Sunday, April 17, 2011

BUYING & SELLING: Open house etiquette can help avoid many disasters

Knowing some basics can ease seller, buyer stress.

There was the one prospective “buyer’’ who, at open house in Pembroke, locked himself in the master bathroom and rifled through the medicine cabinet. At another open house the broker told the seller it might be a good idea to tuck away his prize possession, an autographed Babe Ruth baseball, for the day.

Another seller, in Abington, didn’t pay attention to the calendar and scheduled the open house for the same time as the town St. Patrick’s Day parade; hardly anyone could even get to the home.

Already fraught with tension for the seller, and anticipation for the shopper, open houses can turn into a disaster or flop on the smallest incident. To prevent that from happening, brokers say there is an etiquette that should be followed, by the seller and buyer alike, along with some plain common sense.

For sellers, brokers recommend the following etiquette essentials:

Set the stage. “Put away personal items and photographs. Buyers want to see the house as a blank canvas where they can envision living,’’ said Georgia Taft-Pye of Duxbury’s Buyer Brokers of the South Shore. Walkways should be clear and rooms open, not packed with furniture, and their uses should be well-defined.

De-clutter. Don’t jam things into the closets. “Storage is a big deal these days,’’ said Taft-Pye. “It’s important to show what storage the house has. Prospective buyers shouldn’t be bracing themselves for an avalanche when they open a closet. You need to get rid of clutter, rent a storage facility if you have to.’’

Remove valuables and prescription drugs. Like it or not, an open house can be a target by the
 unscrupulous. Additionally, if you are going to keep breakable items in sight, make sure they are out of the reach of children.

Remove pets, and any sign of them. As adorable you may think your little kitty is, not everyone loves pets or wants be around them, said Linda O’Connor of REALPRO Associates in Beverly. “You don’t want buyers to even register the fact that an animal may live in the house,’’ she said.

Create a listing sheet. Home shoppers are likely seeing a few houses at a clip, and can get overloaded with information or lose track of which was what.

Don’t trust they will go back to the Web to recall details of your home. “A listing sheet has all the details and even now, when everything’s on the Web, it’s helpful to have all the information at your fingertips,’’ said Taft-Pye

Don’t overlook the neighbors. Sure they’re nosey. But they can also be your best sales people. They know your area and like it enough to live there. They may also have friends who’ve wanted to move into the neighborhood, “and if they get a favorable impression of your house they may spread the word about it to people they know,’’ said Gary Rogers of RE/MAX First Realty in Waltham.

Don’t overexpose the house. While an open house is a great way to introduce a new property to the market, don’t have too many of them, said Rogers. “If you’re having an open house every weekend, that’s a clear sign of desperation to the buyers.’’

And for buyers and tire-kickers:

Sign in, and let the listing broker know if you have your own agent. “You want to be up front with the agent selling the house, let them know that you are in a relationship with another agent,’’ said Rogers. Once the agent knows you have representation they won’t try to recruit you as a client.

And if you’re not a serious buyer, convey that as well. “No one wants their time wasted, if you don’t want the realtor calling, just tell them that,’’ said Rogers.

Don’t give away too much. Loose lips can give the listing broker powerful intelligence if you ever wind up in a negotiation with the seller. Even casual references to your financial situation, your interest level, can be used against you, said Taft-Pye.

Pick your time carefully. The opening and ending minutes of the open house are usually crowded and rushed. The lull is in the middle, said O’Connor. You’ll have more time to talk to the broker and explore on your own.

Respect the property. While it seems like a no-brainer, some open house-goers forget that they are in someone else’s home.

Don’t start taking things apart, move belongings or go through their stuff. If they request that you remove your shoes, Rogers said, take them off. And if you aren’t wowed by the house, hold the criticism until after you leave.

Jaci Conry Boston Globe April 3, 2011

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