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Open House Timeline and Tips

ForSaleByOwner August 31, 2023

An open house invites the househunting public to tour your house. This can be a time and cost-effective way to introduce your house to many potential buyers. Here’s how to get the most from your open house.

1. Decide on the Date and Time

  • Weekends are best, preferably Sunday afternoons. This is when house hunters expect to attend open houses.
  • Scan the calendar to make sure your date does not conflict with a popular event on television (such as the Super Bowl); a major holiday; or a local event that will probably be a must-attend for  many of your target buyers (such as a high school graduation).
  • Check with the highway and local public works departments to see if any construction or detours will be in effect for the time of your open house. If you can’t work around these events, be sure to post clear directions that take these detours into account.
  • Search to find other ‘by owner’ sellers nearby. Contact them to see if they would like to collaborate on a group open house with a map marking all the participating ‘by owner’ houses.
  • Tell your neighbors about the upcoming open house. Invite them to come, and ask for their patience with your visitors.
  • Check the local zoning laws regarding signs. You might have to remove all signs within 24 hours of the end of the open house, for instance.

2. Market Your Open House

  • Flag your listing with an Open House symbol.
  • Order or obtain an “Open House” sign to sit on top of your “For Sale By Owner” sign.
  • Order or gather directional signs to direct people to your house from nearby intersections.
  • Make sure that the map and directions linked to your listing are correct.
  • Post your Open House at the Facebook page and your own Facebook page. Post it at Craigslist, too.
  • Prepare listing sheets, house booklets and “room talkers” that point out features of your house to potential buyers.
  • Prepare a clipboard for visitors to sign in and leave their contact information.
  • Post listings with and distribute flyers to local groups whose members are in your target market. This might include neighborhood associations; parents’ groups; historic house associations; intramural sports teams and groups; and affordable housing associations.

3. Prepare Your Home

  • Plan a small menu to greet visitors with a snack.
  • Scrutinize the curb appeal of your house. Do you need to add some color via blooming flowers? Wash the windows? Repair small cracks in the sidewalk? Now is the time to polish that first impression.
  • Plan to have pets cared for off-site, or, at the very least, corralled in the garage. Do not have pets roaming free during the open house.
  • If you have small children, arrange for them to be cared for off-site, starting at least an hour before the open house. This will give you time to tidy their toys out of sight.
  • Have a friend with a sensitive nose tour your house. What odors does she detect that you must neutralize? These might include mold, mildew, mothballs, pet, diaper, kitchen, smoke and other smells that will send a stinky signal to visitors.
  • Plan to not cook odiferous food for at least 24 hours before the open house.
  • Either plan to bring in a housecleaning service or plan enough time for a thorough cleaning. This should include washing windows; dusting woodwork; tidying closets; cleaning in, under and behind all appliances; and wiping out cabinets.
  • If the weather is likely to be inclement, get runners or slip-on booties that can protect your floors and carpets from water and melting snow. Have a basket of booties (available at home center retailers) by the front door.

4. The Day Before Your Open House

  • Clean your house.
  • Assemble your refreshments menu.
  • Ensure that you have on hand plenty of listing sheets, house booklets and other takeaways.
  • Organize your room talkers so you know where to put them. Make sure you have double-sided tape to secure them, if necessary.
  • Make sure your signs are ready.
  • Confirm care arrangements for children and pets.
  • Check the weather report and plan accordingly.
  • Drive the most common routes to your house to detect last-minute detours and complications. Note the best locations for directional signs.
  • Double-check the first impression of your house from the front sidewalk.
  • Make sure all valuables, jewelry, financial statements, passports, documents, etc. are out of sight and secure.
  • Walk the house to detect and correct any tripping hazards and similar dangers.
  • Walk the house at the time when your open house will begin the next day. Note the lighting conditions and where you must turn on or adjust lighting to put each room in the best light. Adjust window treatments to allow for maximum light.

5. The Day of Your Open House

  • Conduct a last-minute sweep for stray dirt. Wipe all counter tops. Close all toilet lids.
  • Put out room talkers and arrange lighting as you noted the day before.
  • Place children and pets in their care arrangements.
  • One hour before your Open House starts, place directional signs at intersections.
  • Arrange your snacks and marketing materials.
  • Put out a box of slip-on booties for your visitors, if the weather is bad.
  • Put the “Open” sign on top of your ForSaleByOwner sign.
  • Turn on the porch light.

Smile and welcome potential buyers to your home!

Are you prepared for the questions buyers ask?