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How to Show Your Home for Sale

Aug 17, 2007
When buyers make an appointment to see your home they have already made several important decisions. They have selected your neighborhood as a possible location. Your lot and exterior style appeals to them. Your price is within their range. If the floor plan and interior style works for them, and if the buyers feel a sense of trust in your home, they will move to the contract stage. Here are some tips to help you make the most of this important step in the sale of your home - the showing.

1. Showing Appointments

Homes may be shown by appointment with the Realtor, appointment with the owner, or by using the house key placed in a lockbox. The lockbox is a popular system in many areas, and facilitates showings by all members of the local Multiple Listing Board. To arrange a showing, agents must first call your home or cell number. If you do not answer, they may leave a message, and proceed with the showing. Most lockboxes record the agent's identity and time of showing. Whether your home is shown by special appointment or by the lockbox system, the objective is to make your home easy to show to potential buyers. This is your first contact with the buyer, and you should make them feel welcome in your home.

When you receive a call from a Realtor for a showing, keep in mind that he/she is showing lots of homes, and it is difficult to set precise times. Be flexible on the timing, and allow a window of one hour for arrival, if possible. If you are going to be at home, you may ask the Realtor to alert you when they are 15 minutes away. You may occasionally receive a last minute call, with the visitors already in your driveway. If you are prepared for a showing, invite them to come in. If you are not ready, let the Realtor know that you need some time to prepare. Always thank Realtors for trying to show your home. You need them to come back!

2. Consider Children & Pets

If you have children it is very important to educate them on the showing procedure. They should know that real estate agents will be calling for appointments to show their home, and they should know how to respond. If they are at home by themselves during the day, they will need to let in the agent and buyers, and vacate the house during the showing. They may wait in the backyard or go to a neighbor's house. Televisions and video games should be turned off. Hopefully, they will know how to tidy up the kitchen. Children must know that an advance phone call by the agent is required for a showing. They must not allow entry to anyone who comes to the door without an agent.

Pets pose special problems for showings. If pets are left in the home during the day, leave a note alerting the agents that a pet is in the house. Give instructions as to how your pets should be handled. For example, "Cat must not be allowed outdoors." Often pets are fearful or uncertain about strangers entering the house when you are not home. Many people are afraid of (or allergic to) pets, and are not happy to encounter them in the house. It would be best to crate your pets during showings, place them in a restricted area, such as the laundry room, or take them out of the house. Keep in mind that a great variety of people may enter your home, including children. If there is any uncertainty as to how your pets will react to strangers, you should remove them from your home during showings.

3. Provide Lots of Information

Have brochures laid out on a table for prospective buyers. Anticipate the information that would interest your buyers. Examples are: a copy of your survey or floor plan, photos of neighborhood amenities, school information, neighborhood newsletter, nearby country club, golf course, etc. Answer their questions early. Remember, prospective homeowners are choosing a home and community - a lifestyle.

4. Don't Hang Around

Do not be present for the showing. Sit outside or run an errand. When you are there, buyers may feel that they are intruding. They will not discuss changes they might make to your home, or how they would use the space. This could limit the time spent in your home. Never take over the showing or attempt to sell your house. You do not know the buyer's special interests, and may inadvertently turn them off. Remember that this not a social visit. Buyers need to make an emotional commitment to your home. They usually need some quiet time to experience your home and sense how they would enjoy living there. Your presence is distracting and inhibiting to potential buyers.

5. Appeal to Buyers With Sights, Sounds and Scents

People gather impressions about your house from all senses - sight, sound and smell. Improve your home's appeal to all senses. Leave blinds open, and consider removing some screens. Natural light sells houses! Increase the sizes of your bulbs if the light is dim in certain areas. Put on some instrumental music, but keep it very low and mellow. Do not leave televisions on. Have the temperature cool in summer and warm in winter. Use pleasant scents, such as candles or potpourri. An unpleasant odor will have a very negative impact on a buyer's reaction to your home. In particular, cigarettes and pet odors are a turn-off. Do not try to mask an unpleasant smell with another smell. Work toward a clean, fresh smell.

6. Have a Safe Showing

Keep in mind that the public will be entering your home, and consider their safety and yours. Do you have rugs, wires or small toys that could be stumbled over? Buyers should be able to move easily from room to room. You may need to remove some furniture to keep traffic patterns open. Leave your stairs completely free of clutter. Replace any missing handrails. Remove valuable objects from tables where they may be accidentally bumped. If you use candles for a nice scent, do not leave them burning when you leave the house. Do not leave money, guns, medicines, jewelry, x rated magazines or any personal items in public view. Consider your security, and the buyer's safety as you prepare your home for viewing.

7. Set the Stage

Consider using a staging service to help you present your home. It should be perfectly clean and clutter free. Homes generally look better with furniture, but they must not appear crowded. Your furniture and accessories should give your home a very general appeal. Avoid strong political, personal or artistic statements. The focal point should be the house, rather than your family. Use decorative objects, such as pillows, framed photographs, books, fresh towels and flowers. Create a mood with natural and lamp lighting and soft music. The goal is to make potential buyers feel that they could move right in. Home buying is an emotional process. You must build a sense of trust and attachment to your home during the short time that buyers are in your home. They must positively imagine themselves enjoying your home and gardens.

Showing your home is an important part of the sales process. You only have a short time to gain the buyer's interest in your home. Their time in your home should be handled with care and respect for their time. Each showing is important. Remember, you only need one buyer, but you don't know which one.
About the Author
Roselind Hejl is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker United in Austin, Texas. Her website - http://www.weloveaustin.com - offers homes for sale, market trends, buyer and seller guides. Austin Texas Real Estate Guide
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