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This Brooklyn condo looks great on paper, but visiting the open house will give the whole picture. (Lexington Brooklyn, #201 - The Corcoran Group) This Brooklyn condo looks great on paper, but visiting the open house will give the whole picture. (Lexington Brooklyn, #201 - The Corcoran Group)
After a brief hiatus during the first year of the pandemic, in-person open houses are back and, from all accounts, here to stay. Unsurprisingly, the most serious buyers and agents always prefer to visit a property in person. This article breaks down how buyers and sellers can prepare for an open house and why preparation matters.

How to Prepare for an Open House as a Buyer

To start, it is important for buyers to understand that an open house isn’t a home inspection. The inspection comes later, usually only after you’ve put in an offer, and will likely be carried out by a certified inspector and not yourself. But if an open house isn’t time to start looking for mold under the bathroom sink, what should you be doing at an open house?
First and foremost, the open house is a chance to see a property in person and think about whether or not it might work for you and your family. Given that other potential buyers will likely be present, this may not be an ideal time to pull out your measuring tape to determine if your favorite sofa will fit in the living room. That said, you can use the open house to get a general feel for the property, the building, and the neighborhood. It is also your first chance to take note of other important factors:

  • Size: Does the apartment feel big enough to accommodate you, your family, your belongings, and lifestyle?
  • Storage: Is there adequate closet space and/or in-building storage?
  • Condition: Is the apartment in good condition? Will you need to repair or replace the floors or do a gut renovation to the kitchen or bathroom?
  • Appliances: Are the appliances in good condition, or will they likely need to be replaced before or soon after moving in?
  • Views and light: Can you live with the views and amount of light?
  • Access: Is it a walkup or elevator building? If it's the latter, is the elevator in working condition and being inspected on a regular basis?
  • Building condition and amenities: Is the building in good repair? Are there amenities (e.g., a shared laundry room, gym, or bike or storage room)? If so, are these amenities being kept in clean and working condition?
Beyond offering an opportunity for you to check out the property, open houses are also a chance for sellers —or more likely, their agents — to check you out. You don’t need to show up in your best outfit, but particularly in New York City where co-op and condo boards are often scrupulous in their vetting of potential buyers, it is a good idea to show up looking like a serious potential buyer. In fact, especially in a seller’s market, the buyer’s agent may be vetting potential buyers over the course of the open house and thinking about which buyers are most likely to get through the board screening process. In the end, if a seller has three potential offers in a similar price range, the agent may advise that they go with an offer put in by the buyer most likely to meet the board’s immediate approval.

How to Prepare for an Open House as a Seller

If you’re selling a home, open-house preparation is one of the most important parts of the process. While every listing agent has his or her own to-do list, a few items are on nearly everyone’s list:

  • Declutter: The cleaner the canvas, the better the open house will be. If necessary, put most of your belongings in storage. This can be difficult if you have small children, or if you’re an avid collector, but at an open house, no one wants to trip over a child’s Lego set or be distracted by a vast collection of esoteric objects.
  • Depersonalize: On a related note, buyers want to see themselves in the home; if the first thing they see when they walk in is a wall of family photographs, they may struggle to imagine themselves in the space. For this reason, as a rule of thumb, take yourself and your cute kids and grandkids out of the picture. Given that people may be photographing the space, this is also a good security measure.
  • Repair: If you’ve been neglecting the small crack in your porcelain sink, your loose doorknob, sticky closet door, or chipping paint, now is the time to hire a repair person to come in and attend to these obvious repairs.
  • Deep clean: No matter how good you are at cleaning, pre-open house cleaning is not a do-it-yourself project. Hire a professional cleaner with experience doing pre-open house or move-out cleans to do a top-to-bottom clean, making sure they cover everything from the dust on the top of your refrigerator to the crumbs under the couch.
  • Board the pets: You may love your dog, cat, rat, or parrot, but potential buyers may not share your love of animals (at least not your love of your animal). If possible, find a temporary home for your pet.
  • Get out of town: Most potential buyers prefer to attend open houses when the owners aren’t present; trust your agent to represent you and your home.

When to Skip the Open House as a Buyer or Seller

In most cases, it is highly unadvisable to skip the open house, especially as a buyer. In a seller’s market, however, agents may sometimes advise putting in an offer without viewing a property in person to ensure another buyer doesn’t put in an offer first.

On the seller side, an open house can be a blessing or a curse. If you have a property that is likely to show well and can be easily staged without a huge investment, the open house is nearly always a good idea as it is likely to generate more interest and potentially lead to multiple offers. If, by contrast, the property is in ill repair, cluttered, and can’t easily be staged for an open house, listing agents will often advise that the seller skip the open house and promote the listing using other means.

The Oslo, #3R (Corcoran Group)

The 153 Chauncey, #2B (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

Apex Condominiums, #9C (Compass)

Lexington Brooklyn, #201 (Corcoran Group)

The Benny, #7D (Real New York)

The Conover, #3D (Compass)

Eleven Hancock, #501 (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

Skyline Tower, #3010

Long Island City | Condominium | 1 Bedroom, 1 Bath | 678 ft2
Open Houses: Saturday, July 8, morning | Sunday, July 9, morning
Skyline Tower, #3010 (Modern Spaces)

VU New York, #26D (Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing LLC)

Gracie Green, #2B (Corcoran Group)

324 West 108th Street, #22 (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

1289 Lexington Avenue, #4A (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

No. 33 Park Row, #14B (Compass)

Maverick, #2C

Chelsea | Condominium | 2 Bedrooms, 2 Baths | 1,120 ft2
Open Houses: Saturday, July 8, morning | Sunday, July 9, morning
Maverick, #2C (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

Madison House, #51A

Murray Hill | Condominium | 2 Bedrooms, 2 Baths | 1,651 ft2
Open Houses: Saturday, July 8, morning | Sunday, July 9, morning
Madison House, #51A (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

101 West 14th Street, #PH1B (Compass)
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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.