Open House Horror Stories (and how to avoid them)


If you are getting ready to sell your home, chances are that you will be hosting an open house soon. Open houses are a great way to showcase your home to potential buyers and, in many cases, helps them make a final decision to buy. On the other hand, if an open house isn’t done properly, it can send buyers running in the opposite direction.

Recently, asked their readers to submit their open house horror stories, and we chose three of them to share with you here. These stories are told from the buyer’s point of view, and provide some valuable lessons about common open house mistakes.

Horror Story #1: The Mysterious Door
Phil and his wife were attending an open house when they came across a door on the third floor. The door had a sign on it that read: “Do Not Open.”

Too curious to ignore the warning, the couple opened the door and found themselves face-to-face with a large, hissing iguana. They were absolutely terrified as the owner’s pet lizard scurried past them and into the hallway before disappearing into another room.

While this is a somewhat extreme example, the issue of pets is an important one when it comes to open houses. It’s okay to love your pets, but it’s highly unlikely that others will love them as much as you do. That’s why we suggest removing your pets, and all traces of them, before opening your house to potential buyers.

Not only can pets create unsightly messes and unpleasant smells, they can also scare people who aren’t used to being around animals, or cause allergic reactions to buyers who are sensitive to pet dander.

Horror Story #2: The Sleeping Son
Kate’s excitement about the lake house they were viewing was dampened slightly when she had to share the experience with the owner and her entire family.

Their tour of the house started with the kitchen, where the owner was busy making herself a sandwich. Next, they inadvertently disturbed the nap of a teenage boy, who was sleeping in one of the bedrooms. In the finished basement, they interrupted a group of young children trying to watch a TV show over the sound of a dog barking from a locked room.

The purpose of an open house is to give potential buyers an opportunity to envision themselves living in your home. That is difficult for them to do when all they can see is your family living there. We suggest leaving the premises all together when buyers are viewing your house.

Not only does that give them a chance to view the home as an empty slate that they can fill with their own family memories, but they can feel free to make comments (positive and negative) without worrying about hurting your feelings.

Horror Story #3: The Sweeping Socks
When DJ was asked to remove his shoes at the door of an open house, he didn’t think anything of it…until he got inside. The floors of the house were so dirty that he thought the real purpose behind removing his shoes may have been so that he could help clean the floors by dusting them with his socks.

Failing to clean your home properly before an open house can really turn buyers away. It can be difficult to look past clutter and dirt to see the home’s potential underneath. It can also bring other questions to the buyers’ minds, such as how well you’ve treated the rest of the house, and what other surprises might await them.

Setting the stage for a successful open house means removing all signs that you live there, including your messes. We recommend cleaning the inside and outside of your house (including your front and back yards) thoroughly, removing as many personal items as you can, and storing excess furniture.

Do you have an open house horror story? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.


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