First impressions can apply to property as well as people.
As the busy spring season kicks off in real estate, many salespeople will be hosting or assisting at open houses. Make sure that the property you are showcasing appears at its best and you will likely expedite a faster, smoother closing sale.
Anna Vozza of Windsor, a real estate salesperson with 12 years of experience, has developed a checklist to ensure that her open houses are seen to their best advantage.
“When I plan an open house for a client, I try to take the same care and time that I would if it were my own house,” says Vozza, also a member of the Ontario Real Estate Association board of directors and past president of the Windsor-Essex County Association of REALTORS®.
“There’s nothing like walking into a crisp, clean house,” she says. “Before I arrange the open house, I try to think what qualities would make this property appealing to me and what could be improved, and then I take the steps to apply that. Otherwise, you aren’t giving the home the best exposure that you can.”
Advertising in advance and making use of technology and social media to share details of your open house are also vital, says Vozza. “The potential buyer is no longer just the person driving through the neighbourhood on a Sunday afternoon or looking for open houses in the local paper,” she notes. “Many people now use technology as part of their search and this is the future. Now that the internet and social media are with us, we must use those tools to communicate with consumers and with other REALTORS®.”
Before throwing open the doors to potential buyers, she advises home sellers, brokers and salespeople to use the following checklist:
De-clutter. This can't be overemphasized. A cluttered home is a turnoff to most buyers. It's also potentially dangerous: you don't want people injured as they navigate through the clutter. And don't stuff everything into cabinets and closets -- people will be looking there to assess storage capacity. Either get rid of it or store it offsite.
Clean up. This goes beyond everyday cleaning like dusting, sweeping and scrubbing the bathtub. Think “deep clean”. Carpets should be steam-cleaned, drapes washed or dry cleaned, upholstery vacuumed and shampooed, if necessary. Attend to often-ignored areas – the top of the fridge, cobwebbed corners and the interiors of cabinets and ovens. The bathroom and kitchen should be spotless. A maid service is a worthwhile investment to get the best offer.
Get a check-up. Consider having a pre-listing home inspection report prepared. Potential buyers can examine it, noting repairs you've made over time and easing their mind about the property.
Revive and repair. A fresh coat of light, neutral paint is practically obligatory. If you have decent hardwood underneath grungy or out-dated carpet, get rid of the carpet and refinish the floors. Take care of scuffed woodwork, ripped wallpaper, water damage and exposed wiring. Half-finished home improvement projects deter buyers; complete any such projects if possible.
Enhance curb appeal. Most buyers form conclusions about a property from the curb. Cast the same critical eye on your home's exterior. Does the roof need repair? Are the gutters overflowing with debris? Does the front lawn look like a junkyard? Does the driveway need sealing? Make any necessary improvements. Try buying a new doormat and decorate with some container plants.
Lawn and order. If you haven't paid attention to landscaping, it's too late to start planting trees. Prune, trim and weed whatever you have. Consider having a professional landscape plan done, which may help buyers envision potential for the home. Don't forget interior landscaping: if you have no healthy house plants, buy a few attractive specimens and locate them strategically around the house. Dump any dead or dying plants.
Depersonalize. Put away family photos, children's artwork, trophies, pet toys, etc., to help buyers imagine themselves in your home. Clear all the junk off the fridge; the kitchen will look bigger and cleaner.
Take the sniff test. Check for off-putting odours that can cost you a sale. Advise your clients that you (or a trusted friend or neighbour) can help identify bad smells in the home. Common culprits include cigarette smoke, laundry, bathroom mould and mildew, garbage cans, musty basement, cooking smells, litter boxes and other pet paraphernalia. Don't attempt to cover up bad smells with deodorizers and air fresheners -- address the problem.
Light up your life. Check that every fixture in the house has a working light bulb of the maximum safe wattage. Clean all the windows so buyers can appreciate the brightness of the rooms.
Get it out of sight. Before allowing strangers to tour your home, stash all valuables in safe places. Jewellery, cameras, credit cards, ID, medications and other small, easily pocketed items should be locked away. Remove fragile items from harm's way. Make sure that the insurance policy is up-to-date.
Following these tips will help you to maximize the impact of your open house and ideally move you closer to a sale.