"You don't suppose I could just quietly sit downstairs during the Open House?" my client plaintively asked. "I'd love to hear what people are saying." (Uh, no you wouldn't.)
It's not that I don't understand your desire or your inclination to be a "fly on the wall." After weeks of purging, cleaning, and preparing your now fabulous home for the market, it's only natural that homeowners want some well-deserved feedback. (Of course they do!)
"Absolutely not," I replied, as sternly as any second-grade school teacher, as I handed them their bags and gently pushed them out the door. "You need to enjoy an afternoon OFF while I take care of the prospective buyers and their agents." The truth is there is nothing more off-putting to buyers than having the expectant sellers remain in the house while they walk through it. Take it from me, there's a host of good reasons why homes are sold via third party negotiators and why agents do their best to keep buyers and sellers APART until AFTER the property closes escrow. Once the property has transferred ownership, by all means, feel free to meet and discuss the drip irrigation system, the combination for the alarm code, and the wild turkeys that visit the property each fall. (Just don't do it before then.)
The fact is that no matter how beautifully appointed your home, or how meticulously you have worked to make it darn near "perfect," the new buyers are very likely to repaint the walls, refinish the floors and start mentally tearing down walls. It isn't at all uncommon to hear them speak about "gutting the kitchen," "changing out the baths," and "ripping out the organic garden," even when - and especially if - the sellers have just put them all in! I have a very good friend who lives by the credo: "What other people think of me is none of my business." And from where I sit (guiding anxious buyers and sellers) I think it's a philosophy well worth embracing. No matter how much time and care you have invested in your spectacular home, it won't reflect the taste of the next buyer - nor should it (the home represents your life story - not yet theirs). It's almost a foregone conclusion that the new owners will move in and quickly start changing . . . just about everything.
That leather-tufted wet bar downstairs you love - they hate. The floor plan that works so beautifully for your family - is problematic for theirs, and the views that provide unbelievable serenity - are way too far up the hill. Groan . . . (and that's just from my perspective).
It's not hard to imagine just how well these "keen observations" go over with emotionally attached sellers who have recently spent a fair amount of time (and money) prepping and staging their lovely home for sale. Selling a home is emotional enough without overhearing these off-handed, "constructive" criticisms and remarks, isn't it? (Yes, it is.) Yet here's the essential element sellers need to understand (are you listening?): buyers cannot begin to place themselves in the home without these conversations taking place. AND what's more, they can't speak freely with you in the home. So do yourselves a favor and plan an afternoon at the movies, go shopping for your new residence or taking some well-deserved time off! (Trust me, I'll take it from here.)
Kiss your house goodbye, wish me a successful Open House, and save your desire to meet the buyers until the day you hand over the keys and the remote controls. Take your memories with you and thank the house for all it has carried you through. If you can do that, you are bound to have a much better (and happier) result!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.