The Perfect Home Showing

Working with buyers means showing homes, and lots of them. Here are 10 ways you can make the process move along as smoothly as possible.

August 1, 2008

Buyers today are more informed than ever, thanks in large part to the abundance of real estate information on the Web. 

But even when you're working with buyers who really know what they want, your job will likely require to you show several properties in person.

Ideally, at one of these showings, your client will fall in love with the property and start thinking hard about making an offer. What can you do to help them reach that stage?Here are 10 tips for making sure that the home-showing process moves along smoothly and efficiently (and safely, of course) as possible: 

1. Prepare Them for the Journey

Before you venture out with buyers on their search for a lovely home, spend time educating them on how the home-buying process works. Even if they’re not first-time buyers, they will likely need a refresher. After all, if they decide to make an offer on one of the homes they see with you, they’ll need to be prepared to quickly put down earnest money, produce a prequalification letter, and work with you to produce a competitive offer.  If you discover your buyers haven’t already talked with a lender, considered how much they could afford for a down payment, or dealt with other important homebuying issues, it might not be the best use of time to look at properties in-person.

2. Narrow the Search With a Drive-By Tour

When you’re working with buyers who are unfocused or haven’t decided exactly where they’d like to live, it can save everyone time to drive by a number of homes that meet their general search criteria. Oftentimes, buyers will have looked online at many properties that “seem nice” from their photos or virtual tours, and will forward you a long list of properties they like.  Although you can’t always judge a property by its cover, buyers often will be able to say from a simple driveby whether or not they’d like to pursue the property further. Plus, you can learn a lot about what they’re looking for in a home or neighborhood.  

3. Prepare a Buyer’s Rating Guide

Before you set out on a marathon of home showings, give the buyers a handy guide to help them sort out their opinions and remember which properties they liked most. Use your creativity to create a guide that caters to your niche customers and properties in your market—it can be as simple as a few pages of paper stapled together, or as deluxe as a laminated pamphlet with home photos, neighborhood data, and a checklist of home features for each property. The important thing is for buyers to record their thoughts on each property so they can review the homes at the end of the day and decide how they want to move forward.

4. Don’t Oversell, Undersell

You may have run across a listing in the MLS that looks just perfect for your customers. But if you hype it up too much before the showing, buyers may feel the home doesn’t meet their hyped-up expectations.  The opposite is true, too—many practitioners have stories of showing homes they thought were downright ugly, only to learn it was “just what we were looking for.” In preparation of a showing, it’s good practice to tell the customers about all of the home features that match their search criteria. However, it’s important to let the home speak for itself.

5. Give Them Space

When showing property it’s always a good idea to let the buyers feel free to look at the home with some degree of freedom.  Many times a couple will want a few minutes of private time to discuss furniture placement or talk about other concerns they may have about the house. If they don’t air our their concerns because you’re standing right there, they may give you a wrong impression that they’re more interested in the home than they really are—and that leads to frustration later.

6. Help Them Envision Living There

Buyers sometimes need a little help in the imagination department. While some homes are staged beautifully to show off all of its potential, others appear dirty, dark, or downright dingy. When you arrive at the home (especially when you get there a few minutes before the buyers), turn on the lights, open drapes and blinds, and do your best to make sure the home is ready for showing. During the home showing, point out other uses for rooms, suggest different furniture placement, and note places where a home-improvement project would make a big difference—for example, new carpeting, fresh paint, new cabinets. Data from the most recent Cost vs. Value report may be helpful here.

7. Before You Leave the Home …

Are the lights off?  Basement and garage doors locked?  Draperies or blinds put back to their original position?  Conduct a quick walkthrough prior to leaving to make sure everything is in the same order as you discovered it when you arrived.  When you’re finished, it’s a good idea to leave your business card with the date and time of the showing.  Including two additional words—“Thank You!”—on the back of the card as a friendly gesture to the sellers and listing agent. On your way out, double check the door to make sure it’s locked!

8. Showing Post-Mortem

After each property showing, it’s time to open a dialogue with your buyers. Ask questions to narrow down what features they especially liked and what features, if any, make the home a no-go.  Knowing this information will be invaluable as you continue to search for new listings and properties to show your customers/clients. You should also write down your own notes on what properties you previewed, as well as thoughts and comments from the buyers on the properties and other information that will help you later in the selling process.  This also creates a good paper trail in case a commission dispute or if other legal matters arise in the future.   

9. Follow-up Begins

After a long day of showings, it can be frustrating when the buyers inform you they didn’t like any of the homes enough to make an offer. Remember that the time you spent with them is not wasted; you learned more about what they want in a home, and you’re that much closer to finding a property they love. Continue to follow-up with them regularly on new listings and as they become available.  Send a thank you card for allowing you the opportunity to show them properties, and be sure and set them up on a property auto search in your MLS.  Follow-up is essential if you want to be a successful real estate agent!

10. Be Safe!

I’m saving the most important rule for last. Showing property to buyers on a regular basis is risky. Although many buyers you work with are friends or referrals from friends, sometimes they can be total strangers. Err on the side of caution. Never walk in front of the buyers. Avoid holding open houses alone, and remember to let an assistant or colleague know who you’re showing property to and what time you plan to return.

John D. Mayfield, ABR, CRB, e-PRO, GRI, is a sales coach, author, and broker/owner of Mayfield Real Estate in Farmington, Mo. You can contact Mayfield through his Web site,