After you have set the price, staged your home, and agreed upon a marketing plan with your listing agent, the next step is to make your home easy to see and to show off your home in its best possible light.
EASY TO SHOW
These are important words to busy buyer agents. When your home is "easy to show" buyer agents may include your home in their schedule even if it isn't quite what their buyers say they want. This is good because buyers sometimes fall in love with a home outside their stated criteria. "Easy to show" means that the sellers are very accomodating in terms of showing times and are forgiving if the agent runs a bit ahead or behind in their schedule. The more restrictions you put on showings in terms of times, days, or making the home unavailable for last minute showings, the fewer potential buyers will see your home and the longer your home will likely take to sell. If you have a home that requires preparation for a showing, perhaps you have a toddler and a dog, for example, then "24 hour notice required" might be appropriate, so you have time to get the home prepared for a showing.
Another aspect of being "easy to show" is allowing your listing agent to put an electronic keybox on your front door. If the buyers agent has to make arrangements to pick up the key or obtain a combination for a lock, it's another step that a busy buyer's agent has to take. Make it easy for the buyer's agent.
PREPARED TO SHOW
Make sure your home is prepared to show each day. If you and your spouse both work during the day, the morning rush can create a messy home. During the time your home is on the market, be sure to put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, used towels in the hamper, and leave the home decent, if not perfect, just in case there is a last minute showing.
When a home is in "show condition" it is sparkling clean, there is no clutter, surfaces are clear of papers or items (other than decorative ones), and it looks and smells inviting. Cooking odors can be a real detriment, but baking odors entice buyers, especially freshly baked cookies. Be careful about using air fresheners, especially the kind that plug into the wall. If your home has an odor problem, go to the source of the problem and resolve it. For example, keep kitty litter boxes clean.
Don't overlook your basement. A musty basement can ruin an otherwise perfect showing, especially if the potential buyer has allergies. Buy a dehumidifier and have the hose drain into your sump pump, so that you don't have to keep emptying it. Keep the dehumidifier running 24/7 until your home is sold. If there is anything that is causing a musty odor in the basement, get rid of it. Mildew and mold are huge issues for buyers today and you can't over come the first impression of a musty home. The buyers won't return.
Lights deserve their own special section because they are so important. If you know there is a showing planned for that day, put on every light in the house, including in the basement. Yes, the buyers agent can put on lights as she/he goes around with the buyer, but it's not the same effect as walking into a well-lit home. Ideally, the buyer and agent are walking from room-to-room discussing the features of your home, not searching for light switches. Also, the buyer's agent is not going to turn on every light in each room. She/he just won't have time. You want your home to show it's best, so turn on every single desk, table, accent, and overhead light in your home before the showing. Don't leave this to chance. And, yes, your electric bill will go up, but not as much as you think, because heat producing appliances are what generate the most amperage on your electric bill.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE
If you want to make your home especially inviting, you can have soft classical music playing in the background. You can have a fresh flower arrangement in the entry way or living room and a bowl of fruit on the dining room table. Some listing agents recommend having the dining room place settings out as if guests were coming to dinner. That's your call. You could have potpourri in the bathrooms for decoration and scent. Guest towels and soap in the bathrooms is another nice touch. Put the trash can out of sight in the kitchen and make sure the wastebaskets are empty in each room. You may also want to print up (on your computer) small signs that point out features that a busy buyer's agent might miss, for example, "Plans for expansion of this room are available" and have a copy of the plans nearby.
PROPERTY BOOK AND BROCHURES
You don't want to leave anything to chance. Make sure there are brochures for the potential buyer to take that highlight the features of your home with full color photographs and include a copy of the MLS printout. You should also have a "Property Book" next to the brochures, a three-ring binder that includes the field record card, warranties, oil tank remediation, recent improvements with dates, plot plan, property disclosures, and floor plans (if possible). I don't include the Property Disclosures as take-aways because I like to know when an offer is coming in. The buyer's agent will call me to request a copy of the Property Disclosures and I can also give the agent my fax number and be ready to receive the fax. The Property Disclosures are available for both the agent and potential buyer to review in the Property Book during the showing, but there is no need to everyone to take a copy with them unless they are making an offer.
HOW DO YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE WHILE YOUR HOME IS FOR SALE?
You have choices. You can live your life as you always do and expect your home to be on the market a very long time with fewer and fewer showings as buyer agents avoid your home, because it doesn't "show well" or you can accept as many inconveniences as you can tolerate and sell your home faster and for more money. It's your decision.
If you want to extract the most value out of your home, you have to live differently for the time your home is on the market. This means you take the toaster oven out of the cabinet, put it on the counter before you make your toast, and after it has cooled down, you put it away under the cabinet. You make your bed each day, you throw your clothes in the hamper, you put papers and books away.
You will also want to keep prescription medicines tucked away, money out of sight, bank statements, credit cards, and other personal information filed away. And, of course, keep valuable jewelry locked away. This is less of an issue with showings and more of a concern with Open Houses, but it is still prudent to take these precautions.
You can still have dinner parties and weekend barbecues, but you have to be prepared to miss potential buyers, because evening and weekends are the times that buyers have available to view homes. You can turn down last minute showings because you are in the middle of preparing dinner or are too tired. You are in control, however, if you make it too inconvenient for agents and buyers to see your home, then you are making your home harder to sell.
TO PREVIEW OR NOT TO PREVIEW
Your listing agent has held Broker Inspections, but there is an agent who didn't attend them and wants to preview your home. Should you let this agent preview your home for her client? Yes, if at all possible, let the agent preview your home. If you are in the midst of preparing dinner, let your agent know so that she can ask the agent if she minds the fact that the owners are at home and the house is not in show condition. Most buyer agents will appreciate the accomodation you are making to them and be able to see past the momentary disarray.
SHOWINGS ARE A GOOD THING
Reframe the inconvenience of showings into getting one step closer to selling your home. Don't build your hopes up for each showing or you will be on an emotional roller coaster. Assume that you will need ten showings to get one offer. Your house will not be right for every buyer and that does not mean you don't have a wonderful, amazing home. It may just mean that the buyer needs a second floor laundry room and there is no room to put one in your home or the master bedroom won't accomodate their furniture. Buyers have specific requirements and sometimes they don't know until they see a home whether the home will meet the needs of their lifestyle or not.
As inconvenient as showings are, the only thing worse is no showings. If there are no showings, there will be no sale. Showings are a necessary part of the sale process.