At this part of the sales process you will have found the best agent in your area, had your property listed and will now be facing crunch time – the open home. An open for inspection is usually the first time that prospective purchasers view your property and for this reason it is absolutely critical that you make the most of it.
Your best source of advice is going to be your chosen real estate agent. They can quickly tell you what your property is up against in the current market and can often suggest improvements that can get you top dollar. Remember, they’ve been doing open homes for years and will have inside information on exactly what buyers usually say when they are wandering the halls of local homes.
You will want to ask the agent the following:
- What are the most impressive parts of my home?
- Which parts of my home are the most off-putting for potential buyers?
- At what time of the day is it best to have the home open? (Ask them to consider traffic noise, weather, the natural light in your property and what is appropriate or convenient for local buyers.)
- Are there any common objections that you hear from buyers at open homes?
It’s all about first impressions. To secure the interest of these purchasers and the top dollar you must ensure that you impress with your home. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on your property – there are certainly ways you can be wise with your spending – but it does mean that you will be looking to make some alterations.
Note: Sellers with more expensive homes will likely want to consider slightly more pricey options as buyers will expect more, but ensure you consider each dollar outlay carefully so you do not overcapitalise.
When preparing for your home open, there are a number of things to consider.
Maintenance and repairs
When: A few weeks before
The most crucial part of preparing for an open home is to remove the most obvious objections that buyers may have. Walk through your home, both inside and outside, with a critical eye. Put yourself in the purchaser’s shoes.
Some common areas of rectification include cracks in the wall, creaky doors or loose handles, broken light fittings and power sockets, broken tiles, patchy lawns, leaky taps, fencing that has come down and stains from water leaks on ceilings and walls. These aspects can really alert buyers, even if there isn’t an underlying issue.
It’s time to fix up these issues. Tighten up your tapware, get yourself some gyprock to help fix up cracks in the walls and put out some grass seed to help your lawn. Start rectifying all those little problems you never got around to fixing. It will be worth it in the long run.
Most of these little problems can be a DIY effort and will only cost you for materials or tools if you need them. If you have more things to fix than you can afford, focus on the most obvious problems.
Minor cosmetic touch ups
When: A few weeks before
After repairs have been undertaken, it’s time to consider quick improvements. This could be classified as a “light” cosmetic renovation and essentially you want to spend very little for maximum effect.
Common areas of improvement include a fresh coat of paint (look for neutral shades), some extra plants in the garden and the replacing of light fittings. Considering the front of your house can also be crucial here – sometimes a new letterbox or house numbers can go a long way.
By doing this a few weeks ahead of time you allow any smells of paint or chemicals to be aired out. Some buyers can be wary of homes that appear to be too newly altered as it can seem as though you are trying to hide something.
Give yourself a budget ahead of time and stick to it. This could be as little as $300, but could easily be more.
Clean and de-clutter
When: A couple of days before
Taking much of your own personal detritus out of the house goes a long way to ensuring a buyer can envision living in the property. De-cluttering will make your house seem more spacious and airy. Go through each room and remove what you can, with particular focus on overly personal effects. Photos of yourself and your family are best removed. You also want to remove anything that doesn’t highlight the house. Hide, or put away, cleaning equipment, personal toiletries and your own family’s clothes, such as shoes at the door. Consider also finding a nice space away from viewers’ eyes for your dustbin and any bins inside the home. If you’re styling your home, you may need to consider moving all of your things elsewhere (see the next improvement below).
Your cleaning process, which will be done lightly on the day, needs to be rigorous. If you are willing to spend money on the cleaning, then professional house cleaners and carpet steaming companies can be invaluable. If you are doing this yourself then it’s time to get your hands dirty. Don’t forget to clean your windows, both inside and out, which will also maximise incoming natural light. Remove any signs of pets and pay attention to unsavoury smells that you need to rectify. It’s unlikely that tenants will go through your personal effects, however be prepared that they may open your pantry and built in wardrobes, so do not scrimp on tidying these areas as well.
When: Within the week
One of the growing trends in real estate is to have your home styled, or staged, to ensure it presents in the best possible light. This can be done yourself, using a careful selection of your own furniture and low-priced high-impact signature purchases.
A few rules will put you in good stead:
- Less is usually more
- Simple colour schemes work well
- Ensure you focus on the size of the space
- Consider adding lighting to areas that need it
Even some nice window furnishings, a new shower curtain and some fresh crisp linen on your beds can up the ante in your home. Opting for professional property staging usually pays dividends although can come with a hefty price tag. Increasingly, homes in lower price brackets are opting for styling, with the benefits being widely discussed in real estate circles. Staging for a period of two months can set you back around $5,000 for a four bedroom house. The International Institute of Home Staging suggests that the return on investment can be many thousands more.
Remember that it doesn’t need to be an “either/or” situation – you could ask for a professional stylist to stage a couple of your best rooms if you can’t afford the whole package. You can also ask for a styling consultation, a far cheaper option that will give you expert advice on how to use your own furniture to best effect. Shopping around will also be worthwhile.
While it’s worth focusing on doing this within a week of the inspection, look to get your quotes lined up ahead of time.
When: On the day
The final option for home owners is to ensure they make the right adjustments on the day. This can also often be done in conjunction with your real estate agent.
If you have a low level of traffic noise, then you may even want to consider some music in the background – ensure it’s nothing too controversial and keep the sound a little lower than normal. You’re aiming for ambience. You may even want to consider keeping some doors shut if you don’t want to emphasize a particular room.
Having all the lights on, usually with the blinds or curtains in most of the rooms open, is a common decision to make to emphasize the light and airiness of the home. Consider turning on lamps in rooms that need an extra boost.
Don’t forget to spray air freshener where needed, to put some fresh flowers out and to also consider the temperature of the home. If the day is too hot or too cold, ensure your home is an oasis for those viewing.
Finally, put out a front door mat and a shoe rack, and ensure your buyers feel welcome. Now it’s time for your real estate agent to work their magic.