Ensuring a safe open house

December 10, 2018

An open house in January or February offers selling and buying clients a great opportunity to make a deal. However, there are weather-related risks that don't exist at any other time of year, and real estate professionals need to be aware of them.

One of the biggest issues that can crop up unexpectedly and derail what would have otherwise been a successful open house is that storms and other inclement weather can appear with little notice according to the National Association of Realtors. To that end, it's wise for owners and agents to be flexible on these events. If a forecast a few days out isn't looking too good, holding the open house might not be a good idea.

For one thing, people would be more likely to stay home, limiting foot traffic, and for another, the increased risk of car accidents or slip-and-fall incidents just isn't worth it. Instead, it's a better tack to always schedule a fallback date.

Welcoming guests
If an open house is happening, though, owners and agents should work together to make sure the property is ready to accommodate would-be buyers. That means shoveling the driveway, bailing out slush puddles, spreading ice melter to ensure there's nothing to slip on and clearing all areas where people will walk.

Along similar lines, it's a good idea to get a broom or other long item and knock down any icicles so that they don't unexpectedly fall on people coming into or leaving the house. Furthermore, it's wise to make sure all walkways and entrances are well-lit, such as replacing light bulbs or installing lamps to make sure people can see where they're heading.

Going above and beyond
It's also judicious to make sure lights are on in every other part of the home, especially if open houses are being held on gray days, or in the late afternoon when the sun sets, according to Travelers. It's already best practice to have every room at an open house be well-lit, but redoubling those efforts when there are fewer hours of daylight becomes an important safety issue as well.

It's also a good idea to make sure guests aren't going around a property by themselves, both because that helps reduce the risk of incidents like theft, and also because it allows for an extra set of eyes on everyone as they go up and down stairways, walks and so on. In general, an open house is about putting a property's best foot forward, so a lot of the things people might accept for their own homes (such as not clearing ice and snow from a driveway entirely) should be avoided. 

Agents should always strive to advise their selling clients about how they can go above and beyond their everyday norms to help ensure their homes sell, or let buying clients know some of the common winter pitfalls to avoid when they attend any number of open houses.