Are open houses a waste of time? Considering that a very minimal amount of sales actually result from open houses, some might say yes. However, this is a good opportunity to have prospective buyers walk around, ask questions and perhaps make an appointment to see the property again.
What’s interesting is how the real estate market has changed in the last 20 years. In 1995, just 2 percent of homebuyers used the Internet to look for a home. Today, that number is right around 91 percent. In 1995, 41 percent of homeowners relied on open houses to sell their home. So 20, even 10 years ago, open houses were a valuable tool in selling a home. Now, buyers already have a good idea what is inside a home before they even get out of the car thanks to online house hunting. Because of this information, a majority of sellers considered having an open home, but did not agree that they were effective.
Other reasons we often hear from sellers who are a bit leery of having an open home is that many do not like to have strangers wandering freely through their property with access to their belongings. Others don’t want to have their neighbours or, what we call in the business, “looky-loos” wasting their time just for curiosity sake.
Still, open houses are not going away any time soon. There are times when an open house is a valuable opportunity such as receiving feedback what is and isn’t attractive about a house. And of course, it’s only worth having if it is done properly. This includes tidying up a home and landscape and advertising well in advance.
If you are considering an open house, make sure you are prepared. Here is a checklist:
- Walk through the house and look at it from a buyer’s perspective.
- Thoroughly clean the entire home.
- Scrub tile in the kitchen and bathrooms.
- Clean hardwood floors
- Clean carpet and drapes
- Repair all holes and cracks in the wall.
- Remove excess and oversized furniture
- Organize closets and store out of season clothes
- Remove all small appliances, toys, pet items, magazines
- Remove family photos, personal collections and medications
- Remove items from garage and store
- Secure valuable items
Don’t Forget Curb Appeal:
- Clean the outside by power washing, sweep entryway and walkways
- Mow and fertilize the yard
- Trim bushes, rake the leaves
- Store any outside toys or equipment
- Clean up after pets
- Clean gutters and downspouts
Finally, pay special attention to the kitchen, as this is the room most buyers will spend their time. Mop and wax or polish floors. Make sure all of the countertops are cleared and thoroughly cleaned. It helps to replace any outdated hardware and make sure appliances are spotless and free of fingerprints or any markings. Organize the pantry, cabinets and drawers as buyers will open them and look.
Buyers spend the least amount of times in the bathrooms; however, they will quickly exit the property if they are not properly maintained. Remove stains from sinks, toilets and bathtubs, keep all toilet seat lids closed and hang fresh towels. Free counter space of any items and remove personal belongings from the shower.
For buyers who are interested in a neighbourhood or Windsor house, by all means, stop and visit an open home that interests you. Here, you are able to get additional information about a property that your own real estate agent might not know. Here are some questions a buyer may want to ask at an open house:
1. Has the owner received any offers on this property? This is good information to know if you are considering making a bid.
2. How long has the house been on the market?
3. Are there any monthly fees or association dues? If the home is in a planned community you will need to know this information.
4. What are the utility costs? Have there been any major repairs?
5. What’s included in the home price? Window treatments? Appliances? Furnishings?
So while open houses may not be as valuable to sellers as they once were, they can be beneficial to buyers who are looking to know more about the home, the area, the school district and the neighbourhood in general. Most open houses are held on the weekends, so it’s a good time to see if the neighbours are out and about. Don’t hesitate to stop and ask them questions if you have any concerns. No one knows better than those that live there what the area is really like.