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Tips for Holding an Open House

Holding an open house is a great way to increase your home's exposure as well as a good way to reach out to buyers who might not otherwise find your house. Regardless of whether you have a real estate agent or are selling the house yourself, here are eight steps to get your house ready to shine.

Step 1: Repair and Clean Your House

If you have any repairs that you need to finish, get them finished before holding an open house. Explaining to potential buyers that you plan on getting it fixed isn't good enough.

Also, cleanliness is extremely important because home buyers will definitely judge your house based on how clean it is. In addition to basic cleaning and removing clutter, a fresh coat of paint can help to give your house a more polished look.

If you have a pet, vacuum carpets and wipe down surfaces before guests get there to reduce pet dander, cut down on unwanted odor, and minimize potential allergic reactions.

Finally, some people use house stagers to give their house a make-over. Adding flowers, removing furniture, and hanging artwork can really set the house above the competition and drive up the home's perceived value.

Step 2: Prepare Your Property Fact Sheet

The whole point of holding an open house is to let buyers see your home and to let them know more about it. Consequently, you should prepare a property fact sheet that lays out essential facts about the house (square footage, number of rooms, etc.). In addition, prepare a sign-in sheet that allows them to leave their contact information. On the day of the open house, make both documents available to people as they enter the house.

Step 3: Prepare a List of Potential Buyer Questions and Your Answers

One of the keys to a successful open house is anticipating potential questions that buyers may have. Write down potential questions and then ask friends and family about what they might want to know. Compile your list and prepare a set of answers that you and/or your realtor can review before the open house. The point isn't to read them off a script but to have thought about potential questions beforehand.

Be careful with your answers, though. If you're moving because you've got children and the house just isn't big enough, it's ok to explain that you want a larger house for your family, but it's not advisable to say your existing house is simply too cramped.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • How far is it to the nearest stores, schools, and major roadways?
  • Has the house had any major repairs, and if so, when?
  • Why are you moving out?
  • What's the neighborhood like?

Step 4: Advertise Your Open House

If you are using a realtor, your realtor will advertise the open house on your Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listing online, with flyers on local bulletin boards around your community, and with signs at key intersections near your home.

If you are selling your home "For Sale By Owner," you will need to do these things yourself. Websites like or For Sale By Owner can be helpful. These sites offer free listing but if your home isn't on the MLS, it won't get much coverage. Other websites offer packages at various prices, which include MLS listing.

Step 5: Inform Your Neighbors that You're Holding an Open House

Even though you're moving out, be courteous to your neighbors. After all, potential buyers may talk to your neighbors. Let them know you will be holding an open house so that they don't wonder why there are so many cars parked and people walking around.

This will also give courteous neighbors a heads up to not mow the lawn during that time or to remove garbage cans before then (although it's not recommended that you ask them to do or not do things for you directly).

Step 6: Get Your Children and Pets Out of the House

Send your children away with a spouse, hire a babysitter, set up a play date, whatever you want, just do something to get the kids out of the house. Having children running around under buyers' feet is not a desirable thing. It's also the nature of children to create messes. Finally, children tend to say things that you may not want them to say.

The same goes for pets. Having your dog sniff incoming buyers is not a good way to make a first impression, and some buyers may be allergic.

Step 7: Be Ready Early

Even if you schedule the open house for 9 a.m., someone will inevitably show up around 8:30. If you're still running around with gloves on and a mop, yelling at your kids to get ready, it won't make a good impression. Finishing early allows for last-minute issues to be remedied, so make a deadline to be finished well before you actually open the doors.

Step 8: Stick to the Facts

While it is certainly a good idea to make small talk with potential buyers, it's important that you keep conversations neutral and largely stick to the facts. You don't want to end up talking about that one annoying neighbor or overselling how great your house is.

Some people end up sharing far too much personal information when they are anxious, such as needing to sell the house quickly to put a nasty divorce behind them. Monitor yourself if you start to ramble.

It's a good idea to tailor your answers to the apparent needs of the buyer. If someone asks several questions about schools, it's pretty safe to assume they have kids and it would be appropriate to mention some of the more kid-friendly features of the house. Just be careful with assumptions (e.g., assuming a couple is married) and keep your answers as neutral as possible.

Finally, don't make promises or legal representations in your answers. Just stick to the facts. These representations can be used against you at a later date, so play it safe.

Step 9: Be Prepared for "Window Shoppers"

Last but not least, accept that many potential buyers are just window shopping. They're curious, they're exploring the neighborhood, or simply have nothing better to do. Never be rude to people you suspect are merely looking, because even if they aren't buying, they will often report to their friends about places they saw and one of those friends may be looking to buy.

Do spend more of your time with people who are genuinely interested. The goal is to be helpful and attentive without being overbearing, so look for subtle cues that the buyer may want some time to simply walk around and take it all in.

It's worth mentioning that, oftentimes criminals pose as potential buyers in order to determine what valuable items are in a home. With so many people walking through your house, it's wise to lock away anything portable and valuable that someone could steal. It also prevents you from seeming like a chaperone who doesn't trust anyone in the house, a definite turn-off to any potential buyer.

Visit FindLaw's guide to Selling Your Home for more tips.

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