How to Make the Most of Your Open House

Set your house apart with these simple tips.
By: John Morell

You've got better things to do on a Sunday than hold an open house. It’s not the greatest feeling having your home opened up for strangers to ogle at your closets or poke through your shower. And while experts may debate the value of open houses, you want to get that property sold, so you do what you have to do.

Your Realtor or agent should fill you in on the basics, such as getting the house as clean and tidy as possible for the big day, making sure both yards are trimmed and some fresh flowers are sprouting, and always hiding money, medication, jewelry or small valuables.

 In addition, here are some extra tips to make your open house count (and make you feel like you were productive during those precious Sunday hours):

  • Make It Generic -- Yes, it’s still your home, but you’re trying to get other people to picture it as their home. Put away all of the family photos, the children’s art, the shopping lists and doctor visit reminders from the refrigerator. And turn the volume on the message machine to “off” so potential buyers aren’t screening your phone messages.

  • Clear the Decks -- Stick the fancy electronic toothbrushes, irrigators, deodorants, perfumes, etc. under the sink in the bathroom, and find a hiding place for your coffee maker, Cuisinart and juice maker in the kitchen. The more spacious countertops look, the more people will remember your house. “Nice clean counters give people ideas. They want to know if they’re big enough to store their own appliances and products,” says Lance Mohr, a Tampa, Fla. Realtor.

  • Dinner! -- Put out your best place settings on the dining room table. It adds a touch of class, making it appear that you’re going to be serving a fabulous dinner party later in the evening after the potential buyers have scooted back home, even if you’re really planning on KFC in front of the TV.

  • The Doormat Trick -- Just before most people enter a house, they reflexively glance down and give their shoes a rub on the doormat. If you’re selling, now’s the time to go all out and invest in a nice one. It’s a subtle sign that you care about the property and that you’re no slob (even though you may have gotten along just fine without one for the last few years).

  • Way to a Buyer’s Heart -- Bribes. In this market, try anything. If your open house is occurring when the weather is cool, leave behind a big tray of freshly baked cookies or brownies or a canister of hot chocolate and paper cups. In summer, a big pitcher of lemonade or mini-bottles of cold water can cause some thirsty soul to pause and take a good look around at your house.

  • Take Off -- It can be intimidating for a potential buyer to ask an agent frank questions about a property with the owner trying to listen in the hallway. Plus, buyers are expecting to see the house, not you, sorry. “I had an owner who came back home early from a hike during the open house and took off his shirt,” says real estate agent Rob Smith of San Diego. “It was a great house, but people came in and saw this sweaty guy without a shirt and they were grossed out.” And don’t forget to take your barking dog with you.
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