Tips for a Successful Open House

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

Image shows a small A-frame yellow house with a garden and trees beside it. There is also an open house sign. Text reads: "Preparing a property for an open house: remove all vehicles from driveway; open window coverings and turn on lamps; serve refreshments; do not use air freshener; play soft music; showcase photos of the property during other times of the year"

Image by Britney Willson © The Balance 2020

About half of all homebuyers use open houses to help them find a home. 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 detail in preparation and execution will increase the odds of a good offer as a result of your open house. You might even receive an offer on the spot.

Advertise the Open House

Let people know the party's on. Although your real estate agent will do a lot of the heavy lifting, you can give your open house a boost by posting it on social media. 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), ask your agent to set up strategically mapped signs around the neighborhood, placing one every few blocks on the way to your house from major streets. Consider attaching strings of balloons to each open house sign and include big arrows pointing in the right direction.

Prepare the Premises for the Open House

In addition to cleaning and decluttering your house and making it camera-ready before you even put it on the market, you should 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.
  • Open all the drapes, blinds, and window coverings. Turn on every lamp and overhead fixture, too.
  • Serve refreshments and snacks or, if budget permits, even a catered lunch.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, use an air freshener. Many people are allergic to synthetic odors.
  • Play soft music throughout the house.
  • Create a bulletin board of seasonal house photographs so that buyers can see what the home would look like during other times 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 isn't just about ambiance. It's about getting down to business as well. You and your agent should consider the following steps:

  • Display four-color flyers filled with quality photos and the key points and unique features of your home—a cheat sheet people can take home.
  • 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 documents pertaining to the house, including inspection reports, evidence of major repairs and warranties, and blueprints for additions.

Interact With Visitors

If you're a real estate agent, or if you're selling your home without one, your interactions with visitors to your open house are as important as the house itself. 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 the home and if they would consider buying it. Many folks will 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 the property is making so you can make some quick fixes to address problems.

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 pre-approval letter on Monday and sending an offer a day or two later.

A well-done video of your home can serve as a virtual open house. Pay attention to the lighting and editing of the video as well as the staging of your home to give a great impression.

When Not to Hold an Open House

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

  • 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 hard to find.
  • Your real estate agent doesn't recommend it.

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 agent 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.

Article Sources

  1. National Association of Realtors. "2020 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report," Page 54. Accessed April 26, 2020.