Do Open Houses Work? A Guide to Showing Your Home

Do open houses work? The jury is still out on whether they still do in this day and age.

Naysayers argue they’re not worth the trouble. They raise safety concerns without guaranteeing to draw attention from qualified buyers. If serious house hunters attend, they won’t be able to explore the property properly because of the hectic atmosphere.

On the other hand, believers say open houses effectively get the word out about listings. They’re informal enough to entice interested parties wanting to see what’s on the market without feeling pressured to make an offer. Seeing the property firsthand can nudge homebuyers on the fence about bidding in the right direction. Open houses are also a perfect networking opportunity, considering the amount of foot traffic they can generate.

Regardless of which side you’re on, there’s no denying that open houses are still common for a reason. If you must host one to sell a home, follow these 10 tips.

1. Remove Half of What’s in the House

Rule number one is to declutter the house. Mess doesn’t put any property in a good light, so get rid of all unnecessary belongings ahead of the event. Minimalism creates a calming ambience, which is helpful when you want guests to relax and enjoy their visit.

Where should the clutter go? Doing a garage sale and donating to charity are tried-and-true ways to part ways with unwanted home items. Regarding desired valuables, rent a storage unit or borrow some garage, basement or attic space from a loved one.

2. Depersonalize the Space

Two framed photos of a kid in a football uniform and his coach

Selling the idea of living in the property in question is the point of an open house. It will be hard for viewers to imagine themselves residing there when it has the current owner written all over it.

Removing all personal items from the property is home staging 101. Display no photographs, diplomas, trophies or posters and everyday items — like toiletries — to create a sense it’s nobody’s residence. Save for quality furniture, neutral decor and any belongings coming with the purchase, the house should be bare.

3. Aim for Showroom Condition

Splurging on home improvements when selling a house is a losing strategy because such projects may not guarantee a 100% return. However, glaring structural issues and cosmetic defects can turn people off and inspire opportunistic buyers to lowball.

The property doesn’t have to be flawless, but ensure it’s functional and appealing to open-house guests.

How to impress the public without spending a fortune? Addressing an unkempt lawn, drooping gutters, sticky doors, dull interior and exterior wall paint, dusty rugs and carpets and damaged drawer and cabinet fronts can boost the property’s value without cutting large checks.

4. Hide the Pets

Pet dog lying on his side

Doesn’t matter how adorable the house’s furry occupants are. They should stay out of sight for various reasons.

The presence of dogs or cats can trigger allergic reactions. Canines and felines can be territorial and attack strangers they perceive as trespassers. Exotic pets can also be offputting to some people.

5. Pick the Right Date and Hours

Once everything that doesn’t belong in the open house is gone, decide when to host the event. Doing it on the afternoon the property hits the market or on a Sunday when most people have free time is a fantastic idea.

Whatever date and time you choose, ensure you advertise your open house in advance on real estate sites — such as Trulia, Apartment Guide and Craigslist — and social media. Spread the word as early as possible to generate excitement and let the news reach as many people as possible.

6. Send Neighbors Invites

Inviting neighbors to an open house can seem counterintuitive, but it can be an effective lead generator. They may have friends and relatives moving into the area or wanting to gain a foothold in the property market. If they like the house, they may help you sell it through word of mouth.

7. Greet Guests

Hospitality works wonders. Welcome home viewers with a smile, a warm greeting and a brief introduction.

Let them know they can talk to you if they have any questions, but don’t trap them with a long conversation. They come to see the house up close, so give them time to roam around as they wish without feeling someone’s breathing down their necks.

Being overly engaging and talking about what’s great about the house without anyone asking can come across as high-pressure selling, which nobody enjoys.

8. Give Away Handouts

Want to promote the property without saying a word? List all the details homebuyers should know about the house on brochures and distribute them to guests upon arrival. This way, they can find the information they need in their own time and enhance their open-house experience.

Pure text can be boring, so add stunning photos of the house. Designing your handouts is doable on your own using free graphic design tools. However, consider hiring a professional photographer to capture the home’s essence.

The best part about pamphlets is they extend the open house. Guests bring them home and browse through them at their leisure. Handouts can make the property’s selling points more sticky when people compare listings later.

9. Offer Refreshments

A person holding a tray of freshly baked cookies

Serving food and drinks is a nice gesture to make the property homier and the guests feel welcome. Don’t just offer anything, though. Think about the pairing and consider the time of day and year to nail the refreshments.

Hot coffee and baked goods suit morning open houses, whereas wine and cheese are perfect for late afternoon and evening events. Milk and cookies are everyone’s favorites, and herbal tea, hot cocoa or spiced cider makes fall and winter open houses cozy.

Ordering foods is convenient, but making them at the property is a neat tactic. The smell of freshly baked pastries from the kitchen can trigger the Proust effect, causing guests to pleasantly associate the house with nostalgic memories and remind them of an idyllic home.

10. Throw an Open House Block Party

Will other open houses be happening in the neighborhood on the same day as your event? Why not join forces with other home sellers, real estate agents and Realtors instead of competing with one another for attendance?

The homebuyers who go to open houses typically want to view as many properties as possible before making a purchase. Host a block party together to make your separate events grander and more enticing to the public.

Make Your Open House Work

Do open houses work? The criticisms against them are valid, but their benefits are also true. Hosting one is hard work, so do it only when it makes sense for your situation to help sell your property sooner and for a higher price.