Dear Mrs. Lank: Our Realtor listed our house two weeks ago and now she is planning to have an open house next weekend. She has asked us to leave the house and go somewhere for those three hours. She says it will work better. We're not sure, is this usual? — F. I.
Answer: Of course you're curious to see who comes to see your home, but the agent is right. House hunting can be confusing and tiring, and prospects need to concentrate on the house. You would be a distraction.
Perhaps you can use the time to visit other nearby open houses, to see how your home compares. You don't have to be prospective buyers. Agents are used to it — some people just like viewing houses.
Or if you can't bear to go away, perhaps you can visit across the street for those few hours. That way at least you'll be able to see the traffic. Unless your house is strikingly underpriced, don't expect hordes of visitors.
Don't be offended if curious neighbors walk over for the first open house. For all you know, they may have friends who always wanted to live nearby. (Your agent, of course, has an extra motive for being cordial, hoping to be remembered when the next house on the street goes on the market.)
Before you leave, set up the house to appeal to all five senses. Consider the sound level; stop the dishwasher and clothes drier. For fragrance, some homeowners have been known to simmer a cinnamon stick before an open house. If, on the other hand, you have a heavy smoker in the house, remove ashtrays and spray air freshener at the last moment. Some buyers won't even enter a home if they can tell the owner smokes.
Open shades and drapes to show off your newly washed windows. Turn on lights from top to bottom, even in the daytime. Set out your best towels and bedspreads. While you're at it, set out your utility bills also; serious buyers will want to see them.
On any day that isn't sweltering, start a fire to dramatize your open hearth. A pressed log from the supermarket will burn alone and add a cozy glow through the afternoon, with very little ash. And prospects won't have to ask if the fireplace works.
Good luck! Just remember that open houses result in only about five percent of real estate sales. At the least, though, your agent may have some helpful buyer reaction to report.
Not All Are Realtors
Dear Ms. Lank: Your answer in a recent column suggested calling "the phone numbers on nearby Realtors' lawn signs." A "Realtor" is limited to members of the National Association of Realtors, and there are many real estate agents who are NOT members of the NAR. Must one seek out only a Realtor when there also are many qualified real estate agents who are not "Realtors"? — to www.askedith.com
Answer: Of course not. Thanks for pointing out the error. I must admit that in that column, I did forget, and used the word "Realtor" just once. I try not to. At least, though, I had it properly capitalized. Most of the time I refer to the real estate "broker", who holds an advanced license issued by the state, or I write "agent," which is simply a general term for someone who acts for another.
Yes, "Realtor" is a trademarked word, invented about a hundred years ago. It indicates a member of a private organization, the National Association of Realtors. They patterned the word after "doctor," in hopes of indicating professional status for their members. The NAR tries to keep the word trademarked, but the term is in danger of slipping into general language. If it becomes too successful, they'll lose their exclusive right to it. That's how Bayer lost the ownership of the word "aspirin." In Canada, Bayer still owns it and is the only company that can label that pill as Aspirin.
Most licensed brokers and salespersons, at least in my town, do choose to join the national and local Realtor associations. That brings with it membership in a multiple listing system, giving them access to a large share of the local real estate market. But of course, you're right. Some fully qualified licensed brokers and their associated salespersons do not choose to become Realtors. The ones I know are mostly brokers who specialize in commercial property, or who practice in isolated areas.
A smaller private organization, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, designates its members as Realtists. Other national associations include groups of appraisers, buyers' agents, property managers, real estate educators and home inspectors. The letters that follow names on some agents' business cards indicate membership, and certification earned after experience and study beyond the state's license requirements.
Edith Lank will respond personally to any question sent to www.askedith.com, to [email protected], or to 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.
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