Selling Our House By Owner: How Showings Worked

We showed our house a total of 16 times. So eventually we got to be old pros at it.

At first we had no idea what we were doing. I mean of course we:

  • cleaned the house like mad (vacuumed, dusted, etc)
  • picked up all dog and baby toys
  • turned on all the lights so everything looked bright and welcoming
  • baked something yummy beforehand (so it would smell as good as it looked)
  • removed the cutting board and the dishtowel from the counter in the kitchen so there was more granite on display
  • removed the bath mat in the full bathroom (to show off more of the stone floor tile)
  • polished all the faucets and fixtures to make them shine (water marks are easy enough to wipe down)
  • tidied our bedroom’s built-in closets (since we were offering the wardrobes and the bed frame with the sale of the house, we wanted them to be neat when people poked around)
  • emptied the garbage and recycling
  • made sure all the toilet lids were down
  • blew the driveway, front porch, and patio (so acorns and errant leaves didn’t sabotage our curb appeal)
  • unlocked the separate entry basement door (so people could slip in and out more easily)

All those things were fine and dandy, but we didn’t actually get a handle on showing our house in the most professional way the first few times we tried it. Which was a shame because it was especially important since we were attempting to sell our house by owner. Seriously, we were nuts. Allow me to paint you a picture: the doorbell would ring and Burger would bark for five minutes while I held the baby and sang to her while letting people in and trying to quiet Burger. Then John would offer to give people the tour as dog and baby chaos ensued in the background. No wonder the first two showings were a bust.

But by attempt number three we got a bit more savvy. We learned that one single solitary person doing each showing (with zero dogs/babies in the background) was the way to go – heck, maybe we could even convince someone we were realtors in a past life. So I outsourced the showings to John since he’s the more detail and date oriented person (he actually remembers the month that we got new windows and when we last serviced our HVAC) while Burger, Clara, and I ducked out of the house for a nice long walk around the neighborhood before the doorbell rang. Can I just say that I’ve lost nearly five pounds thanks to all that walking? Well, that and maybe some house-for-sale stress. Sixteen showings might not sound like a lot, but it sure felt like it to us! Especially when we hit our all-time high of four showings in one day two Sundays ago. Yeah, that’s a lot of walking.

But where do pooch, bean, and I go if it’s raining out? Here’s where we got creative. John masterminded the idea of parking our car a few houses down. That way Clara, Burger, and I could hang out in the warm dry Altima while John worked his house-showing magic (and even rock out to the radio and approve comments via iPhone while we were at it). It sounds kind of depressing but it was actually pretty hilarious. In fact I snapped these pictures to document the good time that was had by all. First, my kiddos enjoyed sharing my lap:

And Clara had some fun with a granola bar that I found in the middle console (the wrapper kind of made a crunching sound like a rattle)…

I also learned that keys can fill in for toys in a pinch (you know I love working with what I have).

Plus Clara earned her varsity letter in napping. Just look at her go in the driver’s seat.

So in summary, we were so very fortunate to have so much interest in our home and we’ll share all the for-sale-by-owner tricks and tips that we picked up along the way soon (when it comes to marketing, getting traffic, and all that jazz). Until then Clara, Burger and I can be found hanging out in the car. You know, for old time’s sake.


  1. Katherine M. says

    I definitely understand the “being gone when the house shows” issue. When our house was on the market a couple of years ago, my husband was already at his new job in a new city so I was left behind to get the house sold. We used a Realtor, otherwise I would have been nuts by the end of the process. I would leave work early, tidy up, bake a quick batch of cookies, load the two dogs into the car, and drive around town for a little while. Some showings seemed to take forever so I would head back to the house, peek down the road to see if they were still there, and then keep driving if they were. It was great.

  2. Mandy says

    Can’t wait for this tips! We aren’t planning on moving for a few years, but would like to try our hand at selling on our own once that happens. Glad to know it can be done pretty easily!

  3. says

    We had a similar number of showings on our place (we actually have to be out by this Friday) and I can remember running around like a crazy person trying to get the place ready to go. And that was with having a seller’s agent. I can’t imagine having to handle the actual showing on my own as well. Kudos to you!

    How long was your house actually on the market before you accepted a contract? We were lucky enough to get two offers on day 17. Seems like you would be right around the same timeframe based on your postings here.


