Open Houses Let Anyone in Through Your Front Door
When selling a home, most owners automatically think that having an open house is a great idea. After all, they see their neighbors doing the same. There are always lots of cars parked out in front of these homes so they must be effective. Right?
One of the biggest myths in real estate sales is that an open house is effective to sell a home. This tall tale of course is perpetuated by real estate agents themselves. Why? Open houses are great places for agents to land new clients.
Do open houses sell homes? Very rarely! Serious buyers are working with real estate agents and will schedule an appointment for homes they wish to view.
What sellers should understand is that open houses increase the odds of a burglary occurring. Every real estate agent should be educating their clients about the pros and cons of an open house but most rarely do.
You put a lot of trust in your Realtor when you agree to an open house. You decide to open up your home, let strangers in and out all day, and to go somewhere else while it is all happening.
That leaves only your Real Estate agent to watch over the entire home—while also trying to sell the property to prospective buyers.
The fact is, visitors are going to have a lot of alone time in your home, with your stuff, to do what they like. So if you are going to do an open house, it is best to remove or hide things that visitors are likely to be interested in.
Below you’ll find the things people are most likely going to try to steal at an open house.
Protecting Your Things – What Not to Leave Out at The Open House
Here is how and what you should be doing to protect your belongings before you hold an open house. You should never leave these things out at an open house.
1. Prescriptions and other drugs.
Most real estate agents want to brush theft at an open house right under the rug. In fact, they hate it when I educate the public how regularly it occurs around the country. Their prospect train will come to a screeching halt if you say no.
If you decide you’re going to hold an open house be sure you put any prescription drugs away! The medicine cabinet or your nightstand will be the first place a thief will look. Theft of prescription drugs has become commonplace all around the country.
How often do you think the discussion of theft takes place with a real estate agent and a homeowner? The answer is not nearly enough. In San Diego, drug theft was becoming so commonplace a real estate group partnered with the Drug Enforcement Administration to help curb the problem. Folks, open house theft is a serious issue!
2. Anything that is valuable and readily accessible.
It goes without saying that anything of value should be put away before an open house. The following items are some of the more popular things to be stolen during an open house:
- Your money
- Guns or other firearms
- Cell Phones
- Any heirlooms
- Anything else easily obtainable.
One other very important item to put away are your keys! Don’t leave extra keys on a hook or lying around. This is an open invitation for a burglar to come back when you’re not around and take what they want.
Here are some additional tips to secure your home before selling.
3. Documents with your personal information.
If identity thieves rifle through your garbage to find personal information like names, addresses, and social security numbers, they will certainly pick them up off your desk or dining room table. And if you think about it, you will see just how much more valuable information may be readily stolen from your home, including bank account numbers, credit cards, and other financial information.
At the least, you should lock away all such documents in a secure location in your home. Ideally, you can remove them to another location for the open house. If you own a safe, it might make sense to put them there during the open house. You may also hide them somewhere that visitors are not likely to go, such as a corner of the attic.
4. Identifying information, like mail with your name on it.
Anonymity is a good thing when it comes to selling a home. You want the buyers focused on the house and what it has to offer, not your personal life. In today’s social media filled world, it only takes a quick search using your name to find out all sorts of things about who you are, what you do and how you feel about many different subjects.
While there is a possibility that this information could endear you to a potential buyer, there is also a chance that it could turn the buyer off of the home. It is better to avoid all of this by keeping your info out of the reach of open house visitors.
5. Signs of smoking.
You may be careful to keep cigarettes out of the home, only allow smoking outside, etc. But any sign of cigarettes is going to be an issue with certain buyers, who will assume that smoking happened in the house anyway.
Any experienced Realtor will tell you that smoking is not something you want to be associated with your home in any fashion. So put away your favorite ashtray, even if it’s only decorative, until after the home sells.
Remove any and all signs that smoking takes place in the house!
6. Portable heaters.
Are your windows drafty? Do some rooms not stay quite as warm as others? Is your home just notoriously cold because you only have the minimum amount of insulation? When you have a bunch of space heaters scattered throughout your home, this is precisely what the buyer will think.
The exact opposite could be the reality. Maybe you are the type of person that is just always cold. Having the space heaters, however, sends a distinct message to a buyer who is always thinking the worst.
In certain parts of the country, it is normal and expected to have a few space heaters or fans lying around the home. Especially in older homes, these appliances allow you to exercise more control over the temperature of the room you are in, save energy and avoid running the HVAC system non-stop when you don’t have to.
But a fan or a space heater does not send a message of frugality to a buyer. Instead, it leaves them thinking that the house is hot/cold. Maybe the HVAC system is going out. Maybe the home has poor insulation. The questions will fly, and none of them will make it easier to sell the home.
