The prospect of an open house can be intimidating. How do I stage my home? What do I keep and what do I hide? Which rooms are the most important? These are all questions that can swirl around your head as you’re making your open house plan with your agent.
Carlee Hjelm is a Tumwater High graduate. Before attending and graduating from Washington State University, she set out to experience the big city of Seattle, working in the real estate industry. Hjelm obtained her real estate license after graduating from college and has experience working within title and escrow.
She recently teamed up with her family to give clients enhanced accessibility and diligent service. She prides herself on tailoring the home-selling experience to the needs of each individual client. This level of care has led her to help dozens of clients sell their homes using strategies like hosting open houses.
“I tell most of my clients that if you want to put your best foot forward, it would be best to do some open houses,” she says. “It’s one more angle of marketing that you can use to sell your home.”
Home Showing versus Open Houses
One distinction that Hjelm thinks is very important is the difference between an open house and showing your home. Both require you to be prepared for people to visit your home (and for you to be gone), but open houses allow you to showcase your home differently.
Private showings involve a buyer and their agent visiting the home and walking through it independently. These can happen any time of the day and don’t involve the sellers or their agents. Open houses are scheduled on a particular day and allow your agent to be present, helping answer any questions.
“When we are at an open house, we are hearing feedback firsthand, rather than trying to hunt down quality feedback after a private home showing,” Hjelm says.
So, what does she think are the three things that sellers should remember when preparing for their open house?
Pick a Good Time
While selling real estate might be about location, having an open house is all about timing. The summer and early fall are good parts of the year to open your home, and good weather is key. People like to leave their homes and get out.
"Weather is a big thing,” Hjelm says. “Usually, I am checking the weather a lot come the fall. If it’s a 100% chance that snow or a storm is coming that weekend, then it’s a 100% chance of no open houses.”
The best time to host an open house is the weekend, typically from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Remember, it’s best that you’re not present, so find something to do and let your agent host the open house.
Stow Your Valuables
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you will be opening your property to dozens of people, and while it is very rare, you still aren’t exactly sure who you will have walking through your personal items, so make sure the items you hold dearest are locked away.
“It’s just a reality you have to deal with,” Hjelm says. “Some people forget. You have a lot of strangers walking through your house.”
Tidy Up in and Out
Like the photos and videos showcasing your home online, presentation is hugely important, and it all starts with the front yard.
“Most people do a drive-by before even going into the house,” Hjelm says. “Curb appeal is important.”
From there, it’s all about the little things that enhance the interior of your house. Not everyone loves pets, or might even be allergic, so make sure to be aware of any pet items throughout the home and clean them up. You can also enhance the visit with subtle things like a Glade air freshener, fresh baked cookies, or banana bread (just make sure the smells are natural and subtle). Clean and stage your kitchen with great care (it is the most appealing room in an open house), and make sure any rooms with kids have beds made and are somewhat organized.
When staging your interior, the key is to strike a good balance between professionally curated and perpetually lived.
“The perfect house is one that buyers can’t tell someone lives in or not,” Hjelm says. “It has to feel homey but well designed and organized. They often ask…is this house staged?”
A Good Tool for a Changing Market
With the housing market changing, and properties taking longer to sell, an open house is a good way of marketing your property.
“Six months ago, there might have been no need for an open house,” Hjelm says. “But this market right now is taking longer than before.”
Still, sellers shouldn’t feel pressure to host an open house. They should be viewed as another useful tool and involve good planning and promotion.
“When I sit with sellers to talk about selling, I tell them not every home needs to do an open house,” she says. “But it is a good way to open up your home and get people coming through.”