, it could have a lot to do with the appalling behavior of the proposed buyer.
By Jody,  Sat Jun 22 2013, 07:19
If people can't "visualize themselves" living in a home just because there are other people's photos up, they have very little imagination. I bought a house that had the owner's stuff everywhere, three layers of wallpaper, godawful flooring and decor----I have an imagination. I got it for a great price. And my house came out great.

As for booties. Nope. Rude to ask people to change footwear. Put down runners if you're so worried about it. You are inconveniencing people, and you want them to have a pleasant experience.
By Mtnben,  Sat Jun 29 2013, 08:35
I combined an estate sale, with an open house. Wow, it was like a feeding frenzy. Did lots of cleanup, advertised in paper, online, and radio. Sold the home with my realtor and 14 family members present. Her broker offered me a job for marketing, but I live four states away. My point, create excitement. Make the property pop. The family that bought the home moved in and rented till closing. Easy as pie.
By janskiblue,  Wed Mar 12 2014, 16:55
It is my opinion that having the tenant or owner there is a helpful thing for the potential buyer, because, frankly, I find that the realtors don't point out all the positive things about the house. Either they didn't listen to the owner or tenant or are on the phone with someone else when, imho, they should escort the buyers through. "Just look around" isn't good enough. Also, some potential buyers are very aggressive & uncouth. I am a tenant with a cat & the owner decided to sell the property this past week. The house looks great but I didn't trust people to just roam around so I've been here for every looksee. Some realtors show up late or the buyers are early. One buyer says the second she walks in "Oh, I love cats!" & tried to pick my cat up, which my cat didn't appreciate, needless to say. Another one, said, "Oh, I play piano. What do you have? as she proceeded to lift the keyboard lid & bang chords on the keys becuase she wanted to "hear the tone". I was so shocked I just stood there. I realize there are pros & cons - but really? Do you have to open up kitchen cabinets? The insides of mine are neat but that's not the point. Do you really not know the depth of a kitchen cabinet? Also, I think that people don't notice things they really should & many don't ask the right questions so I don't mind being the gracious host - but when a realtor keeps on saying "oh, this is great, I just love it, i'd put my couch here, blah, blah blah" how is that helping a sale?
By caoillainn,  Sat Apr 12 2014, 18:37
My first and current house wasn't even on the market when I bought it. The people here rescued animals and every room had crates in it. The place stank to high heaven, the floors were filthy, and so was the one piece of wall to wall carpet. There were several over flowing litter boxes, a sink full of dirty dishes. etc. I made an offer the very next day. Why? I looked past the mess and concentrated on what really mattered; the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, layout and square footage, lot size, location, and neighborhood. It helped a lot that I grew up with animals and knew I could get rid of the smell and I did, although it took several weeks of repeated cleanings. I love this home, and so do my cats. The sellers were incredibly lucky I showed up instead of regular house hunters, who never would've stepped foot into the place. As for taking off one's shoes to look at a house.. are you nuts? It's a house, not museum! If I went looking for a new house and was asked to take off my shoes or wear booties, I'd know it wasn't the place for me and leave. I would want a home, not some over fancy, pretentious show place.
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By Yvonne Haas,  Fri Apr 25 2014, 18:06
Great Tips! The owners of the home have an emotional attachment to the home and it's intimidating to a buyer to have the owners present while touring the house.
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By karablader,  Mon Jun 23 2014, 08:26
When we were trying to sell our house a few years back we really want to showcase the master bathroom. We re-decorated it to look more modern and changed out our old shower curtain for a shower screen. I think that really helped in the selling process for us. It's okay to have a few extra things at an Open House but remember that the point is to showcase the best parts of your house.
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By Sharon Perry,  Tue Jul 1 2014, 06:57
As a licensed real estate broker for many years, I am here to say that using a realtor is optional. It is a service for doing something that you would rather do yourself. I have sold 5 home as for sale by owner before becoming a broker. Almost all have been from an open house in a well staged house. The price in several instances was more that agents said it would sell for. I don't think an appraisal is a good idea to have before putting it on the market. Most banks and appraisers will find good comps if the price is not out of line because the the mortgage officers want to make loans to qualified people and the appraisers want to keep working for the bank. I am not talking about the false appraisals of the bubble. Most people can sell their own house if they choose to. The going rate for a commission in our area is 6% so on a $350,000. That is $21,000 which is a lot of money. Selling yourself is a lot of work so if you don't want to do it hire an agent. But choose carefully there are many who aren't very good at selling.
By Karl H.F.Koenig Realtor 40 yrs,  Thu Jul 31 2014, 13:41
Sharon, As a Realtor of 40 years, who has represented the "for sale by owners" (public) and real estate brokers too, your comments left me hanging :( I love meeting buyers and sellers, who find it helpful to attend both public and Realtor open houses...In Utah we work well together with almost everyone :- Thx. UtahRealtorKing Respectfully, Karl
By gregjharris,  Tue Sep 16 2014, 06:00
When I was looking for a propery to buy a few years back, there was someone smoking a joint in the patio garden. The whole place stank.
By Melanie Middien,  Wed Dec 17 2014, 13:07
Owners being present can really make potential buyers not at ease. I have seen it where the Seller is lounging on the bed and Buyers do not want to even go in the room.
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