Open House Timeline: Countdown to a Successful Sale

by: Dona Dezube

Get ready for your open house—stress-free—by starting early and breaking down  your to-do list into manageable chunks. Use this timeline of 35 tips and your  house will stand out from the competition on open house day.

Four weeks before the open house

  • Ask your parents to babysit the kids the weekend of the open house. Then  book a reservation for your pet with the dog sitter or at the kennel. Having  everyone out of the house on the day of will help you keep your home tidy and  smelling fresh. Plus, no dogs and no kids equal more time for last-minute  prep.
  • Line up a contractor to take care of maintence issues your REALTOR® has  asked you to fix, like leaking faucets, sagging gutters, or dings in the  walls.
  • De-clutter every room (even if you already de-cluttered once before). Don’t  hide your stuff in the closet—buyers will open doors to size up closet space.  Store your off-season clothes, sports equipment, and toys somewhere else.
  • Book carpet cleaners for a few days before the open house and a house  cleaning service for the day before. Otherwise, make sure to leave time to do  these things yourself a couple of days before.

Three weeks before the open house

  • Buy fluffy white towels to create a spa-like feel in the bathrooms.
  • Buy a front door mat to give a good first impression.
  • Designate a shoebox for each bathroom to stow away personal items the day of  the open house.

Two weeks before the open house

  • Clean the light fixtures, ceiling fans, light switches, and around door  knobs. A spic-and-span house makes buyers feel like they can move right in.
  • Power-wash the house, deck, sidewalk, and driveway.

One week before the open house

  • Make sure potential buyers can get up close and personal with your furnace,  air-conditioning unit, and appliances. They’ll want to read any maintenance and  manufacturer’s stickers to see how old everything is.
  • Clean the inside of appliances and de-clutter kitchen cabinets and drawers  and the pantry. Buyers will open cabinet doors and drawers. If yours are stuffed  to the gills, buyers will think your kitchen lacks enough storage space.
  • Put out the new door mat to break it in. It’ll look nice, but not too  obviously new for the open house.

Week of the open house

  • Buy ready-made cookie dough and disposable aluminum cookie sheets so you  don’t have to take time for clean up after baking (you can recycle the pans  after use). Nothing says “home” like the smell of freshly baked cookies.
  • Buy a bag of apples or lemons to display in a pretty bowl.
  • Let your REALTOR® know if you’re running low on sales brochures explaining  the features of your house.
  • Clean the windows to let in the most light possible.
  • Mow the lawn two days before the open house. Mowing the morning of the open  house can peeve house hunters with allergies.


Day before the open house

  • Make sure your REALTOR® puts up plenty of open-house signs pointing in the  right direction and located where drivers will see them. If she can’t get to it  on the Friday before a Sunday open house, offer to do it yourself.
  • Put away yard clutter like hoses, toys, or pet water bowls.
  • Lay fresh logs in the fireplace.

Day of the open house

  • Put checkbooks, kids’ piggybanks, jewelry, prescription drugs, bank  statements, and other valuables in the trunk of your car, at a neighbor’s house,  or in your safe. It’s rare, but thefts do happen at open houses.
  • Set the dining room table for a special-occasion dinner. In the backyard,  uncover the barbeque and set the patio table for a picnic to show buyers how  elegantly and simply they can entertain once they move in.
  • Check any play equipment for spider webs or insect invasions. A kid  screaming about spiders won’t endear buyers to your home.
  • Clean the fingerprints off the storm door. First impressions count.
  • Put up Post-It notes around the house to highlight great features like  tilt-in windows or a recently updated appliance.
  • Remove shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, and other personal items from the  bathtub, shower, and sinks in all the bathrooms. Store them in a shoebox under  the sink. Removing personal items makes it easier for buyers to see themselves  living in your house.
  • Stow away all kitchen countertop appliances.

One hour before the open house

  • Bake the ready-to-bake cookies you bought earlier this week. Put them on a  nice platter for your open house guests to eat with a note that says: “Help  yourself!”
  • Hang the new towels in the bathrooms.
  • Put your bowl of apples or lemons on the kitchen table or bar counter.
  • Pick up and put away any throw rugs, like the bath mats. They’re a trip  hazard.

During the open house

Get out of the house and let your REALTOR® sell it! Potential buyers will be  uncomfortable discussing your home if you’re loitering during the open house.  Take advantage of your child- and pet-free hours by treating yourself to  something you enjoy–a few extra hours at the gym, a trip to the bookstore, or a  manicure.

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