—Buying & Selling

Hosting a Successful Open House

Open houses offer the ability to get a home seen by a lot of people at once. A well-done open house can bring the perfect buyer in, or drum up enough interest to start a bidding war on a property and increase the sale price. As a real estate agent, you already know all the best reasons someone should buy a particular home, and an open house lets your expertise shine. 

Open houses need careful preparation and significant commitment. Here are some tips to help with everything from setup and hosting to dealing with concerns related to coronavirus.

Prepare for an open house

The most important thing to do before an open house is get the home ready. Potential buyers should feel warm, welcomed, and wowed when they enter a home for sale. Here are four suggestions to help create that sensation.

1. Declutter and depersonalize

If the house is still occupied, the first task is to work with the homeowner to get rid of clutter. Every home has it to varying degrees, so there’s always something to do. The biggest areas to target are closets and countertops. You want to show off closets, but you can’t see their true size if they’re stuffed completely full. The same idea works on countertops. Everyone wants a spacious kitchen, and that means a lot of counter space. Looking at a kitchen crammed with counter-top appliances and cooking accessories, prevents a potential buyer from seeing the space accurately.

As you declutter, it’s also important to depersonalize. A neutral home helps potential buyers see themselves within the space. Too many items that remind them of who’s currently living there, and they’ll get hung up on that person’s style. They’ll only see how the house is perfect for the current owner, and struggle with transitioning it to their future home. To neutralize a house, remove all personal items. This includes photographs, knick knacks, and anything with a name on it. Think of transforming the home into a model house. Everything in it should feel as generic as possible.

2. Stage it

Open house preparation should also consider staging. This means ensuring the house is very clean along with moving some furniture around. You want to maximize the space in each room, which can mean removing or rearranging furniture. Rooms should not feel small or crowded by what’s in them. It’s okay to ask a homeowner to pull a piece of furniture out, either putting it in a different room or into storage. 

For vacant homes, consider the value of having the house professionally staged. It will cost a little bit of money, but when it comes to making a good first impression, nothing beats the touch of a stylist.

3. Set the schedule 

It’s best to hold an open house at a time when the most people possible can attend. This rules out weekdays. With the demands of work and family, house hunters will have a very hard time attending an open house held Monday through Friday. Sunday is often chosen by real estate agents as the best open house day. Since time is also a factor, focus on the window from brunch to early afternoon for the highest amount of traffic.

4. Promote

Once you’ve set the day and time, make sure to heavily promote your event. Many people search online for open houses, so use bigger sites like MLS to get the word out. You can also promote through local, online networks like Nextdoor. Social media outlets like Facebook can never go wrong, and you shouldn’t forget about using your own blog or website. Help people who are searching online by incorporating relevant hashtags like #openhouse or #househunting. You can even include something more specific to your property like #oceanview or #fivebedrooms.

Start your open house right

You’ve put all the effort into preparing for your open house. Make sure you do all you can for the day to go well.

  • Bring plenty of copies of the property description sheet and your business cards. Open house visitors will want to take them with them.
  • Open all blinds, drapes, and window coverings. Turn on every lamp and light fixture too. The more light in an area the better.
  • Prepare some light snacks and refreshments.
  • Turn on a playlist of soft music that can easily fade into the background while still adding ambiance. Soft jazz, classical music, and easy listening work best.

Make sure to greet each person or group as they enter. Ask what they’re looking for in a potential home so you can highlight how your property fits their wishlist. As guests leave, engage with them again. See if they’ll share their thoughts on the house and if it’s something they’d consider buying. You don’t have to get them to submit an offer, but this is a beneficial conversation. It can help you make adjustments for the next open house, if there is one, to appeal to a wider audience.


The morning of your open house, don’t forget about signage. Outside signs should easily direct and invite people into the home. Place one in the front yard, one at the entrance to the neighborhood, and at any intersections within the community where people will have to turn to get to the house. Make sure each sign has relevant information for the open house, including:

  • Date and time.
  • Directional arrow.
  • Agent phone number.

The sign should also announce it’s an open house event. Make sure sign colors pop. Attention-grabbing choices include red, orange, and yellow. Consider adding balloons or ribbons to make your signs even more noticeable.

Take extra safety precautions during coronavirus

During coronavirus, hosting an in-person open house means taking some extra safety precautions. To adhere to social distancing and reduce the spread of germs, you may want to set limits on the number of people who can enter the home at one time. Less than 10 people is ideal, but you can also limit it to one buyer group at a time. Ask other visitors to wait outside or in their cars. Consider moving your drinks and refreshments onto the porch to occupy people while they wait.

You can also ask everyone to use hand sanitizer before entering the home for an extra layer of protection. The homeowner may want visitors to remove their shoes while in the house, which is an acceptable request. You can offer booties to cover shoes as well.

Screening potential buyers before they enter the home is also an option. You’ll have to ask everyone the same exact things, but they can include questions about whether a person is exhibiting certain symptoms, if they’re caring for someone who’s currently ill, or if they’ve been in contact with someone knowingly diagnosed with coronavirus in the last two weeks.

See alsoShowing a Home During Coronavirus

Offer an alternative to in-person open houses

If there are concerns, or your seller would prefer not to have too many people in and out of their home, there are other options to holding an in-person open house. Going virtual is becoming more and more popular throughout real estate. A virtual open house allows you to couple your expertise as a real estate agent with a close look within a home. It’s actually superior to an open house in some ways, since you’re virtually beside each house hunter the whole way through. An in-person open house is more of a hands-off experience during the walkthrough.

Lights and angles

If you decide to go the virtual route, remember lighting. Check how rooms look with all lights on and window treatments open beforehand. You may want to bring in some additional lighting if recording or streaming in the latter part of the day. You also want to make sure you enter each room from the best possible angle. The camera should capture each room’s best side right at the start before you circle around the whole room. Use the virtual open house to wow potential buyers with a great first impression in each area of the house.

Show off your properties any way you can

Whether hosting in-person or virtual open houses, what helps sell homes is getting it seen. With the right preparation and promotion, your open house can achieve that goal and hopefully lead to an offer or two by the end of the day.

Further reading: Post-Pandemic Real Estate Agent Etiquette