How to Prepare Your Home for an Open House

An elderly man wearing overalls paints a cabinet while a young woman behind him helps clean it.

If you're selling your home, you may decide to host an open house to show off its best features and garner attention from potential buyers. Staging a home for optimal attractiveness with neat and minimal decor can add a lot of perceived value to the property and could get buyers clamoring to put in a bid.

Before anyone steps foot in your home, however, you'll want to set up some safeguards and wrap up unfinished projects, such as painting that half-primed hallway. Hosting an open house carries risks to your property (as well as your identity), but it could be well worth it. Here's how to do it right.

How Does the Open House Process Work?

When you host an open house, your agent posts the time and date on your real estate listing and it gets dispersed across multiple searchable real estate listing sites thanks to automated syndication processes. Your agent may also promote it through their own social media channels and client management systems to get the most visitors.

On the day of the open house, you'll leave the home while your agent stays and greets visitors. Potential buyers file through and check out the home, ask questions of your agent and (hopefully) fall in love with the property.

Buyers like open houses because they don't need representation to look around, and it gives them the opportunity to see several properties over the course of a weekend. They may not be as enjoyable for sellers, who have to plan to be out of their homes while the open house takes place. In fact, many sellers choose not to host an open house and instead offer home tours for serious buyers.

How to Prepare for an Open House

Sunday afternoon is the best time to schedule your open house, according to real estate referral platform HomeLight. That's when online search interest peaks and when most buyers are likely to have time to stop by and view the home. Plan for the open house to last a couple of hours.

Clean up inside and out so that buyers can get a good look at the space. Most realtors recommend removing personal effects, which may intrude on buyers imagining the home as their own. It may be hard to justify a budget for sprucing up if you're underwater on the house or trying to pay off other debts, but some small improvements could ultimately increase the home's value.

Something as simple as a DIY coat of paint could add 1% to 3% to the home's sale price. Depending on your asking price, this could equal thousands of dollars in return. Renting a carpet cleaner from a big box store costs around $40 per day, but it can make a dramatic difference on worn-out carpets if used before a showing.

If your furniture is already moved out or you're looking to make a better impression than your own belongings would, you can hire a staging company. Staging companies exist to set your home up for a sale with furniture and decor that they provide. According to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) survey, 52% of realtors said staging a home increased the dollar value of the offers, with the increase ranging from 1% to more than 20%.

Not every room needs to be staged, but the living room, kitchen and master bedroom are the most common places to receive extra staging attention, according to the NAR survey.

What Are the Risks of an Open House?

Open houses don't guarantee a sale or an increase in the bids you get. In fact, there are some possible risks to consider, including:

  • Theft or burglary
  • Identity theft
  • An accident or injury occurring
  • COVID-19 spread

It's possible your open house will only attract less-serious buyers who don't intend to (or can't afford to) put in an offer. This is a contrast to buyers who tour your home with an agent and often have a letter of preapproval saying that they can afford to purchase the home. No such requirements exist for those who just simply stop by for an open house.

Thinking of strangers wandering through their home often makes sellers uncomfortable—and understandably so. Theft during home showings is known to happen. And more significantly, some attendees of your open house may be there to assess the home for burglary potential. Be sure to remove or lock up important personal documents before you leave the house, such as banking documents and Social Security cards, to protect yourself from identity theft.

An accident on your property is another potential risk with an open house. Make sure safety issues have been addressed by removing loose cords, repairing any sharp metal or wood that could cut a passerby, or flagging low doorways or hidden steps with caution tape, for example. Before scheduling an open house, make sure you're covered by your homeowners policy or your real estate agent's liability insurance policy.

If your area has a mask mandate or you're concerned about the spread of COVID-19, ask your agent to require visitors to wear a mask, and keep windows open for the duration of the showing.

Do I Need to Host an Open House?

An open house can be a good way to get some more eyes on your property, but it doesn't guarantee you'll find a buyer. NAR notes that only 7% of buyers purchase a home after seeing its open house sign.

Your agent may be enthusiastic about an open house because they can use it as a networking opportunity for themselves. Unrepresented buyers often attend open houses, and your agent may be hoping to make connections by meeting these people at your open house. That said, real estate agents don't always recommend open houses to their clients, according to HomeLight.

Whether you ultimately decide to host an open house or show your home to only interested parties and their agents, make sure you present your home as well as possible to potential buyers. A simple sprucing up can speed up a sale and maximize offers.