Holding an Open House Without a Real Estate Agent
Tips for FSBOs holding an open house and talking with potential buyers.
If you're a FSBO and selling your home on your own, you'll be doing your own advertising and marketing. In addition to setting appointments with prospective buyers, you may want to hold an open house. Here's how to make it successful:
1. If your children are small, have them visit a friend or relative during open house times.
Children may be underfoot or demand attention when you're trying to conduct business with a potential buyer. In addition, children may blurt something out that you'd rather a prospective buyer not hear.
2. Anticipate buyers' questions and practical needs and have your answers ready.
- Estimate the walking or driving time to the nearby commute train or bus, even if you don't use public transportation. Get fare rates and schedules and have them at the ready.
- Go through your home with a view toward its potential -- for example, adding a room in the basement, remodeling the bathroom to add a stall shower, enclosing the porch, or whatever might strike a buyer's fancy -- without representing the feasibility or cost of improvements.
- Understand your legal obligation to disclose material facts about the property. (See Seller Disclosures.)
3. Be on time.
If your open house is scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m., have your Open House signs in position by 1:45. Why? Because people will probably start arriving as soon as they see the first sign or as soon as the appointed hour strikes, whichever comes first. You don't want to keep your public waiting.
Preparing A House for Sale
Before showing your house to prospective buyers, you'll want to make your house look as attractive as possible -- it may mean the difference of several thousand dollars in your pocket.
- Sweep the sidewalk; mow the lawn; put some potted flowers on the front steps; clean windows; fix chipped or flaking paint. Clean and tidy up all rooms; be sure the house smells good -- hide the kitty litter box and bake some cookies.
- Check for loose steps, slick areas or unsafe fixtures, and deal with everything that might cause injury to a prospective buyer.
- Take care of real eyesores, such as a cracked window or overgrown front yard. Don't overlook small, but obvious problems, such as a leaking faucet or loose door knob.
- Look for ways to improve the look of your house without spending much money -- a new shower curtain and towels might really spruce up the look of your bathroom.
- Reducing clutter will make the rooms and closets look bigger. Consider storing some items temporarily in a rental storage facility if your house appears cluttered.
4. Have a sign-in sheet ready to accompany your property fact sheets.
Remember, you are exchanging facts with your visitors. If they have the right to enter your house and learn things about it, you have a right to know who they are. A sign-in sheet will also help you evaluate the effectiveness of your advertising.
Ask visitors to provide the following information on a sign-up sheet:
- phone number, and
- how they learned about the house.
5. Be prepared for "nosy nerds," or "nosy neighbors."
These are not quite the same as "lookie-lous" who just go looking at houses for the fun of it when they have no intention of making a purchase. "Nosy nerds" only look at houses in their immediate neighborhood, in order to pat themselves on the back or console themselves concerning their own homes -- even though they have no intention of selling in the near future. The only way to respond to these folks is to be polite but not waste much time on them. One way to defuse the "nosy nerd" bomb is to invite neighbors to your open house by means of a card which you can put in mailboxes of neighbors within a block or two of your house. Your invitation to neighbors could look something like this:
YOU'RE INVITED TO AN OPEN HOUSE
We've loved being your neighbors; we'll be moving soon. We're selling our home (asking $299,500) and will be holding it open this Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Why not drop by? Our home might be perfect for a friend or relative of yours!
John and Jane Doe, 1020 Madison Street
6. Be prepared to talk with potential buyers.
Here are a few tips:
Talk about neutral subjects, such as family and neighborhood. Be pleasant, and do a lot of active listening, drawing the buyers out as to their needs and preferences -- entertaining at home, which means maximizing the living-dining area; doing lots of cooking, which means a serviceable, bright and cheery kitchen and the like. These conversations can help you frame a subtle sales pitch geared toward the buyer's interests and practical needs -- for example, if the potential buyer mentions that he took a recent bicycle trip, mention the nearby bike paths. If he says that bread is his favorite food, point out that three bakeries are in the area.
Don't volunteer personal information that may be used against you in negotiating a sales price or contract. For example, don't tell prospective buyers that you're incredibly anxious to sell because you're starting a new job out of state soon.
Don't go overboard praising your house or its amenities. Too much praise may seem phony and be used against you when negotiating contract terms. At the same time, keep your disagreements about personal taste to yourself.
Be cordial, but don't overwhelm prospective purchasers with energy or enthusiasm. Many people look at hundreds of homes; others check out houses as a hobby and don't ever really plan to buy one. If one person doesn't seem clearly interested, concentrate on someone who does.
Learn to look at your house as if you were buying it.
- probable down payment, closing costs and monthly costs of ownership, including taxes, insurance and utility costs
- neighborhood conveniences and services (school district, parks, shopping, transportation and the like), and
- local zoning ordinances, including restrictions about adding on to a house.
Listen carefully. You can learn a lot about questions and comments you hear over and over. For example, if prospective buyers seem intent on verifying district boundaries of local schools, they obviously have or are planning to have children. Not only should you talk about the school district, but mention other child-related attractions, such as a nearby park or day care center, light traffic on the streets, other children in the neighborhood or whatever else.
Above all, to sell your own house you must keep your sense of humor. Many buyers look at houses the way they look at used cars -- they search for, and pounce on, every major and minor flaw. Apparently, they believe that emphasizing the negative will get the seller to accept a low offer. Often, however, this "exaggerate the flaws" approach does just the opposite because it makes the seller mad. Try not to take negative comments personally. Just remember, people who don't want to buy your house are not rejecting you. They probably want a larger yard or more bedrooms or just don't want an all-electric kitchen.
Finally, don't take it to heart if the buyers don't fall in love with your home; remember, there's another buyer out there for your house, and the perfect match is yet to be made.
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