A friend is thinking of selling her house. It’s an upmarket place in a swish spot. Would it be appropriate, she asked me, for her to be there during the open homes, keeping the agent company? Maybe serving wine and cheese to tempt would-be home buyers (it’s a nice home, and her buyers are likely to enjoy that kind of thing), and to answer any questions about the property.
It’s generally something not done in Australia but it’s not uncommon on TV lifestyle shows to see the vendors, having spruced up their place, springing forward to open the door for house hunters, and then guiding them around the property while the agent lurks in the background.
Being on site during open houses could go either way. One of the things that makes buyers fall in love with homes is that they can imagine themselves living there, and they might find that hard to do with the owner on hand. Many also like the freedom to open and shut drawers, check if the toilet flushes properly and jump up and down on the floorboards, to see if everything is in working order.
You would have to be thick-skinned when showing your own house because buyers don’t generally hold back in letting their thoughts be known about the state of a property, the choice of paint colours or even the furniture. Sometimes it’s just the house hunter talking through what they might change to make it their own, but for sellers who’ve worked hard on getting the place to be just as they want it, that might not sound so nice. Then again you’re selling and it won’t be yours soon anyway, so you’d just have to grin and bear it, really.
On the plus side, you would get to hear first hand what it is that buyers don’t like about your place, and you might have the opportunity to make a few changes before future open homes.
As a would-be buyer I think I’d be 50-50 about whether I wanted an owner present while I was snooping through their place. Not that I’m rifling through their drawers (honestly) but it’s hard to meaningfully “inspect” something under pressure. It would be great to be able to ask the seller about the ins and outs of the house – however, I would not want them looking over my shoulder every step of the way. I’d be comfortable if they were there, but perhaps confined to the front room or the kitchen, on hand if I had any queries.
Real estate agents might not be so keen to have the owner hanging about either, or would want to set some ground rules about price quoting and impromptu negotiations.
Then there’s the question of whether having an owner on hand would add to the value of the property, or potentially detract from it. And sometimes that might come down to mood and manner because let’s face it, not all of us are people-people, if you know what I mean.
Carolyn Boyd is a property journalist and keen follower of Australia’s housing market.