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10 Open House Red Flags You Must Address

Open houses are a great way to show off a home’s excellent selling points to a large audience in a short amount of time.  But what if potential buyers see (or smell) something that makes them turn and run? What red flags are they, and their agent, looking for?

We have compiled a list of things should be addressed before you set out that open house sign. Some you can control, others you can only be prepared to explain or spin. Read on to learn about how you can help your sellers put their house’s best foot forward on open house day.

  1. Popcorn Ceilings: This is at the top of the list for a reason. Popcorn ceilings send all the wrong messages about a home. They present the question to potential buyers that if the owner hasn’t dealt with this problem, what else haven’t they done? In addition to making a home appear dated, it signals that asbestos could be lurking in the home. Removal after a sale is a cost that some buyers are not interested in incurring. Convince your sellers to have it removed prior to the open house.
  1. Odors: Potential buyers don’t just look at a property–they smell it, too. Mold and mildew are odors that can quickly tip a buyer off that something with the house isn’t right. If, as the selling agent, you detect a smell that says the property hasn’t been well taken care of, address it with your sellers immediately to see if repairs have to take place before the open house. If the house smells like cigarette smoke or pets, talk to your sellers about having the house deep cleaned and then banning pets and cigarettes from the home thereafter. Avoid trying to mask these scents with candles or scented sprays as strong smells of any kind will be a deterrent to buyers.
  1. Rooms That Are off Limits: Sellers try to do this on a regular basis, especially during open houses. They may have a laundry list of reasons why they don’t want to show random strangers what is behind the door, but for a potential buyer, this will increase their concern. Talk to your sellers to find ways to relocate valued belongings during the open house so that buyers are not blocked from seeing the full property. If not, let any serious potential buyers know that a private tour of the home after the open house will include access to the blocked off space.
  1. Unfinished Construction: When a home is unfinished, or renovations are not yet complete, that can mean a lot of things for a potential buyer. It could change their financing options so that they would need to acquire a construction loan instead of a standard home loan, which can be riskier. If you can’t get all the construction or renovations completed prior to the open house, have all the information available and ready for serious buyers. Have the name of the contractor and their contact information available so that they may ask non-biased third party questions. If you know of a broker or bank that offers construction loan financing with minimal hassle, be prepared with their contact information and cards as well. Highlight the potentials of being able to ‘finish’ the home and put their personal stamp on it.
  1. Peeling Paint: There really isn’t an excuse to have peeling paint at an open house. It’s an easy fix, often the cheapest and most manageable on the list. Peeling paint can indicate water damage, property neglect, and low-budget choices. A fresh coat of paint not only solves the challenge, but raises the perceived freshness of the home.
  1. Property Neglect: Broken light fixtures, damaged floors, leaking faucets—potential buyers are not going to be interested in a home that has a long list of things to fix. Seeing smaller items in disrepair can lead a buyer to wonder about the state of big-ticket items like the foundation, plumbing, septic system, or roof. Basic fixtures are inexpensive to replace and give a newly remodeled, well-cared-for feeling.
  1. Multiple Homes for Sale in the Neighborhood: You can’t change this, but you can help explain it. Multiple homes for sale may signal to potential buyers that the area is undesirable and that people are trying to get out. Get out in front of this by doing a little research. If you can, find out why the homes are selling. Then go a step further to highlight the pros of the area and have that information readily available to potential buyers. A well done, colorful, single sheet pamphlet talking up the area can go a long way.
  1. Disjointed Additions: Additions can be troublemakers in an open house because they beg the question whether the correct permits were filed. Even if they are done well and attractive, a savvy buyer will know to be suspicious and will ask questions. Do your research ahead of time and have permit or other details about the work available to interested buyers. You can run a detailed Permit History Report through CRES in just a few easy steps.
  1. Recent Renovations: Much like disjointed additions, recent renovations can also be a red flag. While they may be concerned about permitting and the quality of the work, they may also be concerned that a renovation is trying to hide or make up for something that may be undesirable about the home or Have that information ready to go and bring it up before they even have a chance to ask. Being forthright with a potential buyer will go a long way with putting them at ease.
  1. Neighbors: Some neighbors are great, others not so much. If neighbors are troublesome, talk to your sellers to find out which day of the week and what time of day would be best for an open house. It may require your seller give advance notice of the open house to neighbors.

Have you encountered any open house red flags as a selling or buying agent? How did you handle them? Let us know in the comments below!


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