By Broderick Perkins
You've prepared your house to look like a model home.
The decor is neutral, devoid of your tastes, desires and styles.
Pipe in soft music, brew some herbal tea, bake a cake and turn up the lights.
It's show time.
If you've put your house in order, it should just about sell itself. It's up to you to show it off.
In the beginning
When the first person walks into your open house, smile, look successful. Home shoppers are also shopping for a lifestyle. Wear casual, but tasteful attire. Be polite and friendly, but reserved.
Hand each shopper a sheet with the best features of the house. They can read it as they tour. Have available a sheet that points out neighborhood aspects. A third list should include items not to be included in the sale.
Next comes the balancing act: Escort visitors, keep them within sight at all times for security's sake, but don't hover. You want them to get a feel of what it's like living in the house.
Plan the tour to emphasize the best features of your home, showing the best at the beginning or at the end. Give them plenty of time to tour.
"Be careful about praising your house. Even the most interested prospective buyer can get turned off if you are too overbearing," says Ray Brown, San Francisco broker and co-author of "House Selling For Dummies"
(IDG Books, $16.99).
Don't intrude in visitors' conversations, but listen for comments directed your way. Answer questions concisely, confidently and honestly. If you don’t know something, say so. Offer to find an answer.
Don't argue with the shoppers.
"You can lead a horse to water, but your can't make it drink," says Robert Irwin, real estate broker and author of "The For Sale By Owner Kit"
Know thy home and they neighborhood
Anticipate visitors' questions by touring the house with a view toward its potential. Have copies of your air-conditioning, heating and water bills for the past 12 months available. Be ready with repair bills, building permits, appliance manuals and warranties. Be able to talk intelligently about home improvements, brand names, capacities of major systems and appliances.
This is where the owner-seller shines with intimate knowledge and credibility.
"If you've lived in the area for many years, you likely know more about the strengths of your house and neighborhood than the local real estate agents," says Brown.
Be able to talk geography, weather, schools, community issues, demographics, traffic, mass transit (even if you don’t use them), crime rates and other community facts.
Have no fear
Don’t fear objections about aspects of your home. They could signal a visitor's interest. Put yourself in the visitor's position. Let him or her know how you worked with a feature they find objectionable.
If a visitor makes an offer, stop selling, answer any final questions, but never, ever negotiate during the tour. Offer to let potential visitors return for another visit, unaccompanied by you. Schedule an appointment for them to present a firm offer.
"Wait until the visitors call back or until you call them. Then you can ask a few questions to determine if they are really interested," Irwin said.
Broderick Perkins, has been a consumer journalist for 20 years. Experienced in print, electronic, and consulting journalism, he is chief executive editor of San Jose, CA-based, DeadlineNews.Com, an editorial content and consulting firm.
© Copyright 1999 by Broderick Perkins. All Rights Reserved.