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It’s SHOWTIME, folks!  Grab up the toys, wipe down the counter, turn up the lights, and send in the clowns… oops.  Send in the BUYERS.  Buyers, not clowns (guess they could be clowns, but we don’t know that yet).  And their agents.  (No more clown comments.)

When you have your home on the market, here is how a showing works from curtain up to curtain call.  The audition is the listing appointment in which you engage me as your agent.  The rehearsals are the staging work we do prior to taking pictures.  Unless we have sold your home before putting it on the market, we put those beautiful professional pictures up on the MLS (multiple listing service) and at that point you are ready to welcome the audience.  You want exposure to as large an audience as possible.  In the Atlanta area, that means advertising in both multiple listing services: Georgia MLS and First MLS and syndicating your listing to all websites that provide the public access to listings.

Once in the MLS and across the web, buyers and agents are able to see your home.  When a buyer and/or agent has identified your home as one they want to see in person, they will ask for a showing.  An unrepresented buyer may call me directly to arrange a showing.  The represented buyer will have their agent call me to set up the showing.  Or, depending upon how you, the seller, and I decide to handle showings, the agent may call you directly.  In any event, you will (hopefully) have 24 hours or more notice to have your home show ready.  BUT YOU CANNOT COUNT ON THAT.  Here’s why an agent might tell you between 2 and 3pm but actually show up at 1:30 or 3:30 (or anytime in between).

A buyer’s agent is typically showing their buyer more than just YOUR home on that day.  They may be showing anywhere between four homes and fourteen homes (or maybe more).  It’s difficult to tell in advance if a buyer is going to breeze through some or all of the homes before yours, or if they are going to want to take extra time and sit a spell at a prior listing.  Traffic may be particularly bad.  For any number of reasons, a buyer and agent may not show up at your home at the time that they say that they will.

So when they show up thirty minutes early or thirty minutes late or even are off by an hour, the key is to be friendly and understanding.  How you react greatly effects how the buyer is going to feel about the home.

Recently, I went with my buyers to see a home and when I knocked on the door, it was clear the frazzled Dad had no clue that we were coming.  But he put a big smile on his face and explained (you guessed it) “I had no clue that you were coming, but it’s totally fine!  Give us just a minute and we’ll be out for your showing.”  Dad and the two kids cleaned fast and headed to the driveway to play basketball.  My buyers had a great feeling about the house.  It’s like the home has good “mojo” because nice people live there.

Contrast that with the time I knocked on the door and was regaled by the person answering the door who practically screamed “YOU ARE EARLY.  You *(#() agents are always early!”  I apologized profusely, but then looked at my watch: I had said we would be there between 2 and 3pm and it was 1:59!  My clients didn’t even want to go inside after being yelled at.  Turns out the person answering the door was a home manager (more on that in a future blog post).  The home manager did not keep that position for long (no surprise).

So the moral of the story is to be the first seller, not the home manager.  Be ready and be courteous if the agent shows up early or late.  It’s totally fine if they are outside their time window to politely excuse yourself to sit on the front porch or to take a short walk.  Don’t act exasperated.  Just smile.  How a buyer feels about YOU really does affect the way they feel about the HOUSE.

While it’s okay to leave when an agent gets there if they are off their appointed time, as a seller, you always want to leave for a showing before the buyer and agent get there if at all possible.  Trust me on this.  The buyer needs time to LOOK at your house – experience it – and talk with their agent freely about their feelings, thoughts, and questions.  A seller in the house is distracting whether that seller is trying to engage the buyer or not – either way it’s bad.  A seller who is just hanging out in the home doing their thing makes a buyer feel that they are intruders and should get out quickly (not to mention the buyer feels that they can’t reveal their true feelings about the home or talk about it with their agent).  A seller who tries to give a tour of the home is even more disruptive.  If the buyer is looking at and listening to you, they aren’t experiencing the house.  And believe me, they don’t care about your hand painted kitchen backsplash tiles or the age of the windows if they haven’t even had a chance to decide if they like the house.

So if you have left prior to the showing as I am suggesting is best, how are agents and buyers going to get into your home?  As your listing agent, I will leave you a SUPRA ibox.  It’s a very secure blue box that can be attached to an exterior door or simply left out behind a planter when it is buyer showtime.  Buyer’s agents have SUPRA “keys” (or an app on their phone) that can open the lockbox through an infrared signal.  The lockbox even signals me, the listing agent, who is accessing the lockbox and when.  A great advance from the days when Realtors would have to pick up keys from the office for every listing they wanted to show.  The ibox is a good security measure since it identifies the person opening the box.  Always have the agent use the ibox for entry even IF you are there when they arrive.

When you are getting ready for the showing, here are your ground rules:

  • Leave ALL lights on. Every home looks better with the lights on.  In our staging consult, we’ve made sure that the light is of the right “quality”; make sure that all lightbulbs are operational and all lights on.
  • Leave all window shades open (unless there is a strategic reason for keeping one closed, or half closed – say if a view isn’t ideal).
  • Be cognizant of SMELL. No strange cooking smells, no locker room smells, no pet smells.  If you suspect any of these, the best counter-smells are citrus or pine (cleaning products).  Don’t use those plug-ins.  They are heavy scents, give many buyers headaches, and make it appear you are trying to cover up some particularly problematic odor.
  • In appealing to all senses, don’t forget TASTE. Leave cookies, chocolate (or both) with a sign that says “help yourself”.  Guess who it really helps?  A buyer with higher blood sugar will stay around longer and like your home more.  Leave water too – hydration improves perception as well!
  • While we’re appealing to all senses, sometimes leaving music on just feels creepy. Buyers think that there must be someone home so they are a bit on edge.  Silence is best.

You’ve set the stage and put your best foot forward for your buyers.  Afterwards come the reviews.  The best review of all?  AN OFFER.   Here’s to you being showered with offers like the star performer is showered with roses…..


Mary Anne Walser is a licensed attorney and full-time REALTOR, serving buyers and sellers in all areas of Metro Atlanta. Her knowledge of residential real estate and her legal expertise allow her to offer great value to her clients. Mary Anne s a member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, the Georgia Association of Realtors, the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers. Contact Mary Anne at 404-277-3527, or via email: maryannesellshomes@gmail.com.