How to safely open your house to buyers during a coronavirus stay-at-home order
As more and more of our clients are staying in their homes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, we at Trelora want to help buyers and sellers continue to connect.
We’ve already moved to virtual open houses. Now, we are taking the next step in places like Washington where stay-at-home orders don’t include real estate as an essential business: self-guided virtual showings.
Fortunately, the technology available to us in 2020 makes showing your own home to prospective buyers easier than you might think. The advice in this guide is based on over 2,000 transactions of combined experience buying and selling homes, and includes everything you need to know to show your house effectively while sheltering in place.
What device should I use to show my house?
For most sellers, the best device for virtual tours is your smartphone. The dual-camera setup, cellular connection, and small form factor make it the easiest device to use as you walk buyers around your house.
Plus, most of us are already used to holding video calls on our phones, so it should be familiar and (relatively) easy.
What’s the best app to use for virtual showings?
For one-on-one virtual showings, we recommend using Google’s Hangouts Meet. It’s easy-to-use, reliable, and works on any device.
Please download the app for your iOS or Android device ahead of time and test your camera and sound. Your Trelora agent will create a unique link for your tour and add it to the calendar event for your showing to give you and the buyers easy access.
How should I prepare for the showing?
- Test your setup. Your agent will coordinate a time before the showing to make sure your video, audio, and internet connection are working well.
- Check for dead zones. If there are places where your wifi or cellular connection is spotty (most likely the basement and outdoor spaces), plan ahead to switch between wifi and cellular for the best connection during the tour.
- Declutter. Make sure floors are clear of clutter to make sure the space looks appealing and to avoid tripping hazards as you walk around during the tour.
- Contain pets and family members. We know this is especially tough if you and your family are all at home. If possible, let dogs go outside and ask your family members to say in one room and stay quiet during the tour.
- Prep your materials. Your agent will send you the MLS sheet as a PDF. Keep it handy in case you need to answer questions you don’t know off the top of your head.
- Turn on the lights. Open every shade to get a good amount of natural light and turn on all overhead light fixtures.
A Guided Tour… To Guided Tours
We know a virtual showing isn’t quite the same as an in-person tour, but if you follow this step-by-step guide, we’re confident that buyers will get a good feel for your home. Showing your own home may be uncomfortable at first, but stick with it and you’ll be showing like a pro before long.
Start outside the front door.
- Introduce yourself. With the camera facing you, introduce yourself and ask the buyers a few basic questions to get to know them. What are their names? Are they familiar with the neighborhood? Make sure they can see and hear clearly before you dive into the tour.
- Show the “curb appeal” view of the house. Flip to the camera facing away from you for the rest of the tour, starting with a view of the home from the sidewalk.
- Pan around the front yard slowly. Show the homes next door and across the street so the buyers can see the distance from other homes and get a feel for your block.
- Mention the roof. The roof is expensive to repair or replace, so put buyers at ease by showing them a visible portion of the roof and explaining when it was last repaired.
- Take cues from the buyer. Before leaving any area, ask “Are you ready to move on?” or “Is there anything else you’d like to see before we move on?”
Walk into the main living space.
- Point out the foyer or entry space. It’s helpful to show closets and storage too.
- Stand in a corner and pan around slowly. Find a spot where you can see the entire living room and stay put, moving the camera around. Ideally, you’ll want windows to be next to or behind you, not directly in front, so sunlight doesn’t overwhelm the camera.
- Show the floors. Explain what they are made of (ex. solid hardwood, engineered wood, vinyl, carpet, tile, etc.) and any recent maintenance or upgrades.
- Show any unique details like fireplaces, built-ins, and trim. You may need to move around to get closeups of these features.
- Show the windows. If they’ve been recently replaced, mention what the window frames are made of and any special features like double-pane windows. Keep an eye on the image to make sure you aren’t getting too much light.
- Walk into the dining room, then stand in place while you pan around. Be sure to show how this room connects to the previous one.
- Continue to follow the natural flow of your home. Avoiding jumping between spaces that are far apart to give the buyers a good sense of how everything connects.
- Talk whenever you walk. Transitions can be disorienting over video. Any time you are moving between spaces, explain where you’re going to help buyers understand how everything connects.
Show off the kitchen.
- Stand in a corner and pan around slowly. Go slower than you think!
- Point out the countertops. Buyers will want to know what they’re made of and may want to see a closeup.
- Show the appliances. Explain which ones are included in the sale, and when they were last replaced.
- Point out cabinets and pantry storage. Buyers may not think to ask, but they’ll care a lot about storage space when they move in.
Follow the flow of the home and show other above-ground spaces.
