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Last-Minute Tips for a Successful Open House

Realtor Deb Staley has seen it a million times. She pulls up to an open house at a fabulous property, in a great neighborhood, at the right price, only to find an overgrown lawn, a leaf-strewn front porch and a front door covered in spiderwebs. In fact, it's not uncommon for potential buyers to be so turned off by an initial view that they refuse to even exit the car. "I have been a real estate broker for 22 years, and I am still amazed every time I show a house that is not ready for the market," says Staley, who's based in Searcy, Ark.
We never get a second chance to make a first impression, and for motivated sellers a first impression of their home can often make or break a deal. Realtors know that a potential sale starts in the moment that a buyer pulls into the driveway. That's why they take extra care to prep and ready the homes they represent just prior to an open house -- and we mean minutes before.

Whether you're helping out your Realtor or handling the sale yourself, here's how to make the most of an open house.


1. Lighten up

Nothing helps a house like natural light, so in the moments before an open house pull back the drapes, open the blinds and let the sunlight in, says Sean Shallis, senior real estate strategist for The Shallis Group. As you're completing your walk-through, turn on the lights in every room (including bathrooms and closets). That will allow potential buyers to see clearly and it creates a welcoming, open feel to the home.
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2. Clean up

Spotless is the word to remember. It sounds simple, but many people forget that even the smallest mess can throw off a potential buyer. Do a quick walk-through before the open house and make sure that kitchen and bathroom counters are cleared and wiped. Toss any extra clutter lying around. Dirty laundry? Purses? Books? Toys? Throw them under the bed or in a dedicated space in the garage. Just keep clutter away from buyers' eyes.

3. Enhance curb appeal

Never underestimate the power of curb appeal. That means making sure that the front of the house is bright and welcoming. For Staley, it's as simple as a last-minute sweep of the front porch and driveway, and a quick look for spiderwebs or dirt at any windows that flank the entrance. "As a Realtor, it is such a pleasure to walk in the front door of a home that says, 'Welcome! Come on in!' as soon as you walk up the sidewalk," she adds.

4. Set the scene

Even an immaculate home can up its "wow" factor with small touches in the minutes before an open house. Soft music and a well-set dining room table can warm up the house and help buyers picture themselves living there. Something that won't? Pets. Staley, a self-proclaimed animal-lover, is quick to remind her clients that not everyone feels the same way. Make sure pets are securely locked away or, even better, out for a long walk.

5. Get out of the house

If you're working with a Realtor, almost every agent will tell you the same thing: It's never a good idea for the seller to be home during an open house. So find a way to leave the house before buyers arrive. If you're selling your home yourself, be aware of what you say to potential buyers during a showing. There's no need to spew every detail about the house unless the buyers ask. In fact, Shallis suggests, have a friend or family member show the home. "As the owner, it's almost impossible not to oversell your home," he says. Though they may seem basic, it's little details in the eleventh hour that can make a difference in the speed of the sale and, ultimately, the final selling price. "Dirty, dark, cluttered homes can sell," says Staley. "But if they are brightened, lightened, cleaned, and decluttered with some sense of pride of ownership displayed, they will sell for so much more."


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