With everyone gearing up for the spring selling season, sooner or later, home buyers, sellers and real estate agents will have to start thinking about having or attending open houses.

Sellers literally open their homes certain times on certain days and invite the public to walk through the home. Sellers and their agents hope they’ll attract a wide range of buyers who can preview several homes within a few hours.

While seeing as many as a dozen homes in a single day can be confusing (not to mention exhausting), it gives buyers an opportunity to see if the house is worth going back for a second, more formal showing. If nothing is appealing, the buyers don’t have to waste valuable time during the week. Open houses give sellers the opportunity to maximize their cleaning efforts – one cleaning for an open house can reap a handful of calls for a second showing.

Agents and brokers like to hold open houses because it helps them gauge how much interest there is from the public and if they have the home priced it correctly: If no one comes to the open house, it’s a fairly good indication that the home may be overpriced for its condition and location, or there is stiff competition in the marketplace.

Here are some things you should think about before hosting or attending an open house:


When home buyers plan a tour of open houses, they intend on spending a very short time in each one. Unless they immediately fall in love with your home, don’t expect anyone to stay more than 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of your home.

However, buyers will want to see all of the essentials. That includes all rooms, the basement, an attic (if it is easily accessible), the garage, and closets.

Before an open house, walk through your home. Make sure every room has been cleaned and is free from clutter. Countertops should be clear and clean. Go easy on the potpourri — it’s best if your house simply smells clean.

One of the most basic rules of a successful open house is this: Unless you’re selling on your own, you shouldn’t attend. Buyers won’t feel comfortable having you watch as they peek in your cupboards.

If you are there, answer questions simply. Don’t volunteer more information the buyer asks for. Hand out listing sheets which detail the home’s address, sales price, and specifications. You may want to add a photograph, so that the buyers will better remember your home.


While walking through an open house doesn’t obligate you to anything, there are a few things to remember.

First, you could find yourself in a pickle if you don’t sign in under your buyer broker’s name. Listing brokers often act as dual agents, and if you sign in under your own name, the listing broker may be able to claim you as a client if you decide to make an offer for the home.

Next, don’t track mud onto the seller’s clean floors. If your shoes are dirty or wet, offer to take them off before you walk through the front door. It’s considered impolite to gossip about the home as you walk through. Should the seller be there, try to refrain from making unkind comments. They could come back to haunt you should you end up making an offer on the home.

Finally, if you do decide this is the home for you, don’t tell the seller or listing agent. Calmly leave and have your agent phone for a formal second showing. If there is tremendous interest in the home and you feel you must make an immediate offer, walk with your spouse or partner in the garden for a few minutes. You should be able to talk there privately.


As the host of the open house, it’s important to be attentive both to the concerns of your seller and prospective buyers. One common complaint is that listing agents spend too much time networking and not enough time showing the home. While it’s important to spend time with buyers showing them the property, sellers will appreciate your focus on their property, and not others you may have listed.

A primary issue for sellers today is security. They’ve heard too many stories about criminals casing homes by posing as home buyers touring open houses on a Saturday or Sunday. While you can’t post armed guards at the door, consider having an assistant help you with the open house. That way, you can have someone on each floor of a two-story home. Remind sellers to lock up or put away money, jewelry, fur coats and other valuables.

Finally, ask the sellers how they prefer you leave their home. Do they want the lights on or off? And, advise them of ways to make their home more appealing to home buyers. If a plate of home-baked cookies makes prospective buyers feel good, tell your sellers to pick up a tube of pre-made cookie dough at their local grocery store. (For no-mess cookies, they can slice and bake them on tinfoil.)

Published: Jan 1, 1996