7. Your pets.
It can be hard to imagine someone, not like a pet that you love so much, but it happens—a lot. Some people don’t like dogs; some don’t like cats, some don’t like pets in general. Even a reptile can be a problem.
Again, you want the buyers focused on the home and not on the things they don’t like. For an open house, it is a good idea to take your pet somewhere comfortable for the day. That way there is no chance of an adverse reaction from a buyer that may otherwise make an offer on the home.
While you’re at it, take a look at these excellent tips for moving with pets. The advice will make your move a little less stressful.
8. Political signs
Your political position is guaranteed to be off-putting to certain buyers, maybe even a large percentage of buyers depending on your area. That is why having a political sign in your yard is never advisable when you are selling.
Today’s political environment has never been more contentious. Politics and real estate do not mix well together. While you might be a left or right thinker, the buyer could be the exact opposite.
The sign in the yard might seem an obvious problem, but make sure that there are no other signs scattered throughout the home where buyers can see them. Stickers, magnets, fliers in a pile of other documents—any of these can lead to an awkward moment where a potential buyer decides to stand on principle and not buy your home.
9. Food that can be snagged from the fridge.
Yes, sometimes people going to open houses will open up the fridge and steal food. They tend to go for easy to grab items, so you should plan accordingly. One effective strategy is to organize your fridge nicely so that it is more apparent when someone has been rummaging around. And try to put the things that people will want to steal in places that are harder to get to.
It is never a bad idea to be a good host and leave out some refreshments for your guests. A cold bottle of water is always a nice gesture, especially when selling in the hot summer months.
10. Anything you don’t want to be stolen.
OK, visitors at your open house are not going to haul off your couch, television or anything that would be obvious or difficult. But your jewelry, the cute pair of shoes you finally let yourself get, your favorite video games—anything that can be slipped into a pocket, put on or thrown in a large purse can and may be taken.
Everyone has smaller items that are important to them. Make sure you put such things in a place where visitors cannot get to them. Otherwise, you may come back to the home and find them gone.When hosting a real estate open house make sure you take precautions against theft!Click To Tweet
Other Real Estate Open House Mistakes
Besides not taking open house theft seriously, there are other mistakes to avoid when having an open house. These mistakes could, in fact, cost you interest in the home from anyone viewing it. You should avoid these problems to increase the odds of a successful home sale:
- A cluttered or messy home – needless to say, your home should be spotless for showings.
- Playing music – there should be minimal distractions when selling a home.
- Overbearing smells – your home should not have any odors including distinct pet odors, smoking, and even air fresheners which can be even worse than what you’re trying to hide.
- An uncomfortable home temperature – if you’re selling a home in the winter make sure the home is warm enough. Likewise, a hot home in the summer will be a turn-off as well.
- A Dirty exterior – curb appeal is vital in selling a home. This means no cobwebs on the front door, mold on the siding, or leaves hanging out the gutters.
- Overgrown landscaping – there are not many things that show neglect than shrubbery growing out of control against a house.
Not taking the time to have your home prepared for sale are some of the biggest mistakes selling a house.
Should I Even Be Doing an Open House
After reading all the tips on how to avoid theft at an open house, you might be asking yourself is it even worth doing. The answer to that questions is something only you can determine. I will tell you this – an open house is not necessary to sell a home. In the digital age, ready, willing, and able buyers will call a real estate agent for a showing.
Many of the people visiting your home won’t even be financially qualified to purchase it. This, however, is not the case with scheduled showings.
If a real estate agent tells you that an open house is necessary to sell your property or makes it the focus of their marketing efforts, I would find another agent.
A substantial percentage of real estate agents will gladly put your home at risk for their personal gain. To be clear, I don’t mean selling the house, as that would be to your benefit as well.
The reason a real estate agent will spend the time sitting in your home is for the chance to meet a buyer who doesn’t have a real estate agent yet. Be sure if this happens you do not accept dual agency where YOUR agent becomes a neutral party in the transaction.
Secondarily, a neighbor who is thinking of selling might visit, and the agent connects with them. Prospecting has and always will be the most significant reason agents hold open houses.
What you will rarely see are your city or towns top agents wasting their time with this marketing activity. Why? They don’t need to spend their time prospecting at a Sunday open house.
You need to decide if doing an open house is even worth the risk.
Other Home Selling Articles Worth Reading
- What are the risks of an open house via Sharon Paxon.
- You can sell your home without doing an open house via Maximum Real Estate Exposure.
- Open houses don’t put a seller’s best interests first via Kyle Hiscock.
- What it takes to sell your house via Luke Skar.
- Will staging help your home sell faster via Anita Clark.
- Curb appeal is everything in real estate sales via Lynn Pineda.
All of the above resources are exceptional content to help sell your home. Make sure you have a look and best of luck!
About the Author: The above Real Estate information on items never to leave out at an open house was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 31+ Years.
Are you thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.