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Open house etiquette for home sellers

By George Hadgelias

While there’s lots of advice about how would-be buyers should behave during open houses, there are rules sellers should follow, too. 

A good thing to keep in mind is that most buyers need to forge an emotional connection with a property to seriously consider buying it. And so you should do whatever you can to make that process a little easier.

That means cleaning, temporarily removing animals, and hiding personal possessions. And it means refraining from certain behaviours, too.

Here, we take a look at open house etiquette for sellers.

What you should do before an open for inspection

Evan Williams, a sales executive with Ray White Double Bay, says good agents focus on the “three Ps” in the lead up to an open for inspection – price, presentation, and attracting the right people.

The day of the open, however, brings a whole new set of rules.

1. Keep animals away

Pets don’t belong at an open house, so remove them and clean their mess, Williams says.

“Not everybody loves cats and dogs, and it can be a really big turn-off for somebody that might have an allergy to walk into an open house, smell a dog or cat, and start sneezing at the front door.”

2. Minimise personal items on display

Potential buyers need to be able to imagine their life in the house that’s for sale, and too much of your personal clutter can make this difficult.

Williams therefore recommends “de-personalising” a property as much possible. This means taking family snaps off the fridge and removing any polarising artwork.

3. Add some greenery

Many vendors underestimate the power of greenery in creating a warm and inviting home, according to Williams.

“I think some of my most successful marketing campaigns have been off the back of stunning florals and it’s something I recommend to my vendors,” he says, adding that large chic plants, newly-planted garden beds and floral arrangements all create a “fresh and welcoming vibe” in a home.

4. Keep things neat and tidy

On open day, a property should reflect the polished images used in marketing material, Williams says.

When you’re living in a property while selling it, you need to remember it needs to look the way you’d expect a hotel room to look after room service has been through.

Often, the best way to achieve this look is to book a cleaner between opens.

What you shouldn’t do at an open house

Williams – who holds the record for the highest residential price achieved at auction in Australia, for “Eynesbury” in Edgecliff, which went for $33.25 million in 2017 – says there are a few things vendors shouldn’t do during an open.

1. Don’t hang around or send in spies

It’s just not okay for vendors to stay in the house during an open or send in spies to scope out potential buyers.

“We strongly suggest vendors are not there when we’re showing a property and the simple reason for that is: a buyer needs to feel like they are in the space on their own terms,” says Williams.

“It’s a little like when you’re in a retail shop and the assistant follows you around everywhere you go. A vendor following a buyer around can be tenfold worse.”

2. Don’t hassle the agent

For the duration of the open house, let the agent do their job, Williams says.

“So much of a real estate agent’s job nowadays is about facilitating open homes to get as many people through as possible, and you want to maximise that.”

3. Don’t leave junior staff in charge

Sellers should insist on the lead agent always being present at open houses, not lower-ranked staff, Williams says.

“I have seen situations where junior agents are left holding an iPad at the front door, taking names and numbers. But they often don’t know key things, like the land size, when the owners bought the property, or why they’re selling,” he says.

Such conversations with would-be buyers can make or break a deal and so the lead agent should be having them.

It may seems obvious, but if there is car parking, make sure you leave it free for potential buyers when hosting an open for inspection.

A buyer’s overall experience of a property includes little things like finding a park and the way they enter the home, so it makes sense to streamline everything, to make it as enjoyable and positive as possible.

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