Real estate agents offer the following suggestions for sellers planning open houses and for those coming to open houses to look.
For sellers – Have the house in tip-top shape – clean, repaired, uncluttered and maximally appealing. Ed Anderson of Great Minneapolis Real Estate said the house should look as if it’s just been cleaned professionally and the owners are out of town.
“The house should be made to look as close as possible to a model home,” said Win Naughton of RE/MAX Real Estate Guide in Bloomington.
– Children and pets should be elsewhere so people can concentrate on the property, not activity, Naughton said. “Remove most of the personal stuff” so buyers will look at the house, not the photos or possessions, she said. “Have some fresh flowers, make sure the house is odor-free. Make sure there’s nothing to bar free flow of traffic, and turn on every light. You want the home to look as bright and cheerful as possible.”
– Then leave for the duration. “Definitely, the seller should be gone because the person coming through who’s at all interested will feel very uncomfortable looking in the closets, the cupboards,” Naughton said. “And they won’t ask the questions they really should because they’ll be afraid of offending. . . . People will look in closets to see how big they are. If they don’t look there, they’re not seriously interested, they’re looking for decorating ideas. When we know somebody is interested is they’re getting into the details.”
Burnet Realtor Dean Trampe said that people who gripe about something in the house are seriously interested, “because they see themselves coping with it.”
Bob Glancy, a Burnet agent, said that some buyer remarks might offend owners but may be small matters easily handled by the real estate agent.
– Put all valuables away and ask that the agent have a guest register. The agent probably will do this anyway; it’s some protection against theft, although people sometimes give phony names, perhaps so they won’t be called by the agent. Naughton said the National Association of Realtors has suggested agents ask to see driver’s licenses or other identification.
– Put the toilet seat down.
For buyers – If you have signed an exclusive buyer-representation agreement with an agent, and he or she is not with you, tell the agent holding the open house right away. That will set relationships straight and prevent problems later.
Remember that the agent holding the open house represents the seller. Naughton said that even unwitting signs of interest can give the seller extra negotiating power. She recommended going to the house with your agent to avoid giving away advantage. “If you get all excited and disclose things, they’re required to disclose those things to the seller, and that could affect the price you pay.”
– Don’t smoke in the house.
– If you’re a neighbor who’s just curious, go on in. Not all agents may feel the same about this, but they thrive on contacts; neighbors have friends or relatives who might want to buy, and some agents even invite neighbors.
– If you have young children, have them under control.
“Hold your children by the hand,” Naughton said. “Children can be destructive or get into something that the parent doesn’t want them to do. The property is the seller’s.”
– Sign in and take an information sheet. Feel free to ask questions it doesn’t answer.
– Common courtesy is in order, Naughton said. Buyers “have a right to look into anything that’s a structural part of the house: Closets are OK, but medicine cabinets is going too far.” You may be asked to remove your shoes, especially if it’s wet outside, the carpet is light-colored or the floors are especially nice. And while this delicate matter may not be encouraged, Glancy said he’s never refused to let any open-house visitor use the toilet.