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How to Prepare Your Home for an Open House

As the world goes increasingly digital, virtually all rental-related tasks can be done online. There are online property listings, digital tenant screening, e-signed lease agreements, and so much more. But regardless of these technological advances, there is one stage of a rental process that seems to remain the same. Yes, it is an open house I’m talking about. That magic moment when prospective tenants meet their prospective home, and you, as a landlord, get a chance to seal the deal.

Even if you know how to create a perfect property listing that answers all questions of prospective renters, chances are good that the majority of applicants wouldn’t go for signing a lease without seeing how everything looks like in real life. Here is when the topic of an open house comes into play. Although it’s true that the necessity of open houses in the modern world has been questioned many times, most of the experts agree that the approach still matters.

Here are three reasons why:

  • You can get valuable insight into how people perceive your property
  • You get a chance to better know your prospects
  • It helps create a buzz around your property

Given this, it becomes clear why you need to master open house etiquette as soon as possible.

Declutter Your Home

As experience confirms, personal clutter in a vacant rental property can become a potential turnoff to tenants. The thing is that people visiting your open house would want to imagine themselves living there, and you are giving them hard time doing so if the place is full of your personal belongings. Cleaning up clutter is a must for successful open housing, so take things seriously. Experts suggest paying the most of the attention to the front yard, kitchen, bathrooms, and closets since those areas are known for accumulating most of the rubbish.

Bonus tip: Break all the stuff down into three categories – to keep, to donate, and to throw away. This simple rule will make the process of decluttering organized.

Clean Rain Gutters, Outside Windows, and Screens

Interior matters most, but it is exterior your prospects will see first. Not so many people can resist renting a home that sparkles in the sun, and I encourage you to take the most out of this information. Your goal is to ensure that your property looks great from the outside. Under the best of circumstances, you should clean the entire exterior up. But if the time is not on your side, focus on washing outside windows, screens, and rain gutters. Those spots are known for storing most of the dust and mud.

Bonus tip: There are plenty of modern cleaning chemicals available on the market, but specialists claim that soap, water, and a scrub brush can work for virtually all types of stains.  

Clear windows before open house

Make Sure the Front Door Is Welcoming

Nobody said it’s illegal to use emotional triggers to help your prospects make their rental decision faster, and there are plenty of things you can do in this regard. First and foremost, make sure that your front door is appealing and there’s no need to renew varnishing. What’s more, consider buying a new welcome mat or clean the old one if it still looks ok.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget to polish up the handle and lockset of a front door. Shiny details will make your property look more expensive and luxury.

Wash and Polish Things Up

It may sound like a hint at an obvious, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You need to understand the difference between a sweep-up that might be fine when you expect guests and a full-scale cleaning necessary for an open house. Take it more like a big spring cleaning, if you want your home to shine like a new penny and attract the best prospects.

Bonus tip: Sometimes the walls might need a wipe-down of their own.

Get Rid of Questionable Smells

They say that every home smells like something, and you’d better make sure that your ‘something’ is pleasant. In fact, plenty of landlords suggest bringing some fresh bakery into your open house. And, believe it or not, there is science behind that piece of advice. The smell of bakery is proved to make people kinder to strangers. What’s more, it’s considered the most comforting and homey smell. I’d even go as far as to say that the right smell can help you rent out.

Bonus tip: Oftentimes, smells seem to fade away as soon as I got used to them. It’s just an illusion. So even if you believe your home is scent-free, go heavy on airing anyway.  

Make all Minor and Major Repairs

In nearly all cases, moving is a money-draining process. As a landlord, you should be aware of this pain point of tenants and use it for your own benefit, not otherwise. That is why you should fix everything that is broken before letting your prospects in. If you fail to do this, they will associate all problematic spots on your property with extra spendings, which is not something that helps to rent out.

Bonus tip: If you are running out of time and there’s literally no way to fix everything before an open house time, make sure to let your prospects know that you’ll take care of things before their move-in date.

