If you’re selling your home for the first time, you might think of the open house as the point at which your Realtor® waits until you leave, turns into a magician and, with a flick of the wrist, completely transforms the place into something out of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing.”
But here’s the truth of it: Your agent isn’t practicing wizardry on the side. And you’re not responsibility-free when it comes to the open house.
In fact, even though you’re not present for the open house (and you never, ever should be, if you want to sell the home), there are still quite a few ways that you can screw it up—and drive away potential buyers.
These seven things will, according to our experts, destroy your chances of a successful open house—and, potentially, the home sale. Are you guilty of them?
1. Leaving your pets behind
This is Fremont, CA, home stager Alice T. Chan’s biggest open house pet peeve.
“That’s an obvious thing,” says Chan, who previously worked as a production designer for HGTV’s “Flip It to Win It” and was co-host and designer for the channel’s “Power Broker.”
Letting them run free is an easy way to annoy potential buyers, who may not like pets and definitely can’t picture themselves living in any home that once housed dogs or cats. Plus, you’ll want to consider the safety of the animals.
“People are going to open the door, and the pets will fly out thinking, ‘Woo hoo, I’m free!’” Chan says.
2. Turning a blind eye to the kitchen
You might be surprised by how many homeowners ignore this entire room when selling.
“Putting dirty dishes in the sink does not make them invisible,” Chan says.
Even if the rest of the home is staged to perfection, a disgusting kitchen will turn off buyers—and that goes for your dishwasher, too. People are nosy (and eager to learn about their maybe-new home). Expect them to open the dishwasher and investigate the fridge during the open house, and prepare your home accordingly: Clean and store your dishes, and clear out any smelly food from the fridge.
The same goes for any other room you think buyers won’t bother checking out, such as the garage, laundry room, or closets. Because guess what? They totally will.
“You’re not selling part of your house; you’re selling all of your house,” Chan says. “You want to make sure everything you’re showing is in showcase condition.”
3. Not hiding your dirty bath towels
Keeping bath towels you’ve used (and intend to use again) tucked out of the way in a closet benefits you twofold: Not only does it make your bathroom look well-staged, but it also keeps them free of dirt and germs from the day’s parade of guests. Instead, swap in a clean set of decorative bath and hand towels for each open house.
4. Cleaning solo
Hosting an open house is a great time to ask yourself: Am I a good cleaner? Really? If the answer to that question isn’t a resounding “yes!” consider hiring a professional.
“Very, very few people are good housekeepers,” Chan says. “If you think you’re going to save $200 on house cleaning because ‘I can do it myself’ … well, if you weren’t doing a good job before, you won’t do a good job now.”
Not only will cleaners scrub all the out-of-the-way spots you might miss (think baseboards and switch plates), they can also help eliminate odors and messes that go back years.
“I’ve worked on houses where it was a complete hellhole, no joke: dogs, cats, smoke, the whole nine,” Chan says. “We had it spit-shined so it would show well, and no one was the wiser.”
5. Not getting a second opinion
After cleaning and staging your home, a blunt-tongued neighbor can be a godsend. Over time, you can get used to smells and odors that can linger, even after a thorough cleaning.
“You need a neutral third party who will tell you like it is, not what you want to hear,” Chan says.
So don’t be offended if they tell you your place stinks—figuratively or literally.
“You’re not in a position to be all ego,” Chan says. “You’re trying to sell your house—and that’s what you need to focus on.”
6. Not maintaining the yard
While it might seem tempting to neglect your side yard, don’t. Not only does a messy yard look terrible, but objects strewed every which way can also be dangerous.
“A garden hose strewn across the yard is a tripping hazard,” Chan says. “Coil it up to make it look nice and organized-looking.”
And unless it’s trash day, keep your bins out of sight. Nothing makes a house less appealing than a pile of trash.
7. Forgetting to stash your drugs (no, seriously)
There’s a reason stagers depersonalize your house. Sure, they want potential buyers to visualize themselves living within its walls—but they also want to remove any ammunition against you during the negotiating process.
One place to look is the medicine cabinet, which should be emptied during an open house.
The same goes for family photos and things such as walkers and canes: For example, if you’re elderly, they might consider undercutting your price under the assumption that you can no longer take care of your home.
Keeping buyers from learning your personal details isn’t just good staging—it’s good business sense, too.