    • says

      Hey Katie,

      Our house was on the market around three weeks when we got an offer, but we actually didn’t accept that one off the bat and spent about another week negotiating things. Then it was time for inspection and another negotiation period. We had no idea it would strain our brain so much! Especially since buying our current house and our future house were so quick and painless!


  4. says

    I was laughing at this because we’re about to list our house and I can just see me driving around for hours with our kiddo in the car while my husband plays Sandra Rinomato.
    Did you guys have a hard time keeping the kitchen clean with as much as you eat in? I am wondering if we’re going to have to eat out more just for the sake of kitchen maintenance!

    • says

      Hey Jennifer,

      Yes! The kitchen was one of the biggest challenges! We definitely kept things simple (pasta, frozen pizzas, etc) so we didn’t have to break out the blender and scrub a million pots and pans between each showing!


  5. Carol N. says

    How clever! Has Burger been by the new casa yet to give his approval? I have this mental picture of one of you with Clara in her front loader carrier and the other one with Burger in one! (Sorry, I don’t know the ‘official’ name for those baby carriers where they are in front of you.)

    • says

      Hey Carol,

      Burger actually has yet to meet the new house! But we have driven him by the front and told him all about it. The jury is still out as to whether he understands english, but he seems excited!


  6. Najlee says

    That’s so funny. I can imagine trying to view your home while being distracted by a cute baby. I would probably just start Oooooohing and aaaaaahing over the baby lol and forget about looking at the house. I’m sure the walks and the car music were fun:)

  7. says

    Oh man, I do not miss showing our condo. Granted we had a realtor to do all the work, but still — just knowing we couldn’t be in the house during certain times and knowing we ALWAYS had to keep the place insane clean used to drive us nuts!

    But it all worked out for the better. Condo sold in less than a month and we’re now living in a great house!

  8. Amy says

    Congrats on getting your house sold as a FSBO. I’m a realtor, and I the statistics show that only something like 10% of FSBOs are actually sold! Ultimately, you must have priced it realistically and marketed it well. It probably doesn’t hurt that your house is well known and put together either! :)

  9. Lydia says

    Love it! Our condo is on the market, and I totally understand trying to find somewhere to go with a 4 month old baby and a dog.Now that cold weather is coming, it’s going to get even harder. Congrats on getting into contract! If only we were so lucky…

  10. says

    Love the chilling in the car plan for showings! My husband and I just sold our home a few weeks ago…with a dog and two cats finding someplace to go during a showing was a real issue until we came up with Panera. We set up camp at one of the outdoor tables, with the dog on leash and both the cat carriers stacked under our table. We got a few strange looks when people realized we had our cats out with us though. Thank goodness we had a realtor – I don’t think either of us could have dealt with all three pets alone!

  11. says

    I remember being young and my parents were trying to sell their house, and every time we had a showing my mom would pile us in the car and take us on a drive…and I always remember those times because that was the excuse we had to get big cookies at Wendy’s. I LOVED it when they had multiple showings in a day.

    Are we gonna hear some of John’s sales tips for shilling a home…I mean, showing a home?

    • says

      Hi Brandt,

      I don’t think anything I did during the showing sealed the deal (I think people put in offers on houses because they love the house and not the person who shows it) but to help people see the value in the house I pointed out all the pros (new windows, new roof, refinished floors, marble tile, granite counters, newly paved driveway, bedroom built-ins and appliances that conveyed, etc). I tried to keep the tone very businesslike so it didn’t feel conversational and too overly friendly because we figure it’s a business deal so keeping things professional and straightforward is a good plan. Seemed to work! As for what questions I got that I didn’t expect, there really isn’t anything that comes to mind. Most people just asked about when we got the new windows or how long we’ve had our new roof- other straightforward questions that were easy to answer. My advice would just be to be 100% honest and to have faith that the right person will come along and love what they see sooner or later. It only takes one buyer…


  12. says

    We listed our Minneapolis home when our son was just five weeks old–insanity, in retrospect. But since we had a Golden Retriever to clear out during showings, we needed me to be on maternity leave to make it happen.

    We did the same thing–walks around the block, hanging in the car, and even crashed a few friends’ houses while they worked (with permission of course)! We had 32 showings in three and half weeks, and then we got to move on to packing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *