What To Do When Your House is on the Market: Etiquette Tips

Congratulations, you've listed your home for sale. Now with a little bit of work, you can maximize the number of showings and control buyers' first impressions which should net you the most money. After all, that's what this is all about right?

Having your home on the market while living in it can be an exhausting process but you just need to keep your eye on the prize. Here are the unwritten rules to being an awesome seller:

Be flexible.

Every showing is an opportunity for a buyer to fall in love with your house.  The more showings you turn down, the more you risk those buyers finding another house before they get back around to trying to see yours.

If you have pets, kids, or work from home, this can become especially tiresome. For a little bit of sanity while still trying to be open to all of the buyers, you and your agent could set 4 time windows each week for all showings to be scheduled within. Tuesday and Thursday nights, Saturday and Sunday midday works well for most buyers' schedules.

Away with the clutter.

The best thing a motivated seller can do to improve every showing is to stage the house. According to the National Association of Realtors® 2015 Profile of Home Staging, "Realtors ® believe that buyers most often offer a 1 to 5 percent increase on the value of a staged home." You want to create a blank canvas that will appeal to buyers with various taste in decor. The last thing you want a buyer to envision in the home is your family because that means they won't be envisioning their own. On top of furniture, make sure to remove:

  • Absolutely everything from the fridge. No soccer schedules or Christmas cards allowed.
  • The pile of shoes all houses inevitably catch near the front door.
  • Almost everything from every closet. Buyers will open closets and if they see one bursting at the seams, they will assume the house doesn't have enough storage.
  • Toys. Tell your kids it's my fault. One small bin of toys per child while the home is listed.
  • The 12 bottles of shampoo in your bathroom. Keep it simple and hotel-like.
  • Appliances off of the countertops. 
  • Any darkening curtains.
  • All prescription medicine or valuables that won't be leaving for each showing in your purse. (Unfortunately, theft during showings or open houses isn't as uncommon as it should be.) Read more tips to keep your belongings safe during showings.

So pack up 90% of your belongings and get a storage unit. You are about to have to move anyways. 

No family photos.

This deserved a section of its own. You are permitted exactly zero photos of your family in your entire house while it's on the market. Just as you probably don't want to think about the person who stayed in your hotel room the night before you, buyers don't need to be prompted to think about you and your family in the space, no matter how adorable you are.

Worth noting is that removing family photos is also an added step for your safety. You are inviting strangers into your home and you should give them as little information about you as necessary.

Clean like your mother-in-law is coming.

Yes. For every single showing. Although it may be your fourth showing of the week and you're feeling less than thrilled about it, your house might just be perfect for these particular buyers. Every showing is a chance to make an amazing first impression. Don't miss our top forgotten places to clean.

Pick up after your pooch.

Nothing kills a great showing faster than the buyer walking out into your backyard and stepping right in a pile of Spot's poo. Sadly, I've actually seen it happen. It leaves a bad feeling with the buyer and changes their impression of the house in their mind without them even realizing it. Avoid this by doing an overhaul on the backyard when you first list your house. Then, while it's on the market make a habit of going out with the dog and cleaning up every time. 

Put away all evidence of your pets, as the buyers may not have any and again, we want them envisioning their family in the space, not yours. That means you clean and put away the pets' food bowls, store leashes and toys in a cabinet, do a fur overhaul, and figure out a solution for the litter box. The minimum solution for a litter box is to clean it before showings, but if it is in plain sight, maybe even consider hiding it or moving it to the garage.

Last point about pets: take them with you. This is both for their safety and to keep the focus during showings on your home.

Be aware of odors.

We all have that one friend whom we know will give us their honest opinion. Give that person permission to really tell you what your house smells like and then fix the issue. Pay special attention to odors from pets, teenagers, sports equipment, garbage cans, and the fridge.

If you are a smoker, I strongly urge you to move all of your belongings out of the house, have the home washed, painted, and staged with furniture from a staging company. The smell of smoke is one of the most offensive to non-smokers and could seriously impact your home's resale.

Turn on all lights and open curtains before you leave.

The common practices of listing agents vary across regions and price points. If you are in a situation where your home has a lockbox and your listing agent won't be attending every showing, it's a good idea to leave the house exactly as you want it to be seen. A buyer's agent is very unlikely to arrive early to your property to open it up. So you need to be the one to turn on every light and open every curtain to make sure buyers see your home in the best light. Literally.

Disappear yourself during showings.

The homeowners should be nowhere near the house during showings. Buyers want to speak freely about the things they would need to change about your home and you being there is flat out uncomfortable for everyone involved. Also uncomfortable is when a buyer shows up and meets you as you are leaving. It creates the feeling that they are putting you out, and they might rush through the showing. So do everyone a favor, and leave with a 15 to 30 minute cushion before showings.

Now you are ready to impress your agent by being the most cooperative, prepared seller of her career. Bring on the bidding wars!

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Caity Salvatore founded Nestment.com when she was sick of hearing her friends complain about their real estate agents. She is out to prove that great agents do exist, and works as a matchmaker between home buyers/sellers and real estate agents. She spends her days interviewing agents and bingeing on Dunkin Donuts.

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