Open House Cheat Sheet: 6 Questions to Prepare For

A well-informed potential buyer makes quicker decisions, so be prepared to offer a wealth of information

By Marilyn Blume

Originally featured on Inman.com

What’s The Price?

Whether you’re a rookie agent, a rising team leader or an established veteran broker, we can all benefit from sharpening our skills. Follow our “ Back to Basics ” series to learn fundamental strategies, tactics, philosophies and more from real estate pros across the industry. Open houses are a mainstay marketing activity that sellers will often request, believing that an open house will get their home the most exposure to the appropriate audience of buyers. Mastering the art of the open house will keep your sellers happy and, if done properly, help ensure you a pipeline of buyers. Part of preparing for an open house is having the information buyers will request at the ready. Whether creating a show sheet, adding information to the listing website or preparing for in-person exchanges, know the answers to the following six questions. Well-researched answers just might help you sell that listing.

You need to talk about how you arrived at the asking price of your property using relevant data. Being able to discuss comparable properties (“comps”) that are currently on the market help educate the prospective buyer as well as give you the opportunity to build credibility through your wealth of knowledge. This also includes comps that have signed contracts within the past couple of months. For example, if there are currently only two other comps, know how your property compares, when the last one went into contract, how long it was on the market, if there were any price adjustments , etc.

 

What’s Around Here?

Discuss proximity to its town, schools, parks, shopping and public transportation (including commuter lines). It is helpful to know the direction your property faces; some prefer western light in the afternoon, while others prefer eastern in the morning. Furthermore, for a suburban home, be able to speak about the lot size and grade of the land (even if it is obvious to the naked eye). Flat land is more usable, therefore more valuable, than one with an uneven grade. Also, talk about the location of the rooms. Is the kitchen in the back of the home offering an easy egress to the backyard? If representing a New York City apartment, talk about the location of the property within the building. For example, a corner apartment is highly coveted, as it will have at least one room with double exposure (facing two different directions). Additionally, the front of the building is usually more desirable due to better light and views than being in the back of the building.

What Are The Monthly Carrying Costs?

Have available the most updated property tax, utility bills (know if heat is electric, gas or oil) and if the property currently gets any tax credits (STAR for a home, abatement for a NYC apartment). It is also helpful to know the average utility bills on a monthly basis to help buyers get a sense of the monthly fixed costs. For a NYC property, know the monthly costs (for a co-op , it is maintenance, and for a condo it’s common charge/real estate tax). Moreover, many buyers find it helpful to have a mortgage fee schedule for your property; this further helps them in assessing their fixed monthly costs. What do you know about the property? Know how long the current owners have lived there, if they did any renovations and why they are moving. Also discuss how long the property has been on the market (are you the first agent representing this property, or was it previously on the market with someone else?) as well as any price reductions . Highlight what makes your property special by having a list of renovations (improvements) with approximate dates. This list should include brand name appliances, cabinetry, stonework, light fixtures, architectural features, etc. For a home, you should know the age of the roof, the boiler, the compressor (if central air), when the driveway and brickwork was renovated, etc. Additionally, for a NYC apartment, know what kind of air conditioning the building allows: central, through the wall or wall units. For any property, it’s very important to know what fixtures will be included in the sale (lighting fixtures, window treatments, etc.) to prevent any confusion.

 

What’s The Community Like?

Talk about what the community has to offer. In the suburbs, there are certain school districts that are highly desirable, so know what district your property is zoned for, the statistics of the school (these are published by U.S. News and other publications) and if buses are provided. Other helpful information is to know if there are any new developments nearby that are slated to begin construction and how this would affect this property. The more information you give to the potential buyers, the more they can understand how your property compares to others in a community.

Are There Zoning Issues?

Before the open house, find out about the local zoning laws and the process of getting approval for renovations. If there was any structural changes, know if the proper paperwork filed to receive a certificate of occupancy. It’s critical to have these legal documents as this could significantly delay a deal or even break it. Also, be knowledgeable on load bearing walls and beams. It’s helpful when prospective buyers want to make modifications including moving walls, opening rooms, etc. For an NYC apartment, read over the building’s most recent financial statements so you are aware of the condition of the building as well as any renovations. Equally important is pointing out recent or upcoming assessments including the allocations of these funds. Also, for a NYC apartment, have an approximate idea of the building’s reserves (liquid account set aside by the building for any financial costs). Lastly, know if the property permits the owner to sublet, and if so, have current rental comps handy. Hopefully, this knowledge will empower the potential buyer to put a competitive offer on your listing. And if not, perhaps you’ll impress your potential buyers enough that the’ll want to work with you in the future.