Six Steps to Hosting a DIY Open House

Tips for marketing and showing your home for sale when going FSBO.

By: Annalisa Burgos

         Assuming you've already decided to sell your house yourself -- or go FSBO -- rather than hire a real estate agent, keep in mind that preparing, marketing and showing your home take time and research.

Many real estate agents question an open house's effectiveness to actually close a sale and rather use the event to meet potential clients. "Less than 4 percent of home sales have been through an open house," says Chris Edwards, a Realtor in North Carolina.

But for FSBOs who may not have the time or flexibility to take weekday appointments and host private tours, the open house may be the only way to get potential buyers through the door. That said, you don't want to sit around on a Sunday afternoon waiting for people to come by.

Follow these six steps to hosting your own successful open house:

Step 1: Check out the competition
Visit other open houses in your neighborhood and surrounding areas. See how other homes are staged and listen to what the real estate agents say. Make note of the features they point out -- they know what today's buyers are looking for. As you walk through, try to listen to buyers' reactions.

Open houses are traditionally held on non-holiday Sundays. Find out when nearby homes are holding open houses, so you can benefit from the foot traffic.

Step 2: Prepare a property description sheet
Real estate agents hand out property description sheets to everyone who attends the open house. You should to. Collect the following information:

  • Property address
  • Asking price
  • Your contact info (including a URL to your Web site or online ad)
  • Brief description of the property
  • Exterior and interior photos
  • Maintenance or HOA fees (if applicable)
  • Real estate taxes
  • Total square footage
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Appliances that are included
  • Outdoor spaces
  • Any special features (fireplace, finished basement, etc.)
  • Recent upgrades you made
  • Neighborhood amenities (shopping, recreation, freeways, public transportation, etc.)
  • School information

You can use programs like Microsoft Word to design a simple and clear flyer. Remember to have plenty of copies available.

The property description sheet will come in handy when creating your listing and online ads.

Step 3: Prepare and stage the home

You've probably heard of "staging" -- the process of preparing a home for sale via de-cluttering, depersonalizing and neutralizing, among other techniques. Keep these in mind:

  • Your home must be spotless and clutter-free. Model homes get offers. Dirty homes get lowball offers or none at all.
  • Fix what's broken.
  • Make smart updates based on what buyers want and what's standard for your neighborhood.
  • Place furniture in such a way to maximize the spacious feel of every room.
  • Learn the four steps to making your home open-house ready.

Step 4: Spread the word
Top real estate agents tap their extensive networks to target buyers and get them into their clients' houses. Unless you too are well-connected, getting the word out about your open house can be a challenge. Try these tips:

  • Tell relatives, friends, neighbors and colleagues that your home is on the market. Use all methods of communication: phone, email, postcards, etc.
  • Tap into your social networks, including schools, churches, community groups and online services like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Place a professionally printed "for sale" sign and a flyer holder in your front yard so passersby can pick up a property description sheet.
  • Create a Web site to promote your house for sale.
  • Advertise online on Craigslist.org, FSBO help sites and your local newspaper and community sites.
  • Post flyers on public bulletin boards at grocery stores, gyms and workplaces.
  • Include quality interior and exterior photos in all promotional material.
  • Post a video tour of your home on a video sharing site like YouTube.
  • Advertise in your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
  • On open house day, place signs at nearby intersections to direct people to your home.

Step 5: Be a gracious host
Normally, buyers are turned off by a seller hanging around the open house, but when you're a FSBO, they expect to work directly with you. The key is to maintain a professional attitude and give them the freedom to see the place on their own. Also:

  • If you have pets, consider leaving them with a friend or a boarding house for the day.
  • Hide all valuables, medication and other personal items.
  • Prepare a sign-in sheet for guests to fill out their name, phone number and email address.
  • Greet each guest with a smile, hand them a property sheet and point out the most attractive features of the home.
  • Invite guests to tour the home at their leisure and offer to answer any questions they may have.
  • Get feedback from each guest, including their level of interest in the home, other homes they've seen and how the home is priced compared to others on the market.
  • Offer light refreshments, such as cookies and bottled water.

Step 6: Follow up
The day after the open house, send a "Thank You" email to everyone who attended the open house with a link to your Web site or online ad.

Within the following week, call each person and ask if they have any questions about the house and if they are considering it. If not, thank them and ask if they have any suggestions on how to make the house attractive to other buyers.

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