Pay Special Attention to Bathroom and Kitchen

According to industry professionals, kitchen and bathroom are rooms that sell a home. These two spaces are usually inspected the most, which is why you need to ensure they both of them look their best. Oftentimes, kitchens look tired and scream for repairs. If this is your case, consider replacing cabinet hardware, installing a new faucet and putting on a new coat of paint. Speaking of the bathroom, it might be worth your investments to renew towel racks, shower heads, and faucets. As experience shows, this is usually enough to trigger that ‘Oh honey, I like it’ kind of effect.

Bonus tip: In many cases, simply riding the countertops of all personal stuff can work wonders to the way your kitchen and bathroom look.  

Clean up bathroom

Stage Your Home With Details and Accessories

Especially, when dealing with female prospects. Some extra pillows, fresh flowers, and some candles don’t cost much, but they deliver an important task – they help tremendously with making the first impression. The rule of thumb is to keep things neutral or classic, meaning that pillows with Star Wars and huge red candles might actually count against you.

Bonus tip: Don’t go heavy on decorating. Otherwise, you’ll end up with another round of decluttering.

Light Things Up

Lighting sets the mood, so don’t forget to open up all blinds and curtains before letting your prospects in. The more light is in your home, the more spacious it looks, so make sure to take the most out of this little trick. Since there’s nothing welcoming in a dark property, don’t be afraid to lit all lights up. In fact, this is exactly what experienced brokers do to increase their chances of closing the deal.

Bonus tip: As long as possible, schedule your open house for the daylight hours. Natural lighting makes properties look more appealing, which is exactly what you need as a landlord.

Make Sure to Keep Things Secure

Oftentimes, preparing a property for showing ends up in a big rush. Your open house checklist appears to be winterlong and you pray for the time to stop. However, it doesn’t excuse you from taking care of safety. Think of it this way: open house is all about letting a complete stranger in. It should be enough reason to tighten up on security. Don’t let this thought make your nerve-wracked, but open house poses some risks. That’s why you’d better hide from sight all jewelry, checkbooks, and papers with private information.

Bonus tip: If you don’t have enough time to inspect the entire home, focus on the following spots: jewelry boxes, medicine cabinets, rooms filled with little gadgets.

Don’t Forget About an Open House Sign

I can almost hear you saying ‘but it is so old school’. In fact, you are right. But the old school doesn’t necessarily mean obsolete and ineffective. Gone are the times when property listings in a newspaper and open house signs were the only ways to drive traffic to your vacant property. However, an open house sign is still of use. First and foremost, it helps your prospective renters find your property with ease. Second, it makes prospects realize that they are not the only people who know that the property is vacant. Sometimes, this emotional trigger can help people make a decision faster.

Bonus tip: In case your rental property is hard to find, consider putting an extra sign on a crossroad close to your home.

If you made it here, odds are good that you already feel well-prepared for holding an open house. However, I prefer an ‘extra mile’ approach, so here’s a list of additional tips you’ll find useful:

  • Choose a single day, determine a time window, and schedule open house appointments for every 30 minutes within that window. This way, your open house won’t take too much time and you’ll get a necessary buzz around your property.
  • Make sure to send appointment reminders/open house invitations 24-48 hours prior to a scheduled visit. This will help you avoid no show-ups and hours of wasted time.
  • In case you are showing a property while it is still occupied, give your current tenants a prior notice and kindly ask them to be away for a certain time window. Don’t schedule an open house until your current tenants confirm your request.
  • Make it clear for all prospects what the due date of a final decision is.  As experience shows, setting a hard deadline shortens the period of uncertainty and encourages people to act faster.

Holding an open house is somewhat tiresome, but things get easier when you are armed with knowledge. Focus on the brighter side: open house is your chance to meet future renters and make sure you’ll be able to find common ground. And one last thing: stay polite, be observant, and keep copies of rental agreements (or gadgets with digital lease) up close.


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