First Person: What Worked and Didn’t Work for Our Open Houses and Home Showings

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While the real estate market has reportedly come back strong in certain areas of the country, it isn't this way everywhere. And even for areas with a strong recovery, it doesn't necessarily mean that open houses and home showings still aren't integral parts of the home sale process.

Having things together and creating a plan for how to show a home in the best possible light can mean the difference between a quick sale and a prolonged period on the market. In an effort to help others avoid some of the missteps we made with our most recent home sale, here are a few of the things that we found worked -- or didn't work -- when showing our home to prospective buyers.

Do: Advertise

Advertising -- and advertising in the correct way -- can be a huge element in getting people into a home that's for sale. While it may be tempting these days to just throw a listing up on the Internet and hope people will find their way to seeing the home, sometimes it's just not enough. An Internet listing can certainly be a critical part to getting people to open houses or a showing, but so is old-fashioned advertising by way of signs.

When we listed our home for sale, we noticed that open house traffic was very low. Even though our open houses were listed on the Internet, we just weren't getting the flow of people we desired. Then we found out our real estate agent wasn't putting an "open house" sign at the super-busy thoroughfare right by our home. Once she did, our traffic numbers went up and the people that finally bought our home did so because of that sign pointing out our open house.

Do: Stage

We went through many trials and tribulations when it came to staging our home for sale. Trying to decide whether to set the home up as a three bedroom, two bathroom home with an office, or a four bedroom, two bathroom home was just one aspect of our staging dilemma. No matter the issue though, we made efforts to set the stage (no pun intended) for an appealing layout for buyers.

From cleaning and decluttering, to moving in a borrowed flat-screen television, moving extra beds into an empty bedroom area to make it feel more "lived in", and similar staging tactics, we were able to make our home feel "homey" without making it feel cluttered or giving too much of a personal touch.

Do: Follow Up

As we've found over the years, not all real estate agents are created equal; and just because we expected our agent to follow up in a timely manner with those who passed through our home, it didn't always mean that this was what happened.

A real estate agent may or may not always be on the ball, but it was our home on the market, so we made sure that we did our best to keep her on the ball. We typically followed up with our agent not only the day of or day after the showing or open house, but in another 48 to 72 hours when there were interested parties involved. While we didn't want to be pushy, we felt that letting prospective buyers linger only gave them more time to see options other than our home.

Don't: Try Last-minute DIY Projects

While it might seem like making those last-minute adjustments to a home could really make it shine, they could also backfire…big time! Sometimes, if time is short before a showing or open house, it might just be better to leave that clogged drain or cracked floor tile alone until later.

I learned this the hard way.

Right before a third showing (yes, the same people were coming back a third time), a poorly draining floor drain in our basement caught my eye. I didn't want the potential buyers to think there was a problem with drainage in our home, so with a couple hours until the showing, I went to work. I used some drain cleaner and it raised one of the biggest stinks (literally) I've ever smelled. Our entire house smelled like rotten eggs! Try as we might (we opened windows, sprayed air freshener, put the air conditioning on to vent the house) the stinky smell stuck around. The potential buyers smelled it of course and wondered if we had a sewer problem. Needless to say, they didn't buy.

So when it comes to open houses and showing, the home sale battle could be won or lost depending upon how a home is presented. Bearing this in mind can make a huge difference in the amount of time a home sits on the market as well as the amount of money spent to carry it along the way.

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The author is not a licensed financial or real estate professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, financial or real estate advice. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.


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