Making the Most Out of Open Houses

When you’re trying to sell your home, you want to engage in all the activities that encourage buyers and none of the activities that don’t. Common sense, right? Then why do I see so many sellers sabotaging the sale of their property when it comes to open houses?

Realtors have many marketing techniques to get your property in front of potential buyers. One of those is open houses. Like anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do open houses. The right way involves the following:

  • Remove a third of your furniture
  • Clean your house until it sparkles
  • Take Fido to your sister’s house (best not to have pets on the property)
  • Make the beds
  • Open the window treatments (curtains, blinds, etc.)
  • Make sure your valuables are in a safe place (Realtors will safeguard your home, but cannot be in all rooms at all times. Don’t leave out jewelry or electronics that someone could easily slip into their pocket.)
  • Mow your lawn and make sure your landscaping looks great
  • Clean the fireplace (If it’s winter, have a fire in the hearth. Otherwise, put a fern in the fireplace for decoration.)
  • Bake cookies before the open house (your house will smell amazing). If you don’t have time to bake cookies, put a drop of vanilla on light bulbs around your house. It will have much the same effect.

Now that you know what you should do, here’s what you shouldn’t do: as the owner, you should NOT be present when people tour your house (either during an open house or a showing). Be anywhere but home. Go to the movies. Go play with Fido at your sister’s house. Go to someone else’s open house. Go ANYWHERE but home.

Clear enough? If you’re wondering why it is so essential not to be present, here are a few reasons:

Your realtor can negotiate for you. Part of negotiation is the art of timing in asking and answering questions. If a potential buyer asks about whether a feature is included in the price (say, a hot tub), the realtor can ask, “Is that important to you?”  If you’re standing right there, the potential buyer will ask you directly and you’ll need to answer. Your realtor can legitimately say, “I don’t know, let me find out,” while probing about what the buyers really want.

Potential buyers feel more comfortable when the owner isn’t around. Many people feel weird rummaging through a closet or poking around someone else’s house when they’re right there.

Realtors are trained in how to respond to criticism, and are not emotionally tied to the property. This is probably the biggest reason owners should not be present during their own open houses. Prospective buyers should feel comfortable objecting to things about the home that they don’t like: a closet is too small or a room is too dark. When realtors hear these objections, they can often turn negatives to positives. If they don’t hear the objections because the property owner is hovering, the issues cannot be aired, and your realtor can’t address them. The last thing you want is a defensive homeowner defending a property’s shortcomings. That’s not a helpful negotiation tactic.

So, go somewhere fun for a few hours and let your realtor do his or her job. You’ll be glad you did.

As you can tell, there is no way for a seller to overcome these issues if they are selling the house themselves. I know this is biased in favor of working with a realtor, but it is also true.

If there’s something you would like me to write about or if you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at or visit our website at If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.

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