How to stage a successful open house

A successful open house requires a little more work than setting a date and throwing open your doors to potential buyers. Through careful staging, you can emphasize your home’s strong points and persuade buyers to take a second look. If you want to increase your chances of closing the deal, here are some tips on how to throw a great open house.

Pick the right time of day: To put your best foot forward, it’s a good idea to hold the open house in the daytime, when potential buyers can get the best look at the yard, as well as a good idea of how much sunlight the home gets. If you know the sun floods in at a particular time of day, try to hold the open house then to give yourself the best shot at closing the deal.

... emphasize your home’s strong points and persuade buyers to take a second look.

— Adam Verwymeren

Get out of the house: The real estate agent is there to talk up your home and close the deal. You job is to stay away. Potential buyers want to imagine themselves in the home -- something that’s very difficult to do when the current owners are lurking just off in the distance. So go see a movie, visit some family, or head out of town for the day.

Kennel your pets: Dogs and cats can be a big turn off to potential buyers. In addition to the odor and noise that pets cause, they can also set off an allergic reaction that can hasten an interested party out the door. So put them up with a friend or family member, or take them to a kennel.

Improve your curb appeal: A bit of gardening, a yard clean-up and a new coat of paint are all cheap and easy ways to make a great first impression. You don’t need to completely re-landscape your yard, but a few simple choices can help emphasize some of your home’s strong points. For instance, arrange the furniture on your patio with the barbecue front and center so potential buyers can imagine themselves hosting mid-summer dinner parties out back. Or string up a hammock in a nice, shady spot in the yard.

Keep it neutral: If you plan on putting up a new coat of paint before your open house, remember that neutral colors work best. Sure, eggshell white isn’t that exciting, but you want to avoid colors that might offend. By giving buyers a blank canvas, you allow them to imagine how they’d decorate the place.

Keep it simple: The longer we live in a place, the more clutter we accumulate. By cleaning up and packing some of your stuff away before the open house, you can make rooms feel bigger. Arrange furniture so that potential buyers flow through the house naturally, rather than having to step around chairs or squeeze by coffee tables.

Take care of odors: You’re probably used to the smell of your own house, but that doesn’t mean your visitors will be. Throw open the windows, steam clean carpets to get rid of  smoke or pet odors, and use some air fresheners, though you want to avoid cloying or overbearing scents. And on the big day, use that classic realtor trick: fresh baked cookies to cover up any lingering smells.

Plenty of flowers: Who doesn’t love flowers? Planted flowers in the garden, and cut flowers in the kitchen and living room can really brighten up the place, making it look especially vibrant. Sure you don’t want it to look like a wake, but a few strategically place bouquets can go a long way.

Hid your personal effects: It can be a little creepy seeing photos of strangers staring at you from every wall, so it’s best to put away personal items. You want potential homebuyers to imagine living in the place, not feel like a guest that’s intruding on your personal space.