listing real estate industry Holding an Open House

How to Stage the Perfect Real Estate Open House

By Todd Sumney on May 14, 2019
Todd Sumney

Top listing agents all have one thing in common and one best kept secret — amazing Open Houses. So what is the recipe for a  perfect real estate open house? One that results in someone coming back for a second showing and maybe buying the home. And/or one that results in you meeting new people whom you can impress and who will want to work with you for other real estate needs.

Staging a great open house is more than cleaning the home and putting out a bowl of fun-size candies. Here are some tips for impressing open house visitors from the moment they step inside.

Prepare the Home in Advance

Much of the decluttering and cleaning of a home in advance of any sort of showing usually falls upon the seller. However, owners may not know where to begin with staging or think they’ve done enough when, in fact, they aren’t even close to having their home ready for an open house. Some agents offer guidance on how to declutter and improve the property; others don’t mind rolling up their sleeves and helping clients with painting, cleaning, and whatever else needs to be done.

Specifically for the open house, instruct sellers to remove valuables from sight. For example, a jewelry box on a dresser might be a nice touch, but it also invites visitors to look through it for something expensive. Anything small and valuable—from electronics to personal documents to jewelry to portable computer drives—should be put away and locked up or taken with owners when they leave for the open house.

Also, remove any and all pictures from the home. You want the visitors to envision themselves and their family in their new home, and photographs undermine that very idea.

And most importantly, declutter and remove as many unessential items as possible, including furniture, knicknacks, momentos and toys. The more you can remove from the home, the more spacious, open and inviting the home will appear.

Prepare the Home the Day Of

Ideally, all the staging and cleaning will be completed before the day of the open house. However, you still need to prepare the home right before people start arriving.

  • Light scented candles: A pleasant aroma sets the mood for an open house and creates an atmosphere in which prospects picture themselves living in the home. Sprays give off too much of a chemical vibe, so go with a soothing scented candle instead. Citrus, pine, and vanilla are safe bets for a comforting but not overwhelming aroma.
  • Put pets away: Hopefully, the sellers will take their pets with them during the open house. An indifferent cat wandering the house offers a little charm, but then you have to be careful it doesn’t get outside (losing your client’s pet won’t get you a good review …). And dogs are too unpredictable. Make a plan with the owners for what to do with pets; if you need to put animals in a basement room, better to make that room inaccessible than to worry about how they will interact with visitors. Also, put away any food dishes, pet beds, and litter boxes.
  • Let the sun shine in: Open shades, drapes, and doors to bring as much natural light into the home as possible.
  • Set the right temperature: A home that feels too stuffy or chilly won’t make a good impression with visitors, who may think the HVAC doesn’t work well. Even if the sellers prefer their home warm or cold, set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature.
  • Put toilet seats down: This is a no-brainer, but something that is easy to forget when you are getting the rest of the property ready.

Welcoming the Guests

When visitors enter an open house, the agent usually asks them to fill out a sign-in sheet or enter their info into an app on an iPad or other tablet. This serves two purposes: to protect the homeowner in case something is missing or damaged and, more importantly, to secure contact information from your guests. If you go with a sheet, print something that looks professional; don’t just use a legal pad or a spiral notebook. Pro Tip: Many top agents have a printed survey sheet on a clipboard and ask each visitor to rate the main features of the home and provide feedback. The form includes an area for the visitor’s contact information, which visitors are often more willing to provide on a survey than on a sign-in sheet.

Also, provide listing flyers and make sure they are informative enough to include details not immediately apparent in the walkthrough (e.g., square footage, school district, asking price, your contact info). Balance that information with color pictures and some basic info so that when visitors leave the home, they can refer back to the flyer to remember what they saw.


Light snacks are a nice touch for a real estate open house, but consider your choice of refreshments carefully. You don’t want to come off too cheap, but you don’t want anyone making a mess as they walk around with food or drink. Many top agents only provide chilled water bottles with their information and photo on the water label. If you decide to serve food, serve appetizer-type snacks that don’t require silverware or even a plate—that way, people aren’t tempted to take their food around the house. Bite-sized cookies, candies, meats and cheeses, fruit slices and grapes, or finger sandwiches make for easy snacks that are convenient, a bit classy, and appreciated. Ideally, the refreshments you offer will be consumed as you converse with the prospects, which leads us to our next advice…

The Perfect You

Staging the perfect real estate open house is about more than the home or the snacks or the lack of pesky pets. The way you promote your open house and interact with guests can make all the difference in generating buyer interest and establishing relationships with new leads. Some strategies for staging yourself at an open house include:

  • Be attentive, but don’t hover: Finding the balance between touting the home’s values and giving visitors space to explore the house and form opinions on their own can be tricky. Of course, be personable and available, but don’t try selling so much; instead, be a great host. Ask questions of visitors and make them the focus of the conversation.
  • Know the property and the neighborhood: If and when visitors ask questions about the home, be sure you’re in a position to answer them. This means knowing everything about the house, the exterior areas, the property’s history, and the neighborhood. If a question is so deep that you can’t answer, be sure to follow up with the information once you learn it.
  • Social media: Post to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter during the week leading up to the open house, and again the morning of the open house to invite people to stop by. Take pictures and videos to share before and during the event. Even though you’ll be busy throughout the open house, try to find a little time to respond to replies to your posts.
  • Follow up: Personally say thank you—whether by phone, text, or email—to each visitor for coming to the open house. Again, the home might not be what they’re looking for at the moment, but the relationship you’ve established can pay off down the line.

One final tip for staging the perfect open house: Have fun! The planning that goes into the event takes time and effort, but an open house puts you in your element as a real estate agent and gives you an opportunity to interact with prospects, who will see your enthusiasm and respond in kind. Just be sure to save some of the cookies for visitors!

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