The 5th in a series of 12 posts about the real estate market from the sellers’ perspecitve.
Answer - Get out of the way! No kidding. Make it as easy as possible for the Realtor to do his/her job. Not only should you allow a lock-box to be placed on your house, you should make the showing instructions as painless as possible. That may mean that you must take on a lot of inconvenience.
You must be able to get out of the house on short notice and make it easy for the selling agent to schedule showings for others. The easiest house to show is one that is already vacant, although vacant houses are harder to sell (more on that later), so make it easy to schedule an appointment to show your house.
You don’t want to be there during a showing. The showing agent doesn’t want you there and the buyers would feel awkward if you were there; so take a drive, go to the movies or store - just go. Let the real estate professionals do their jobs. Believe me when I tell you that all of your helpful information about the house, as you trail the showing around, is not what these people came to hear. Don’t hover. Disappear.
If you don’t already have either an answering machine or voicemail service on your phone, get one or the other. Be prepared to check those frequently and allow the selling agent to book and appointment by just leaving you a message and giving the showing agent the lockbox combo. Any time that you’re out, even to church or for dinner, check the machine or voicemail before you go home; there may be a showing in progress or scheduled for about the time that you would get home.
You really can’t help much with this aspect of the process. There are some tips for things that you can do before you leave to make the showings go better.
· Turn on all the lights. The showing agent will not know how your house is wired and may not be able to figure out how to get the lights on. A good agent will try to turn off lights as they go, but there will be lights left on. If there is a showing after the one that you left for, leave a note for the first agent telling him/her to leave the lights on for that showing.
· If you have a gas fireplace and it is winter, you might turn it on. I don’t recommend starting a real wood fire. There are just too many chances that something could go wrong with no one in the house.
· If you have one or two very safe (in stable, glass containers) fragrant candles, you might light them. We’ve seen other tips like bake bread or pop popcorn or do other things in the kitchen to leave a nice odor in the air. We’ll let you be the judge of how much you want to do. Try not to leave bad odors in the air; however, lighting too many fragrant candles is just as bad and some people might think you are trying to hide something by masking a smell in the house.
· Also remember to take your dog with you and your cat too if possible. Buyers don’t really want to be accosted by your pets and many may have allergies to pets so get them out of the house. Hopefully your house doesn’t smell like a full cat box or like your dog, but if it does, deodorize the place as you leave and perhaps put the litter box out in the garage.
· If you must leave your pets in the house, please either cage them or place them in small room that can be closed off and put a note on the door advising the showing agent that the pet is in that room. That room will be something that the buyers will wonder about after the showing, since they couldn’t see it.
· It’s always a pleasant surprise for the visitors if they discover a plate of cookies that you’ve left for them and it reinforces the thoughts of “home”.
· If it is winter, make sure that the drive and walk are cleared of snow and ice. A visit that starts with having to slough through snow to get to the door is not off to a great start and one where the visitors slip and fall on your icy walk is even worse.
· In winter in particular, and in any season if you are asking the visitors to remove their shoes; provide a bench or seat for them to sit down and put their shoes back on. If you are concerned about them tracking stuff in to your foyer, put a throw rugs there for them to step on as they enter.
· Make sure that your agent has flyers or brochures (whatever they normally use) available in the house fort visitors and put them out in some easily spotted location, like a kitchen counter or table.
Normally showings only take 20-30 minutes, so you don’t have to be gone that long. Agents will normally ask for a one-hour window to allow themselves some leeway on travel or other showings. And remember to not let clutter creep back into the house. Keep it clean and clutter free!
Your agent should get some feedback from every showing and most will share that with you. Don’t get offended by anything that you read; instead try to learn from the feedback and make any changes that are suggested in the feedback or by your agent.
Finally, now that you’ve mastered the three C’s of real estate – Clutter, Cleanliness and Condition; you must focus upon your role in the three P’s of real estate – Price, Patience and Persistence. Hopefully you and your agent have set the price correctly (feedback will help you determine that); so you need to be patient and persistent. Real estate sales do not happen overnight, so patience is a real virtue here. As for persistence; you will need to get up every day and get the place ready to show before you leave for work or to do other things. Remember that showings can happen at any time. You’ve got to have the house ready at all times.