How To Host the Best Open House Ever

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If you're trying to sell your house, especially in this market, you need to know how to make sure the open house is a success.

Lance Mohr recalls an open house when he was helping an interested couple tour through the home. The owner, an elderly woman, walked with them and as Mohr showed off the nice-sized master bedroom to the potential buyers, the old woman looked wistfully through the doorway and said, "This is the room where my husband died."

"Everything got quiet, the energy was sucked out of the room and the couple quickly left," said Mohr. "I thought, 'Why didn't I send her to the movies for the afternoon?'"

Open houses have become somewhat controversial in the real estate world in recent years. Many professionals question their usefulness now that many prospective buyers can search through homes and see video tours online. However, others believe that nothing will replace the American tradition of trudging out on a weekend and roaming neighborhoods you like while on the lookout for those colorful flags and "Open House" signs.

"You can get an idea online, but it's an entirely different experience when you visit the home," says Los Angeles real estate agent Steve Dixon. "Ideally, the open house is really designed for 'looky-loos.' You want people to picture themselves living there, which is hard to do on a computer screen."

In the real estate market of today, sellers want to see their homes sell quickly, which isn't a given. Your realtor may be an experienced pro at selling homes in your neighborhood, but is there anything you can do to push the sale along during the open house? Here are some tips that contribute to a successful open:

Pick It Up

It might seem obvious, but many people forget to clean. Have your cleaning service do a thorough job the day before the open and don't host a party to watch the fights the night before.

Although potential buyers are technically more interested in your square footage and how their faux-French armoire will fit in the den, when they see cardboard boxes of books you never got around to shelving and a coffee table that's been turned into a catch-all, they're not going to be smiling.

And how are your windows? Spring for a professional cleaning if they haven't been done in a while.

Hide It

They may be well-meaning potential buyers, but open house visitors can also be thieves. Place any jewelry, cash or other pocketable valuables into a safe or a well-hidden spot. Also, hide your credit card and bank statements or any other forms that can be taken to steal your identity. Don't forget to put away prescription medication.

Check It

A good real estate pro will put the open house flags around the busier streets directing people to your place, but if there's more than one entrance to your neighborhood, it's not a bad idea to map it out with him or her to make sure you've got all the big streets covered.

Go Away

As much as you might like to hang around and hear what people say about your house, head to the movies or use the time to check out opens in other neighborhoods just for kicks. It looks more professional when it's just the agent working and potential buyers may be a little intimidated checking out the pantry size or walk-in closet if the owner is hovering steps away.

See if a neighbor can keep your dog in their backyard, since a snarling pooch doesn't exactly say, "Welcome to your new home!"

Finally, after the open house is over and you return, don't push the realtor about whether a sale is likely to result tomorrow because of it.

"It's pretty rare, especially in this market to find people want to buy a house immediately after seeing it," says Mohr. "They want to put some thought into it. Good real estate deals can take time, and we've just got to present the home the best way we know how."

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