- Show bedrooms and bathrooms by standing at the door and pointing the camera in. This will enhance the private feeling of these more intimate spaces, and make them look bigger.
- Don’t forget about closets. They may not be the most photogenic spaces, but buyers will want to see where they’ll store clothes, linens, and other odds and ends.
- If there is a second story, show it next.
- Show the master bedroom and master bathroom in detail. After the kitchen, these are the most important rooms in your house to most buyers. Make sure to take time to show off bathroom fixtures, bedroom closets, and any other notable features.
Show the basement, going to the unglamorous (but important!) spaces last.
- Show any finished spaces first. By now, you know the drill. Find a nice corner and pan around slowly.
- Show the furnace and water heater. These aren’t pretty to look at but are important and potentially expensive items. Let the buyers know how old they are and how well they function. Rely on your agent if you get any tough questions.
- Show any other major systems in the basement. If you have central air conditioning, a sump pump, a radon mitigation system, or anything else of note, show it now.
Show the back yard.
- Be sure to point out the patio or deck. These outdoor livable spaces can be a big selling point.
- Mention landscaping and sprinklers if you have them. Especially in off-peak seasons, help buyers imagine what the yard looks like in the height of spring.
- Point out what’s next door and behind your home. Many buyers will want to know how private outdoor spaces are. If your yard abuts open space or has a view, make sure to mention it.
- Show the garage if there is one. Note the size and any important features.
Come back inside to answer any questions.
- Ask if there is anything they’d like to see again. Sometimes it takes a couple times through a room to get a good sense of it.
- Your agent will discuss next steps with them.
- Thank them for their time and wish them well.
Phew! Your agent will follow up with the buyers or their agent to request feedback and see if they are interested in submitting an offer.
Do’s and Don’ts
Showing your home to prospective buyers is different from taking your friend on a tour. This advice will help you come across as professional and informative, and help your home shine.
- Do make a personal connection. You and the buyer share at least one thing in common — you both like the same home!
- Do give people a feeling of the layout. When you’re walking between rooms, explain how everything connects.
- Do listen attentively and answer questions. Pay close attention to the questions they ask, and anything they seem to be unsure about.
- Do defer to your agent if there is a question you aren’t sure how to answer. “Let me check with my agent on that and get back to you” is always an acceptable answer.
- Don’t hover. Try to read and adapt to their communication style. Some people are naturally chattier than others.
- Don’t move too much or too fast. It can be disorienting to be other other side of a video call with too much movement.
- Don’t talk too much. The buyers are trying to imagine themselves in this home, so be sure to give them time to think.
- Do point out what you love about your home. Focus on details that aren’t clear from the pictures or the description.
- Do mention things you’ve upgraded. This is when your sweat equity starts to pay dividends.
- Do be honest and descriptive. It’s ok to be forthright, and it builds trust to tell it like it is.
- Do let the buyer move at their pace. Some buyers look faster than others. Respect their natural rhythm by asking before you move on.
- Do pan up and down. Buyers will want to see floors and light fixtures.
- Don’t focus on yourself. The buyer wants to imagine themselves living there, so too many details about you may get in the way.
- Don’t apologize for any mess or incomplete projects. Every home has imperfections. Don’t take your home’s quirks personally.
- Don’t use over-the-top adjectives. The buyer wants to know what the floors are made of and when they were replaced, not that they are “wonderful” or “incredible.”
- Don’t be in a rush or skip important details. Let the buyer move at their own pace, and ask before moving onto another room.
- Do tell them the lot size in acres and/or square feet. It can be difficult to get a sense of scale over video.
- Do talk about the neighborhood and what you love about it. Mention things like local businesses you like to go to, nearby parks, and neighborhood events.
- Do mention the HOA. If your home has an HOA, explain the monthly fee and what it includes.
- Don’t talk about demographics. In order to make sure you are following fair housing guidelines, it’s best not to make any generalizations about demographics like the race, age, or income of the neighborhood or talk about religious institutions
Let’s Do Our Part
We are hopeful that the advice in this guide is helpful to sellers everywhere. We are glad to do our part to continue to follow the guidance of public health professionals and maintain a safe distance from one another while continuing to help homes sell, and we hope that we can help others in the real estate community do the same.
Zack Sulsky is Trelora’s Chief Product Officer. Zack joined Trelora in 2017 and has helped lead the company from its roots as a local real estate disruptor to a growing national brand. In his role as CPO, Zack is responsible for customer experience, product, and technology. Prior to joining Trelora, Zack was cofounder and COO at Edify, a Techstars- and NSF-backed startup in educational technology.