The main attraction of a real estate open house is the property, followed by you, the agent. Food and drink for guests should just be icing on the cake—pun fully intended. But that icing can be deliciously powerful.

Granted, no one is going to buy a home based on how good the refreshments are at an open house. However, a nice spread can give the impression that the property is classy and is worth the visitor’s time. Moreover, strategically placed refreshments give the agent time to interact with guests. If the food and drink is good, someone isn’t going to mind staying an extra minute to talk and maybe grab another little treat..

This quick guide to open house refreshments offers suggestions beyond the norm and tips to make cleanup easier.

Think About Logistics

Refreshments are just a small part of a real estate open house, but they potentially can consume much of your preparation time, as well as lead to messes all over the property. Consider these logistics:

  • Anything that requires paper plates invites open house visitors to take their food around the house. Ideally, you want them eating in the kitchen, by the table with the food, or as they leave. Stick to iced water bottles and finger foods, don’t offer anything that requires silverware, and don’t accidentally encourage a buffet.
  • Store-bought foods are fine, but if at all possible, don’t leave them in their original packaging, which screams “I bought this from a store!” Some items (e.g., a veggie tray) may not lend themselves to being transferred to a bowl or platter, but for everything else, present your food as if you were throwing a dinner party.
  • Skip the messy foods—basically anything that can stain furniture or leave a trail of crumbs. Cheese bites and green grapes are OK; powdered donuts, cookies and blackberries are risky.
  • Although most people with severe food allergies won’t randomly eat something without considering ingredients, play it safe by not serving anything with peanuts, peanut butter (sorry, that means no Reese’s for the grownups—er, kids), or tree nuts.
  • Keep a small wastebasket by the food table or counter so visitors see where they should throw out napkins and empty water bottles.
  • Look through the house periodically for any detritus—crumbs, napkins, plastic cups, or food—that has been left in rooms by guests. Also, if you get a chance, empty the wastebasket as needed.

Culinary Delights

Cookies and ice water (maybe with some lemon) comprise a standard snack. Going the extra mile, particularly in an upscale property, connects special refreshments to a special home. Some great, tasty options include:

  • Fresh-squeezed lemonade, limeade, or, for morning open houses, orange juice
  • Bruschetta with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella
  • Mini cupcakes
  • Finger sandwiches
  • Meat and cheese rollups
  • Fresh, low-maintenance fruit (nothing with a pit or a peel)
  • Vegetable trays
  • Cocktail meatballs
  • Sushi
  • Gourmet bite-sized candies and chocolates

Think About the Kids

Children and food at a real estate open house are an explosive combination. On one hand, snacks can keep kids interested in what often is a boring few minutes touring someone else’s house. On the other messy hand, if you’re already leery about adults leaving their refreshments around the house, the thought of a toddler walking through with a fistful of cookies may create additional anxiety. A great solution is to offer a few kid-friendly treats—lollipops, fun-size candy, drink boxes, string cheese, and so on—as families are leaving. The special snack can be a reward for behaving well at the open house and give them something to look forward to while Mom and Dad are measuring closets.

Wrap it Up

After your real estate open house ends, don’t just leave the food sitting out and go home. If you are giving the leftovers to the sellers, neatly put the food in the refrigerator or somewhere out of the way (and someplace pets can’t get to once they are allowed to roam the house again). Wipe up any spills, empty the garbage, wash any dishes you used (or put them in the dishwasher), and check the house for any food, napkins, or plastic cups that guests left behind.

Also, take stock of which refreshments were hits, which weren’t selected as often, and which were high- or low-maintenance. The popular, easier choices should be on your menu for the next time; everything else might not be worth the effort. You likely won’t sell the listing because of your refreshments, but you can impress guests, who might remember you and the yummy food and drink you offered when they need a real estate agent in the future. 

Open House Checklist

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