Tips for a Successful Open House

How and When to Host a Showing That'll Garner Offers

House with open house sign in front
••• Justin Sullivan/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Real estate agents estimate that at least 20 percent of their sales result from an open house. That's one in five homes. If your property is presentable—that is, spotless from top to bottom— priced correctly, and located in a high-traffic area, you're well on your way to a successful showing. Attention to additional details in preparation and execution will increase the odds of a good offer—even on the spot, sometimes.

Advertise the Open House

Let people know the party's on. Post internet listings everywhere: Write colorful, descriptive ads and place them in web classifieds or open house directories at least a week before the showing. Don't forget personal social media, like your Facebook page or Twitter account. Although advertising online is key, remember old-fashioned methods, too, like an ad in a community newspaper or newsletter, or even postings on a popular store or coffee shop bulletin board.

On the day of the open house (traditionally a Sunday), set up strategically mapped signs around the neighborhood, placing one every few blocks on the way to your house from major streets. Find the busiest intersection closest to your home and put an open house sign at that corner, too. Attach strings of balloons to each open house sign, and include big arrows pointing in the right direction.

Prepare the Premises

Of course, you've cleaned and decluttered your house and made it camera-ready before you even put it on the market. But you can make some special preparations for the open house itself:

  • Remove all vehicles from the driveway. Ask your neighbors to help out by not parking in front of your house.
  • Let in the light: Open all the drapes, blinds, and window coverings. Turn on every lamp and overhead fixture, too.
  • Serve refreshments and snacks or, depending on your budget, maybe even a catered lunch.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, use an air freshener: Many people are allergic to synthetic odors.
  • Have soft music playing throughout the house.
  • Create a bulletin board of seasonal house photographs so that buyers can see what the home would look like at another time of the year. This step is especially helpful for showcasing gardens or extensive grounds during the winter.

    Put Out the Paperwork

    A good open house is not just about ambiance. It gets down to business as well.

    • Display four-color flyers filled with quality photos and the key points and unique features of your home—a cheat sheet that people can take home with them.
    • Have brochures and pamphlets available that contain financing options so that buyers can readily determine their monthly mortgage payment. Banks and lenders will often supply you with these.
    • Set out all documents pertaining to the house: inspection reports, appraisal or comps, evidence of major repairs and warranties, blueprints for additions or proposals for future improvements.

      Interact With Visitors

      Be upbeat and cheery as you greet each person who enters the home. Find out what they're looking for and, if possible, show them why your home fits those requirements.

      And absolutely, get feedback. Ask buyers what they think of your home and if they would consider buying it. Many folks will demur or be noncommittal, but sometimes they might decide to sit at the kitchen table and write an offer. It happens more often than you would think.

      At the very least, you might pick up some useful info about the impression your property is making, as well as quick fixes to address problems.

      Furthermore, if you don't receive an offer at or directly after the open house, that doesn't mean your event was unsuccessful. The buyers might be obtaining a preapproval letter on Monday and sending you an offer a day or two later.

      When Not to Hold an Open House

      Some properties just aren't suited for an open house. Some common reasons:

      • There's too much inventory to pull in buyers driving through the area.
      • All the homes in the neighborhood look the same.
      • Inclement weather discourages venturing outside.
      • The home is a fixer-upper or doesn't show well because it's either too messy, smelly, or cramped.
      • The property is too far off the beaten path, or perhaps in the center of a complex that is hard to find (like a condominium).
      • The real estate agent isn't into it.

      Regarding the last item: While it may seem odd that an agent would want to restrict market exposure for a listing, not to mention the chance to get buyer leads, many agents are categorically opposed to open houses. They may be too busy with other listings, or they may just find such showings a waste of time and effort. You and your agents should be on the same page about marketing your property. If you feel strongly about an open house—and you're unconvinced by your agent's reasons against it—consider switching your representation.