What I’ve Learned From Visiting 100-Plus Open Houses in a Year

I’ve been house hunting for over a year (and counting) and visited over a hundred open houses in that time. Let me be clear: I’m not some overly picky real estate window shopper, because I have made offers, and been outbid. In New York City, where I’m looking, that’s just par for the course.

Still, though, my experiences have turned me into an open house aficionado of sorts. I know what makes buyers swoon (myself and others), as well as what repels buyers the moment they set foot inside.

So if you’re a home seller who hopes to bowl over buyers rather than send them running, I’m here to help. Let me tell you about a few things I’ve learned that could kill your chances of selling your home.

Personal quirks on display

Steak sauce, mustard, and hot sauce. These condiments were not in the kitchen (as one would expect) but on a dresser in a bedroom of an open house I attended in Queens. Right then and there, I knew I had to get out of the house. Who knows what was going on there, but it was just too weird for me to stick around and ponder the possibilities.

“First impressions matter,” says Gary Malin, president of the New York brokerage firm Citi Habitats. “Remember, you want the prospective buyer’s attention to be on the home, not your personal life.”

Remove all personal items, including family photos, unusual collectibles, memorabilia, and misplaced condiments.

Hovering home sellers (or their kids)

At an open house in Brooklyn, there was also a surprise in the bedroom: I walked in to find cute kids under the covers half-asleep. Granted, these kids weren’t there alone; their parents were lingering, too. But adult supervision or not, all these family members nearby made me want to flee, because I felt like I was intruding on their personal space.

“Home sellers often make the mistake of leaving their place too late and returning too soon,” says Aaron Hendon, an agent for Christine & Company with Keller Williams in Seattle.

A well-advertised open house will attract people early, and there will definitely be people arriving just as the agent is locking up. So plan on getting everyone up and out of bed an hour before the open house starts.

Dark, dusty rooms

A three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo I checked out in the suburban county of Westchester was spacious, but very dark. The windows were covered not only by lace curtains, but also by valances and vertical blinds. It felt less like a home and more like the inside of a crypt. I tried to open the curtains to get a sense of what the room would look like with Vitamin D. But there were too many window coverings to remove, and I could manage to let in only one ray of sun. Then I gave up and got out.

“The aim is to get as much natural light as possible and then turn on every lamp,” says Ashley Baillio of the Keyes Company in Florida.

She also recommends dusting blinds. If you don’t, the light will catch the dust and make the whole house appear dirty.

Cluttered closets and drawers

Open houses are all about strangers opening and closing things—closet doors, kitchen cabinets and drawers. I recall one apartment I instantly loved and was ready to make an offer on—until I opened the kitchen pantry. There were products in there with packaging I recognized from my childhood … at my grandmother’s house. It was only then that I realized the house actually needed a ton of work and had not been updated at all since the 1980s.

Bottom line: Every detail of your house resonates with buyers. Yet Linda Bettencourt of Sotheby’s International Realty in San Francisco often gets pushback on this topic.

“Clients will say, ‘People don’t care what my closet looks like!'” says Bettencourt.

But buyers do care, and all the details they glean help them form an opinion of your property

“Rather than remembering the beautiful skylight, they remember the medicine cabinet with a leaking bottle of Jean Naté body wash from 1983,” she adds.

Lack of snacks (As a Realtor this part made me laugh (just so you know – I provide snacks  – Sabrina)

There’s something about a platter of baked goods that makes people like me go wild. Think cookies and small bottles of water. (You may want to skip baking the cookies yourself, which can make savvy buyers think you are trying to conceal funky odors.)

“Refreshments are a nice touch,” says Baillio. After all, going to an open house takes effort—sometimes I went to several a day. When an open house offered a little snack to greet visitors, I would be in a better frame of mind when testing the water pressure in the shower. Having no snacks is not necessarily a deal killer; but in general, I’ve noticed that the better open houses tend to have something to nosh on, perhaps because they were managed by people who paid attention to details.

Cloth booties

At the last open house I went to a few weeks ago, the agent had visitors put on cloth booties to protect the floor. This is fairly standard procedure, but this house had steep, narrow stairs. Two potential buyers slipped on the staircase within 20 minutes. I pictured myself buying the house, only to fall to my death as I went downstairs for coffee. So as much as I liked the home, I didn’t make an offer that day. My husband made me tour the home again, sans booties. And after discovering the stairs were safe if you didn’t wear slippery booties, I fell in love and made an offer.

In this case, at least, I learned a lesson: First impressions can be deceptive. So if no one’s swooning over your open house immediately, don’t obsess about what you’ve done wrong. Sooner or later, the right buyer will come along.

By Margaret Heidenry

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4 Ways to Supercharge Your House Hunt — and Get Your Sundays Back

It’s that time of year again – Spring is right around the corner, homes are coming on the market and Sunday’s are getting busy again!   I enjoy reading and sharing Tara’s blog on Trulia.  So I thought I would share this great article regarding how to make the best of your open house weekends.  And if you have any real estate questions – I’d be happy to help – The Caton Team is always here a call or click away.  Enjoy…

4 Ways to Supercharge Your House Hunt — and Get Your Sundays Back

Every buyer-to-be uses open houses differently. For some, they offer a rich looky-look experience at the very, very beginning of their house hunt. This empowers you to learn exactly what sort of place you can get for the money, at various price points and various spots around town. It also allows brand new buyers to figure out how the photos you see online translate into real world, brick and mortar (and stucco and hardwood) properties.

