Madison Realty: How to Prep for an Open House

Open House SignEach month, we bring you a helpful question submitted by a Roost Reader. This month, we tackle the perennial question of how to prep for an open house... "Dear Roost, We're planning to put our home on the market soon, and we're thinking ahead to our first open house. What advice can you give us to help make sure our open house goes as well as possible? Thanks!"

This is a question every home seller should ask. If you're selling a home, you'll most likely have to do an open house or two. Open houses are a great way to introduce your home to home buyers and agents. Homes get more attention when they've just the market, so it's important to use an open house to its full potential in generating interest and excitement among buyers and agents as quickly as possible.

The best way to do this is to make sure your home is in "showing shape". Here's how to prep for an open house in 11 simple steps:

1. De-clutter. Let people see your home, not your stuff. For a quick fix, remove or replace:

  • outdated and/or fussy curtains
  • artificial flower arrangements
  • framed family photographs
  • every magnet, photo, and piece of paper affixed to your refrigerator
  • all toiletries and personal hygiene products
  • trash cans
  • half (or more!) of whatever is on your kitchen counter, coffee table, bathroom vanity, bedroom dresser, and closet/cupboard shelves


2. Do a deep-clean. Don't just put your stuff away, but deep-clean, too. That means shaking out rugs, wiping down baseboards, scrubbing the grout in your bathroom, etc. Make your home sparkle!

3. Get rid of pet smells. Pet smells can be pervasive -- yet sometimes we pet lovers don't always notice them in our own homes. Unfortunately, potential home buyers will likely notice right away. So change the litter and move the litter box to the garage; wash your textiles (curtains, throw blankets, bedspreads, etc.); use a pet-specific floor or rug cleaner; and shake out and/or vacuum your couch cushions. (DON'T simply try to mask these smells with a strong-smelling candle or air freshener. See #6, below!)

4. Rearrange your furniture to make your home feel as roomy as possible -- and get another set of eyes to help you, if possible. A few common staging tips we often suggest:
  • Arrange your living space so the seating elements face each other — not the television set. Imagine three or four people visiting in your living room; can they all sit down and comfortably converse?
  • Rooms usually feel more spacious when you can see all four corners. Move your furniture (and possibly remove some pieces, if need be) so that all four corners are furniture-free.
  • Pay attention to traffic patterns — can you easily move through each room without having to navigate around large pieces of furniture or squeeze through tight spaces?
5. Freshen up your front entry to make strong first impression. Put down a new welcome mat; install a new exterior fixture; consider painting your front door a bright, welcoming color; update your house numbers; add potted plants and/or a welcoming bench to your front porch; etc.

6. Avoid strongly scented candles, air fresheners, etc. Strong smells can bother people who have allergies or who are sensitive to chemicals, and they suggest you're trying to mask something. Instead, do a thorough deep-clean to get rid of any odors at their source, then open windows or turn on fans prior to the open house to increase air flow for a naturally pleasant-smelling interior.

Newly painted front door and new outdoor light

7. Stage your bathroom. Put out fresh, clean hand towels, bath mats, soap, etc., in each bathroom -- consider making a "bathroom staging kit" so that you re-use the same hand towels and other supplies each time, then store them away until the next showing.

8. Turn on the lights. All of them! Lamps, overheads, etc. A bright home feels cheerful, clean, and inviting. In addition, swap out your lower-wattage light bulbs for the maximum wattage allowed wherever you can, and opt for a warmer light palette rather than a cool one.


9. In colder months, set your heat to 70-72 degrees. Cold interiors can cause home buyers to hurry through and leave, while warm interiors in the colder months can feel cozy and inviting and can inspire buyers to linger.


10.  In warmer months, open your windows and turn on your ceiling fans for an inviting, breezy air flow; or turn on your air-conditioning if it's really hot outside.


11. Consider putting out a dish of wrapped candy or other treats. It's a nice touch, and it gives potential buyers another reason to smile!


And a bonus suggestion: A week or two before your open house,watch for upcoming open houses at MLS Madison WI, and check out a few open houses in your neighborhood. Make a mental list of what works, what doesn't, and what stands out to you -- both the good and the bad! Then apply those observations to your own space. Remember, most people visiting your open house will be checking out many others in the same day -- you want your home to stand for all the right reasons and none of the wrong!


(And remember -- this is all easier to do if your home is in good shape before you start. So if you're not ready to sell now, but you think you might be in the next year or two, it's not too soon to prep your home for its eventual sale.)


To learn more about Madison homes for sale, or additional tips for homes sellers or homes buyers, contact us!