How to Prepare for an Open House as a Realtor® (In Under 10 Minutes)

Updated January 17, 2023 10:27 AM

When you are working with homeowners to sell their home, there is usually a lot on their plate. By the time that you host the open house, there are only a few small details and finishing touches you can add before potential buyers walk in. In this article, we'll cover the five best ways that you can make sure the property makes an impression on buyers--all in the last ten minutes before the doors open.

Want to get a step-by-step guide to working with real estate listings? Read How to Sell a House.

virtually staged home exterior with pool and patio

Virtually staged home exterior

How to Plan Ahead for Your Open House

Let's talk about the dreams of real estate agents everywhere. First, they'd get a call from homeowners who are ready to sell their home, aren't in a rush to move, and have the time and financial freedom to make any necessary upgrades to sell their home for most money.

Let's get even more dreamy: the property would be in perfect condition, down to even the smallest of details. Natural light would just flood into the living spaces (which, of course, have just been updated with a fresh coat of paint), and the lawns would be perfectly manicured, weed-free, with blooming fresh flowers.

Example of virtually staged living and dining room
Okay, let's get back to reality.


Homes are meant to be lived in--they won't ever look absolutely flawless on their own. Plus, the process of selling a home is almost always a stressful experience for homeowners--there is usually not an abundance of time and money. That's what makes being a real estate agent so exciting!

Since your job is to market properties for sale, you'll need to guide the homeowners to get the home listed and sold for the best value in the least amount of time. This will inevitably include talking to them about what buyers want in a home, and usually giving them a list of tasks to help appeal to interested buyers, like:

  • Declutter and store personal items (eliminating things is one of the most powerful ways to sell a house!)
  • Do a deep clean or hire cleaners
  • Power wash the driveway, exterior, and doorways to improve curb appeal

Of course, the tasks you give your clients will depend on their timeline, budget, and willingness to make improvements. In the end, you only have control over how you market the real estate listing, not what is inside of it.

For more details about how to get a listing ready to go on the market, read 10 Open House Ideas.

So how can you make the best impression on buyers in the last few minutes before the doors open for your open house? It's simple--and F.A.S.S.T.

Five Last Minute Tips to Prepare for an Open House

When it's finally time for your real estate open house to begin, you have just a few minutes to make a difference in the way the home appeals to potential buyers. The homeowners are out of the house and the space should be clean. Throughout the entire listing process, this short period can have a massive impact on the sale of the home.

Start by checking over the home, making sure to open curtains and window coverings, close all drawers, and make sure surfaces are cleaned off. Then it's time to work some magic by simply appealing to the buyer's senses.

Think F.A.S.S.T., an acronym representing five things you can do to make a property appeal to a buyer's five senses:

1. Food and Drink (Sense of Taste)

You don't need to go all out at individual showings of the home, but the open house should have options ready. Offer each guest an option between coffee, bottled water, and a snack like cookies, popcorn, or even fresh fruit.

If you have the time and ability to bake fresh cookies, go for it! There is almost no better way to make a property feel like a home.

Don't skip this option even when you want to encourage socially distancing! Purchase pre-packaged snacks, or choose bottled iced tea instead of fresh coffee. You can easily find printable tags to elevate the buyer's experience even further.

Preparing for an open house as a real estate agent

Printable open house tag from Etsy

2. Air (Sense of Touch)

Set the thermostat between 70 and 72 degrees. This is an ideal temperature for buyers who are walking through the home--it feels warm and toasty if it's cold outside, but it's not warm enough for visitors to break a sweat.

As you're walking through the house before the doors open, consider how interested buyers may interact with the home. What surfaces are they most likely to reach out and touch (like countertops, accent walls, door handles, etc)? Make sure these are freshly wiped and free of any dirt and grime.

This is also an ideal time to replace hand towels. Touching or even seeing a damp hand towel is a guaranteed way to make your open house visitors cringe.

You could even purchase a collection of simple white linen hand towels especially for your open houses. These are the small details that can encourage prospective buyers as they come closer to making a huge investment in a home.

3. Staging (Sense of Sight)

The sense of sight is arguably the most important sense in all of real estate. After all, the listing photos are the key initially attracting buyers to visit the property.

In fact, the entire industry of home staging exists because the appearance of a home will completely transform its sale price and time spent on the market.

In order to appeal to a buyer's sense of sight during an open house, start by doing a last-minute cleanup of surfaces. Sweep or shovel the front stoop or walkway and wipe down countertops, appliances, and floors.

But even if you are selling an ugly home (there, we said it!), you can make sure it appeals to luxury buyers without suggesting a remodel--and without spending close to five figures on traditional home staging.

Instead, you can use virtual staging to create completely realistic images of the home's spaces with the right furniture.

Virtually staging a bedroom to appeal to a potential buyer

Bedroom virtually staged by Stuccco

Virtual staging can be used to add furniture and decor to vacant listings or it can be used to show the full potential of spaces that need a renovation or more involved improvements. Most buyers can't visualize spaces on their own, so staging gives them an accurate view of how each space can look with the right changes.

Stuccco virtual renovation
Bedroom after Stuccco virtual renovation

Bedroom upgraded with virtual paint and staging

Plus, virtually staged photos aren't just for online listings! They can and should also be displayed within the rooms to help buyers see how the rooms will come alive.

Virtually staged homes have been proven to sell faster and for more money than non-staged homes. Learn more about virtual staging.

4. Scent (Sense of Smell)

A home could be stunningly beautiful, but it will turn off buyers in an instant if the smells are noticeably bad.

No one wants to live in a smelly home, because it's a sign that the home is either dirty or has a much deeper issue like mold.

Of course, if the home does have a distinct bad smell throughout, it may be something that should be investigated before the doors open to any showings. However, if there is something simple that can easily smell bad, like a litter box, you can take care to clean it right before the open house and replace that scent with something much better.

Candle in a staged home, create a successful open house

Every open house could benefit from fresh flowers and candles. Another option is to add two capfuls of vanilla extract to a coffee cup and keep it in the oven at 300 degrees--the home will smell heavenly.

5. Tunes (Sense of Hearing)

Music always creates a feeling. Of course, you need to be sure not to play music too loud or play anything vulgar, but some calming background music can make an unfamiliar house feel like a home.

Most real estate agents play calming jazz or classical background music, but you can also choose a different genre if you have a specific type of buyer that you are targeting for the home.

If you incorporate every F.A.S.S.T. suggestion, you’ll be much more likely to get real estate leads from your open houses–including potential buyers and potential clients. The next step to grow your business is learning how to convert those real estate leads into clients.

Hosting Open Houses as a Real Estate Agent

After putting a focus on all five senses for a few open houses, it will become second nature. You'll be able to clearly see the impact on your home sales, and your clients will be even more impressed.

Preparing for an open house as a realtor, before and after staged bedroom

Want to attract more buyers and higher offers to your listings? Try virtual staging today and get your staged photos back in 24 hours.

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