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Planning an Open House: What Sellers Need to Know

What you'll learn: Learn about open houses, how to plan one, and their pros and cons.


Planning an Open House: What Sellers Need to Know


Your home is going on the market. Does that mean you need to host an open house? Where do you even begin? We’ve compiled the most crucial details about real estate open houses including how they work, how to prepare to host your own, and the pros and cons – so you can decide if an open house is right for you.

How do open houses work?

An open house provides the opportunity for potential buyers to view your home during a specified day and time without the need for an appointment. It can get your property in front of more eyes at one time and is generally viewed as lower pressure compared to a private viewing.

Here are common aspects that make up an open house.

Guest sign-in

A host – typically your listing agent – will greet visitors when they walk in the door. They’ll often provide marketing materials with photos and details about the property and ways to follow up. Unless you’re selling a home by owner, you are not expected to be present for an open house.

The goal of an open house is to find prospective buyers that lead to offers, but anyone can attend. That means it may also draw in curious neighbors and casual viewers whose intent to buy is zero to never. It’s fair to say, however, that most people who show up for an open house are at least open to the possibility of putting in a bid.

Still, that is potentially a lot of people coming through the door. To capture leads and as a safety check, the host will require guests to sign in prior to viewing the home. Information collected typically includes:

  • First and last name
  • Contact details such as email and phone number
  • Real estate agent name
  • How they heard about the open house

Asking for this kind of information as the cost of entry may be enough to discourage people who are just window shopping.

Property walk-through

Potential buyers want to get a feel for the space and envision it as their own. Will their oversized sectional fit in the living room? Does a cooking aficionado have enough storage for their kitchen tools? Can a mom watch her children play in the backyard while doing dishes at the sink?

You can expect visitors to:

  • Examine interior and exterior spaces
  • Open and close closets, cabinets, and drawers
  • Take measurements
  • Record photos and videos

Buyer questions

For the best results, an open house host should be prepared to answer questions from potential buyers about the seller, the property, and the surrounding area. Everything from the age of the carpet to how many offers have been made are fair game.

Potential buyers may ask about:

  • The reason the home is for sale
  • History of renovations or house updates
  • Utility types and average costs
  • Neighborhood home values

Preparing for these questions ahead of time helps a seller look trustworthy and professional. Your agent may prepare FAQs in a printed document or on your online listing to answer buyer questions before they even ask.


It’s possible for open houses to generate offers on the spot, especially in a seller’s market. But sometimes follow-ups help nurture a deal. A savvy real estate agent will elicit feedback, engage the most promising prospects, and share results with you.

The host may follow up with:

  • Potential buyers
  • Potential buyers’ real estate agents
  • The seller

How to prepare for an open house as a seller

The secret to a smooth and successful open house lies in what happens well before a guest walks in the door. Planning, staging, and setting expectations are all key parts of the process.

Planning for success

Planning for an open house starts with setting a date and time when most potential home buyers are off of work and available to attend. That could mean weekends or early weekday evenings. Be sure to also consider the season and if adverse weather, darkness, or construction could affect your turnout.

If you’re working with a real estate agent, he or she will advertise the event through all channels available such as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), real estate websites, social media, printed posters, and flyers.

Following are some best practices for planning an open house:

  • Traditionally, the best time for open houses is between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a Saturday or Sunday.
  • Avoid holidays and days with big events.
  • Promote the event through digital and traditional media starting two to three weeks before the event.

Cleaning and staging

Once a date is set and people are marking their calendars, it’s time to prepare the house. Deep clean everything from soap scum on sinks to grime on cabinets. Remember: Everything will be touched!

You’ll also want to declutter the house, remove personal items, and stage it in a way that beckons buyers into a space they can see themselves living in. Experts suggest engaging the five senses through bright, inviting rooms, joyful smells, fitting music, scrumptious refreshments, and luxurious surfaces to touch.

Consider these cleaning and staging suggestions:

  • Hire a cleaning company to deep clean every room in the house.
  • Remove family photographs, trinkets, and dated decor or furniture.
  • Plan special touches such as freshly baked cookies, gourmet coffee, and seasonal flower arrangements.

For a deeper dive, see 10 open house tips for sellers and download the free essential guide to sell your home eBook.

Setting expectations

Does an open house sound daunting? It’s true – an open house is no small feat, but you may not have to do as much as you think.

Many real estate agents act as the event planner and host and actually prefer sellers to not be present for an open house. They’ll guide you through planning, offer tips for staging (and may even hire a company to do the heavy lifting), interact with guests, and handle follow-up calls.

When that’s the case, there are a few ways you as the seller can be the most helpful with open house prep. Let your agent handle most of the legwork and follow their lead with smaller preparation tasks around the house. Make arrangements for you and your family (including pets) to be gone during the event. And give neighbors a heads-up – you could even ask them to spread the word!

Pros and cons of open houses

Now that you know how a real estate open house works and what goes on behind the scenes, you may be wondering: Are open houses worth it? Or more specifically: Do open houses sell homes?

Let’s start by looking at open house benefits and drawbacks.


  • houses serve as a marketing tool that can generate exposure for serious potential buyers.
  • A well-orchestrated event reaches attendees’ five senses in ways an online listing or a simple private viewing cannot.
  • An impressive experience can be the final touch buyers need to put in an offer.


  • Open houses can draw in unqualified buyers more interested in free food and seeing a beautiful home.
  • In rare cases, criminals may jump at the opportunity to have insider access to a home’s layout and valuables.
  • There’s no guarantee the preparation and expense will pay off with one or multiple offers.

The data

According to the National Association of REALTORS© (NAR) 2022 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, an open house served as an information source for 41 percent of all buyers that responded to the survey. Only 2 percent reported an open house as the first step taken in the home buying process – the highest percentage started with an online search – but an open house was part of the journey.

At the end of the day, open houses are just one tool in the home seller’s toolkit. Many factors will determine whether it’s right for your situation. When in doubt, work with a trusted real estate agent to help you decide.



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