Showing properties to buyers is the make-or-break moment in many potential transactions. Keep these tips in mind before you unlock the door.

Step 1: Do your research

Knowing the breadth of the local inventory will help you to keep up with current market activity in your area. Buyer’s agents and seller’s agents both benefit from thorough knowledge not only of the property marketed and being considered by a buyer, but of other properties like it.

Previewing properties is the best way for a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent to get to know the value of a home. When buyers visit a house, they often ask questions like:

  • Why is this home more expensive – priced higher – than the home down the street?
  • My friend’s house two blocks down just sold for $XX. Why is this home not the same price?
  • I see problems with this property. Why is the price so high?

If you know what similar properties in the area are really like, you’ll be able to answer these questions with ease. The home down the street may be less expensive because it has fewer square feet or amenities, like fireplaces or an extra bath. Not only will a seller appreciate their agent’s ability to effectively defend the value of their home, but buyer’s agents impress potential buyers with their deep familiarity of the area.

Another reason buyer’s agents need to preview properties is to map a route to the showing. If you are bringing potential buyers to a home, you’ll need to know which parts of the neighborhood are the best selling points. Drive and observe the streets around the property to determine the conditions buyers will want to notice, like the local school, playgrounds and shopping centers, and which areas negatively affect a buyers’ initial opinion, like an abandoned strip mall.

Step 2: Prepare the property

For seller’s agents, it’s part of the job to help your seller present the property well. Coach the seller through staging their home, and tell them to try and keep it as pristine as possible until you’re done showing it.

Instruct the seller to clean the property thoroughly, including areas not seen on a daily basis, like garbage bins kept under a sink. Sellers will also need to get rid of clutter in both visible and hidden areas. For example, buyers will look into closets for storage space, and clutter makes closets appear smaller than they are.

Sellers also need to be aware that furniture arrangements make a difference in a buyer’s perspective of the home. Tell your seller to arrange furniture so that:

  • every room is properly furnished;
  • each room contains no more furniture than absolutely necessary; and
  • all furniture looks new and complements the house.

Tell the seller to remove any furniture that looks shabby or is in disrepair.

Suggest minor repairs the seller may be able to perform without major cost. Cleaning the gutters or replacing a stubborn doorknob makes a huge difference to buyers looking for a perfect home. These minor items are distractions misdirecting a potential buyer’s attention from the major high points.

Pets need to be relocated during showings, too. Have your seller make a plan for their pets by keeping them at a friend’s house when prospective buyers inspect the property. Remove any hair, food dishes or other signs of pets before a showing. Be aware of any lingering smells – pet odors cling to furniture, curtains and carpet, as does tobacco smoke – and occupants typically become indifferent to persistent odors.

Instruct your seller not to neglect landscaping. Remove old, dilapidated patio furniture. Mow and trim the lawn, and plant flowers or shrubs. A clean and pleasing yard will instantly enhance curb appeal.

Step 3: Market properly

When the home is ready to show, it’s time to begin marketing the property. Seller’s agents need to make sure the property is listed with many quality photos on all available multiple listing service (MLS) sites, as well as your agent website.

An open house is a great way for seller’s agents to stir interest in the property and show off its amenities to a variety of people. Tell other homeowners in the neighborhood about the open house as well – they will likely visit themselves, and they do make recommendations to friends and relatives.

Don’t forget to be smart with your advertising. Seller’s agents need to know the proper requirements for sign placement before you paper the town. Be sure to have plenty of property flyers and business cards at the open house with your contact information — some buyers will want to get in touch with you.

Have a marketing package fully disclosing the property’s attributes (Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS), natural hazard disclosure (NHD), home inspection report (HIR), expenses, title profile, termite clearance) immediately available to give open house visitors who ask questions beyond the information in your marketing flyers. These expanded inquiries are the signal that negotiations have just begun. They are seeking more facts, an indication you are dealing with a person seriously interested in the property.

Step 4: Schedule your showings

For different types of buyers, seller’s agents will need to put on different showings. If you’re just starting to market the property and drum up interest, an open house is a good idea. Open houses do, however, invite literally anyone to the home, so you may get a lot of opportunistic visitors just enjoying the hors d’oeuvres — or unsupervised valuables.

For serious potential buyers, private showings are a better way to increase their familiarity with the property. A seriously interested buyer wants to see into all the nooks and crannies of the home and ask questions more particular to their personal situation.

Seller’s agents need to discuss with the seller ideal times for showings. Buyers tend to prefer viewing homes when the seller isn’t around, so determine a schedule of times the seller is usually absent. However, be sure the seller knows some buyers have strict time constraints and may need to see the home at the last minute.

As a buyer’s agent, you need to negotiate times with the seller that work best for your buyers. Try to encourage a seller and their agent to schedule a private showing at a convenient time for your buyers to permit the buyer to do so at their own pace. Of course, vacant properties being shown with a lock box may be ideal – you and your buyers may go to see them at any time and stay as long as needed.

Step 5: Interact with buyers

Buyer’s agents and seller’s agents need to maintain a balance of privacy and helpfulness while the buyers are viewing the home. Be sure to give them enough space to make private opinions while maintaining availability to answer questions. Don’t just point at things or state the obvious – “here’s the kitchen,” “here’s the bathroom” – let the buyers take in the home, and wait until you reach a significant feature before stepping in.

Keep an eye on buyers, though; theft occurs during open houses and viewings, so a seller’s agent needs to be sure they’ve advised the seller to lock up any easily stolen valuables and sensitive paperwork. Buyer’s agents also need to follow buyers at a discreet distance to keep a watchful eye while giving clients freedom to observe.

Showing a home is much more than simply walking buyers through all the rooms. Whether you’re working as a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent, proper planning, preparation of the property and marketing materials increases the chances of negotiating a successful transaction.