Being Modern: Open-house viewings

 

Easter weekend marks the beginning of the spring house-buying season. For vendors, that means prowling the floors, to pick mercilessly away at imagined fluff, before unlocking the doors of their pristine homes to the mud-trampling feet of prospective buyers. But how best to diminish the disruption – and wipe away the thought that all those hours spent polishing have been lain to waste by filthy soles? By inviting as many potential owners as possible in one go...

The concept of launching a property on to the market via an "open house" was already popular in the US, Canada, South Africa and Australasia when it first arrived here just over a decade ago. And in the past few years the trend has truly taken off: in one nationwide initiative last May, more than 17,000 properties were "opened" over a single weekend.

Usually involving a one- to two-hour slot on a Saturday, this method not only keeps the chaos to a minimum, it can also help build a buzz around a property, not least when buyers see the competition nosing around, creating an air of frenzied panic as they judge each other by the size of their handbags and offer in excess of the guide price, guarding against the potential bid of an unknown rival.

But it's not all good news for sellers. First, there's the security angle: with so many people wandering around, vendors have to make sure their valuables don't go a-wandering, too. It's also not so great if the buyer wants a bit of personal service from the estate agent – or even if they want to discuss the property without anyone else listening in. Then there's the worry that if too many turn up, they might trip over each other. Conversely, if the hour is poorly attended, buyers can think they'll get the home on the cheap.

And then there are the endless decisions: would viewers prefer tulips or daffodils on your table? Do they want the smell of baking bread or brewing coffee? At which point the agent will probably tell you to hide that piece of "art", even if you love it. Because buyers are there to see the house, not your taste. It's no wonder they say moving home is one of life's most stressful experiences.

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