Open House 101

While I realize staging an Open House has been discussed here in the last few weeks, I feel the need to put my own .02 in for a couple reasons:

1) It’s fall
2) It’s a down market and
3) Some of you must be selling, right?

Open House 101

I’m a bit of a house whore.  To say I’ve been around the real estate block would indeed be an understatement.  I’ve probably seen the insides of more houses (and Open Houses) than most first year realtors.  As such, I can tell you within an easy 2 minutes of entering an Open House whether that owner has staged their house or not.  And often that means I can tell if the seller is serious about moving the house or not. And here it is: FALL.  That dreaded time of year when, if you don’t get a serious bid and soon, your house is gonna sit on the market like a rotting fish from Thanksgiving to well into February ‘tax refund season’ begins.  If this is you, it might be time to think about how you have staged your home.

Staging is not brain surgery. I have often had to be harsh with my selling friends who were not getting offers.  And  sometimes they didn’t like what I told them but when they went back to the basics, they started getting bites.

So without further ado, here are my top staging DO’s and DON’Ts for you sellers out there:

1) DO, for the love of God, remove every single photo of your family.  This is painful – I know it is.  You feel you are somehow shamed if you have to hide the wedding photos of the two of you and all those great vacation photos on the beach with the kids.  Guess what?  Nobody gives a crap.  Nobody wants to see YOUR life in THEIR home, period.   Buyers want to imagine this as their next home and they want to imagine their photos, kids, dogs, and friends surrounding them.  No matter how important the occassion was, a framed photo of Dwyane in his mullet and graduation cap, looking both serious and like the ‘before’ photo on a ProActiv ad, is really gonna kill the mood.  Trust me on this one.  You’re selling the house - so focus on selling it.  Make it your mission.  When you get a buyer on the hook, you can then re-hang your amazing photo colllage in your incredible new house.  But in the meantime, quit being a big sissy and pull down those photos! 

2) DO make the place smell incredible.  I really think people buy with their nose more than any other sense.  Some people bake pies or cookies for their Open House but let’s face it, that’s a HUGE mess and who needs that to deal with when you’re already going insane getting your place ready to be seen by the world?  Get yourself some Glade plug-in air fresheners (all the same type!) and plug them in around your home at least a couple hours beforehand.  If it’s cold and getting colder (September – February), no other smell says “you’re home” like Apple Cinnamon.  If it’s warm or trending toward warmness (for example March – August) stick with something fresh and summery like Fresh Linen or even a good basic Vanilla.  Please don’t choose a different scent for every room.  That’s just distracting.  And don’t choose an overpowering ‘flowery’ fragrance that makes it smell like a teenage girl’s dorm.  Remember guys will be at this Open House too and so will people who will be turned off by ‘strong’ fragrances.  So save that Hawaiian Fantasy and Midnight Embrace for when the Open House is over.  And don’t turn them all on ‘high’ – you don’t want to knock people over when they walk in or make them wonder what strange odors the house normally exudes that cinammon pie is coming out of every available outlet. Please – no overkill. 

3) DO turn on all the lights and open all the window blinds.  This should go without saying but I’ve been in so many houses where you are literally stumbling in the dark, trying to find a light switch, that it’s not even funny anymore.  If you end up selling at your Open House, you will cover the slight increase in the electric bill.  Sheesh!  Let people see what you’re trying to sell – it makes it so much easier on everyone.

4) DO make it look ‘lived in’ yet immaculately clean (just like it never would if you were really living there).  This is harder to grasp but think more Pottery Barn catalog, less an actual Friday movie night with your spouse’s stinky socks on the couch and a bowlful of greasy popcorn kernels  There’s “lived in” (stinky socks) and then there’s how people WANT their house to look lived in (Pottery Barn).   Put lots of nice fluffy textures around: big NEW white towels in the bathroom and big cozy NEW sofa pillows and throws.  Your old ones are threadbare and smell like dog.  You don’t think they do but THEY DO.  Your house is worth the price of a few pillows and towels, isn’t it?   These invite people to come sit, relax, and imagine this gorgeous retreat as their very own.  I have more than once stumbled over some people’s actual dirty laundry and yes I have stumbled over PEOPLE in houses I was looking at – these are both definite no no’s. Which brings me to…

5) DO let your house sell itself.   If you have a Realtor, let the Realtor and the house do the selling.   Seriously.  You can sit outside in your car and watch, if you must, but you absolutely must not be present.   You do not know surprise as a Buyer, until you’ve been happily wandering around a house you want to buy, lusting over the antique heartwood Pine floors, idyllically imaging your life in room after perfect room, only to stumble over a cranky Uncle Joe down in the family room, drinking a beer in his shorts, trying to “watch the game”.  And yes I have run into this scene too.  Don’t let this happen to your Open House.

And while I’m on the theme, here are some great Open Houses to check out this weekend:

313-15 WISCONSIN Ave #1N OAK PARK, IL 60302
Price: $250,000
Beds:  3   
Baths:  1   
Sq. Ft.:  1,500    
$/Sq. Ft.: $167 

106 S RIDGELAND Blvd #303 OAK PARK, IL 60302
Price: $329,000
Beds:  2   
Baths:  2   
Sq. Ft.:  1,296    
$/Sq. Ft.: $254 


255 SOUTH Blvd #21 OAK PARK, IL 60302
Price: $389,000
Beds:  3   
Baths:  2.1   
Sq. Ft.:  2,182    
$/Sq. Ft.: $178 

  • DSeiders

    Excellent advice! Sometimes the house’s best features can be overshadowed by the smallest things. Curb appeal and first impressions are what sell. These 5 steps can make a big difference.