Be Prepared for Open House

Open the doors and buyers shall come -- but first, prepare!

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Article Courtesy of RE/MAX, Copyright 2009 Realty Times®

If your home is on the market, chances are your agent will at some point hold an open house. This can be a great way to drive buyer traffic to your home. But most often, buyers are inspired to physically view your home because of a picture they've seen on the Internet.

"I have developed a proprietary way to build layers into a room to give that depth when you're putting the photo on the Web site," says Christine Rae, owner of Certified Staging Professionals (CSP) and co-author of Home Staging For Dummies.

"Curb appeal starts on the Internet, so it's very important to make the pictures of your home attractive," she says. "You have two drive-bys." And if the Internet picture doesn't sell your home, you might not ever get the buyers to actually do a physical drive-by and come inside your home.

Once you entice buyers with an eye-catching picture, you have to keep up the good work.

"Everywhere the eye rests, the sale begins. So that means everything counts: floors, walls, ceilings, windows, the stuff outside, inside, cleanliness, attention to detail," Rae says.

"To me, the biggest mistake people make is thinking that good enough is good enough. It isn't - not any more. Sellers say to me, 'I can't be bothered to do all of this stuff.' I say, 'You know what? The buyer can't be bothered either.' So if the seller can't be bothered to do all of these things, why should buyers trade their old houses for your old house? There are lots of other options out there. It's a very competitive marketplace," Rae says.

"The buyer is expecting something fantastic and if you've got anything less than a fantastic-looking property, you're less likely to get the offer that you're looking for," Rae says.

Rae shares a few tricks of the trade to help you before the open house.

Target Your Buyers

Determine which buyers are most likely to buy your home, and target them. That means paying attention to economic trends in your market. Also, when advertising, feature the items that are likely to attract the targeted buyers.

"One of the biggest demographics that you have in the U.S. is the Hispanic demographic; 40 percent of the homebuyers are going to be Hispanic. You have a cultural difference in the way that culture lives, buys, and lives in homes," Rae says. If you think that group might be interested in your home, consider learning more about how to make your home more appealing to them from an agent who routinely works with the Hispanic market.

Energy Efficiency Can Help Sell Your Home

"Any time you can bring light into a house, that is going to make people feel good," Rae says.

That's why agents typically open curtains and blinds and turn on all the lights before a showing. It's a simple thing to replace all your light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs. "By 2010, North American energy costs are going to rise 50 percent. Who would not want a more energy-efficient home? If you're focusing on energy efficiency, that's going to help the buyer buy your house," Rae says.

Rae says energy-efficient light bulbs in a daylight finish are great for helping show off your home. "Daylight bulbs, when they are placed in retail stores, increase retail sales by 40 percent. That reduces energy costs and increases sales; so doesn't that make sense that it's going to have a dynamic effect when you put it into a domestic home?" Rae says.

Good Sound System? Play Music

"CSP has developed a 'music-for-open house' CD. It's kind of easy listening. You have to target the buyer," Rae says. "It can't be elevator music and it can't be funeral music or rock - generally an easy-listening, good soundtrack lifts spirits. People are always apprehensive when they are looking at houses. They feel like they are prying into somebody else's house. So, make your house not feel like that," Rae says.

Make Buyers Feel Comfortable

Don't cook anything the night before that might permeate the entire house and leave a pungent odor. Put away personal items. Get the dog out of the house and roll out the welcome mat!

"A buyer doesn't want to feel like a guest in your home, so you have to remove anything that would cause any trepidation," Rae says.

Invite Your Neighbors Over for a Preview

Sometimes your neighbors can be the best salespeople. Invite them in to see your home. You never know who your neighbors know. They might have the perfect buyer for your home.

Once the clutter is out, what to do with the stuff you don't want?

A new service - StagersList.com - is attracting shoppers and real estate professionals. The site is a virtual consignment shop that provides resources for REALTORS?, stagers and homeowners. Unwanted items are placed for sale. Many use the site to purchase items that can be helpful for staging while others use it to unload items no longer wanted. Visitors bid on the items.

So, open the doors and invite buyers into your home - not as guests but as potential homeowners - and watch the offers roll in.

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