What Not To Do at an Open House
Open houses are a staple of the real estate industry, a time-honored method of quickly getting a lot of eyes on a particular property. It's an opportunity to answer questions that might seal the deal, and preparing for them can be a stressful endeavor.
Everything must look perfect, all of the weird smells and pet hair gone from the whole house, and the home must somehow be dressed to appeal to anyone and everyone who might stop by. With the fate of the sale sometimes placed on one day's open house, there's a lot of room for things to go wrong.
So what happens when they do?
The Tired Seller
One of the most off-putting mistakes made at an open house is a particularly perplexing one: someone (the seller, we hope) asleep in a bed. One agent recalls an apartment with "a bed in every single room, living room, hallway and when I looked in the master bedroom, the owner was asleep in the bed!"
For some reason, sellers still present at the open house seems to be a common problem. From teenage kids sleeping in bedrooms to the remnants of a party still visible around the house, awkward situations arise when sellers or tenants completely forget that a bunch of strangers are about to barge into their living space.
Another recurring issue with open houses revolves around pets. Even when sellers succeed in removing their animals, scents can remain. One realtor in South Boston recalled a time she went to an open house that was covered in cat dander, which caused allergic reactions for some of the visitors. Another agent said there was no sign of a dog, but clearly one had just used the bathroom in the middle of the living room - or at least we hope it was a dog.
There are many reports of dogs barking through the entire open period. Even if it's for some reason impossible to take the dog elsewhere during the duration of the open house, it really doesn't bode well for the property if the biggest lasting impression is the dog's deafening bark. One homebuyer said they left an open house disinterested because they couldn't even hear the realtor over the barks. A year later, the house was still on the market and the dog was still barking.
We found a report of a giant pet iguana weirding out some potential buyers, and then there's this, from a New York Times article:
The most obvious no-no of hosting an open house is failing to hide your questionable or unique decor. Everyone has their own unique taste, and the idea of open house staging is to make a prospective buyer picture themselves living there. That's really hard to do when the open house has books in the oven, or a taxidermied dog that used to be a member of the family - or, worse yet, a handgun on the table.
One realtor described an open house in Park Slope with a series of photos of the wife's naked pregnant body. Another recalled a listing that said certain parts of the stairway had been built with cutaways so that coffins could be carried up and down more easily. Let's hope that one used to be a funeral home.
And then, of course, there are those who simply don't understand the accepted etiquette of attending, or hosting, an open house. There was the awkward story of a kid using the toilet at a vacant house in which the utilities had been turned off. Or the seller whose medicine cabinet was raided.
People use open houses as a pit stop for the restroom all the time, and they also stop by for a quick snack with no intention whatsoever of actually looking at the house, much less putting in an offer. Theft and safety are always concerns with any real estate transaction, and it's a bit of an ongoing debate about whether agents should have a sign-in sheet to collect contact info. In most cases, visitors won't fill it out, and many agents have written off the practice as antiquated.
You don't want dirt to be the main attraction of your open house, and if an attendee is afraid to walk anywhere, it should probably be cleaned.
For more tips on how to spruce up your open house and be the talk of the town, check out our post on the best scents to fill your open house with.