At the other end of the spectrum, serious buyers often use Open Houses as a convenient opportunity to meet up with their agent and cruise through a large number of interesting homes at one time every week without having to go through the rigmarole of setting appointments with every single seller.

Whether you’ve just decided that buying a home is something you want to do or you are a seasoned, serious buyer waiting for that moment when “the one” hits the market, supercharge your Open House hours. See more properties that are real contenders and minimize time-wasting with these four tactical tricks:

1. Prep yourself. Sure, you can just hop in the car, drive around and look for signs. If your market is very active, you can even find an interesting house or two that way. Or you can maximize your time, conserve your energy and make sure you see as many real contenders as possible in a couple of hours on the weekend by doing a little bit of digital research to create a power-packed Open House viewing session.

On the newly beautified Trulia app, you can take a look at any point on the map and see a birds-eye-view of the properties for sale, their list prices and which of them have an upcoming Open House. Tap on any property’s flag to see the property’s photo and a few of the most important details (price, address, bedrooms, and bathrooms), while still seeing the map view. For even more info, tap the image of the home you’re interested in and browse all of its relevant stats, including more pictures.  If a home isn’t checking enough of your “must-have” boxes, cross it off your Open House list for the weekend and pat yourself on the back for saving some serious time. If it is, add it to your calendar right from the app.

Tired of driving around different neighborhoods trying to determine if they’re a good fit for your family? Where’s the nearest grocery store? What’s that shady-looking character doing on the street corner? Now you can do it digitally. View the map of your target areas through a number of helpful lenses, like where schools and restaurants are located, or where crime rates are lowest. With these tools at your disposal, you’ll spend less time pounding the pavement so you can have more of your weekend back.

2. Align with your agent to create an Open House viewing list. Via the app, share the properties that you think you’d like to visit on the weekend with your agent. Ask them to do the same, sharing any properties they think you should view at Open House time with you. Then, check in via phone or email to firm up the list so they can plan out an efficient map, do some deep dive research into any property-specific questions you have in advance, and to make sure you don’t have any surprises in the form of places you really wanted to see that don’t make your agent’s list for whatever reason. Do the prep work and get on the same page with your agent in advance. It’ll make your two hours of Open House Hunting as productive as a less well-prepared buyer’s two weeks worth.

One more thing. Making sure your agent knows you are really excited about a particular property at Open House time allows them to touch base with the listing agent and let them know you might have some interest. That way, if they happen to get an offer from another buyer between the time you mention the place to your agent and Open House time, your agent will probably get a call. This prevents you from getting the awful surprise that happens when a great place goes into contract before you can see it.

3. Take notes, and compare them. After every home you see, spend a moment taking down some notes – ideally in writing or on your app – that just help you remember which property features went with which address/price/listing. Once you’ve seen 5 or 10 or 25 homes, they begin to blur, and it often comes up that you’ll want to look back and reference a particular home you visited in a later conversation with your agent or your partner. Having a few notes on your initial impressions, questions, concerns, loves and dislikes about each property prevents you from being frustrated when you later want to have a conversation about it.

Ideally, after each property you see or, at the latest, at the end of your Open House tour on a given day, you’ll also take and compare your notes about the properties you saw that day. I suggest listing out the good (what you liked), the bad (what you disliked), the ugly (any serious deal-killers) and then also the great elements for each property. Think of the great as being akin to clicking the Facebook “Like” button for a property, if that Like button were amped up to “Love.” The Great are those features – or combination of features – so strong that the property is something you’d consider writing an offer on.

The goal here is three-fold:

▪   to give you the ability to compare properties without relying 100% on memory.

▪   to allow you to give substantive feedback to your agent that will help them help you prioritize new listings as they come on the market and learn what you are looking for at a nuanced level

▪   to allow you to compare notes at the end of each Open House Hunting session with your agent or your partner (whoever you’re buying the property with), and to be able to compare pros, cons and takeaways substantively, rather than just saying you liked it or disliked it.

4. Use Open Houses as a screening tool. Here’s the other thing that taking good Open House viewing notes on each property does: it helps you narrow down all the places that looked kind of interesting to a short list for second takes. Good notes, organized by Great, Good, Bad and Ugly can help if you were hypnotized by beautiful staging or turned off unduly by ugly, easily fixable cosmetics. If you love a place, but it still has a lot of bad or ugly line items, or you dislike a place that actually has a lot of “Great” things about it, you can ask your agent to arrange for a private, second viewing before making an offer or totally crossing it off the list.

Communication with your Realtor is so important!  We cannot read your mind and the more we know about what you want – the better we are prepared to find your dream home!

I read this article at:  http://tips.truliablog.com/2014/02/4-ways-to-supercharge-your-house-hunt/?ecampaign=cnews&eurl=tips.truliablog.com%2F2014%2F02%2F4-ways-to-supercharge-your-house-hunt%2F

Remember to follow our Blog at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522  Office:  650-365-9200

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  http://thecatonteam.com/mobileapp

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Connect with us professionally at LinkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=6588013&trk=tab_pro

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE#70000218/ 01499008