8. Open Homes and Inspections

Open Homes

Open homes have evolved to be the industry standard practice for a good reason—they are the most convenient and least intrusive method for both sellers and buyers. Let me explain why:

  • It is more convenient for sellers to have their house clean and tidy for one open home of half an hour a week than to have it available all day every day at the beck and call of the real estate agent.
  • Buyers are usually busy and have lots of properties to consider. Most work, and weekends are usually the time when buyers are free to inspect.
  • Most buyers prefer to look through a home with minimum interaction with an agent. They like the freedom to discuss the property with their partner, not have an agent talking and listening to their comments.
  • Few buyers will sign a contract after one viewing. Once a buyer has been through an open home and is seriously interested, they will normally ask for a second inspection. Possibly two or three more inspections, at different times of the day.
  • Buyers compare properties, starting with the photos on the internet. They do not buy the first house they go through, and do not rely on the agent to filter houses for them as in the old days.
  • Remember Price Rule #1. We are trying to achieve good numbers of buyers to increase the competition and the sale price. If a buyer sees lots of others at an open home this motivates them to act quickly and bid higher.
  • In my experience agents will arrange for inspections at other times in addition to open homes, particularly if it is the second inspection for a buyer, or if the buyer is a shift worker or otherwise is unable to make the open home. I have never refused a buyer an inspection at a time of mutual convenience.
  • If a property is tenanted, it may be necessary to seek at least 24 hours notice in writing, and tenants may have the right to refuse open homes. Despite this, most tenants realize that having an open home for half an hour on a Saturday is better than being interrupted at random times during the week.

Most open homes are 30 minutes. The agent will arrive ten minutes early to set up, and close up after that time. Often the agent will have to get to another open home, but if they don’t they may extend the time the property is open if there are still buyers inspecting. Agents don’t want to rush buyers out the door.

Most buyers on a Saturday will be looking at three or four properties, so they’ll be in and out of your house with little opportunity to chat with the agent. The agent will take their contact details and follow up either later in the weekend or on Monday morning.

If buyers hang around after, maybe they are interested in making an offer. Agents will normally try to make time available after an open home just in case. Sometimes buyers arrive just as the agent is closing up. Or they’ll hang around chatting with the agent about what they are after. So rather than arriving back with the children and dogs after thirty minutes, my advice is to enjoy some family time and go for a drive somewhere for a couple of hours. Ask the agent to phone or text you when they’re done. Normally the agent will phone after and let you know how the open went.

Inspections

Inspections these days are usually for second viewings, or for people flying in to look at properties, or for shift workers who cannot make the open. Some people prefer to look in their own time, and most agents will cater for inspections if sellers allow this.

Out of respect to the sellers, who are usually still living in their house, inspections are normally arranged at times when they won’t be preparing the evening meal, or when they are out. I try to give my sellers 24 hours notice of inspections if practicable. Sometimes, a buyer will ask for an inspection at short notice, so it is always a good idea to have the place looking good during the campaign.

Some sellers do not want open homes. Perhaps they fear something will be stolen, or they don’t like the idea of tyre kickers, or neighbours snooping around. (These sellers haven’t yet shifted their thinking enough to realize their home is now a product on the market). But if a burglar is going to case the joint, he is hardly going to do it at an open home with lots of witnesses.

Some agents do not run open homes (some don’t like working Saturdays). They may require you to have your house available for buyers to inspect at short notice, six or seven days a week. Check with your agent what their practice is in this regard.

My advice is to choose an agent who is flexible enough to adapt to buyers and you as the seller. That would be an agent who does both open homes and inspections.

 

Pre-open Inspections

Pre-open or pre-launch inspections are inspections by buyers from the agent’s database. These are buyers who the agent knows are looking for a house like yours. And while there is no guarantee they will like your property, usually these buyers will be motivated to purchase. Agents don’t waste their time showing people through your house just for fun.

While you are likely to achieve a better price from your sale if you advertise and create competition from lots more interested buyers, the leads from an agent’s database will also be a great source of potential buyers in terms of achieving a good sale price.

 

Preparing for an Open Home or Inspection

Although you have the house clean and you’ve staged it ready for inspections there are a few things you can do to prepare for an inspection or open home. Here is a checklist with 20 tips for last minute preparations:

LAST MINUTE PREPARATION CHECKLIST

  1. Ensure lawns are mowed and the garden is tidy.
  2. Collect mail and any junk mail catalogues and newspapers.
  3. Check the front entry path is clear of toys and clutter, sweep the front porch and put our your new front door mat.
  4. Empty the dishwasher that you ran through last night.
  5. Clean the kitchen benches and put out the bowl of fruit. If you have a new, plain teatowel hang that out, otherwise put tea towels away.
  6. Clean the dining table and under it and put the centrepiece on the dining table.
  7. Empty the kitchen and bathroom bins.
  8. Clear off the bathroom benches, put out the new towels and close lids of toilets.
  9. Put dirty laundry out of sight and bring in clothes off the line.
  10. Put the pet bed and water bowl in the garage and check there are no dog droppings on the back lawn.
  11. Clear the living room of any clutter, DVDs, newspapers, magazines.
  12. Make the beds and put any clothes away in cupboards.
  13. Remove or secure all valuables and jewellery.
  14. Put any children’s toys in crates.
  15. Open all the curtains and blinds and open windows a little for fresh air.
  16. One last quick dust of main living areas.
  17. Consider preparing something for a homely smell – (baking biscuits or hot bread or coffee).
  18. Consider playing a CD of soft background music – piano or acoustic guitar.
  19. Present the house appropriately for the weather. If it is really hot, turn on the air conditioning.
  20. Take the kids and the dog and go for a drive until the agent gives the all clear.

Do not under any circumstances stay at home during an inspection or open home. It will constrain the ability of your agent to speak with buyers, dampen the enthusiasm of buyers and their willingness to talk openly, and remind the buyers that this is your home. You may lose a sale because buyers make a judgment about you. You may hear critical comments about your home that offend your sensibilities.

Some buyers are deliberately critical to put other buyers off at an open home. Some buyers believe that being critical will somehow get the price reduced. Agents are fully aware of this tactic and ignore it. If buyers are being completely obnoxious agents will ask them to leave. But you don’t want to be there to hear what buyers are saying about your property, it is just too close to home.

 

Agent’s Team Inspection

Before the first open home (if possible) your agent should arrange for the rest of the agency team members to come through your property to offer feedback on their perceptions of market price, and so that they can tell their own buyers about the property. Agents call team visits to new listings the “stock run”.

 

Tenanted Properties

If you have an investment property that is tenanted, consider offering a modest rental rebate during the period of the sale campaign, if the tenants promise to keep the place clean and tidy to the satisfaction of the agent. In some States, tenants may have to be given 24 hours notice in writing of an inspection, and can refuse to allow open homes.