Open House Checklist

by James Bellandi


Open houses are an opportunity for potential buyers to get a feel for the property. Here is a checklist of some of the elements all open houses need in order to appeal to both emotional and practical buyers. We’ve categorized them into four general themes: curb appeal, cleanliness, atmosphere and community preparation.

Curb Appeal

  • Make the landscaping pristine. Plant new flowers in bland areas, roll up hoses, and clean out the gutters.
  • Make sure the house numbers and mailbox are clear and in good condition.
  • Clean out the garage and remove any non-essential clutter.
  • Wash all external lighting and every window. Make sure every window that can have a screen in it does.
  • Clean the front door and the doorknob, so there are no fingerprints.


  • Clean everything. Make sure to remove as much dirt and dust as possible.
  • Remove non-essential furniture, and stage what furniture can’t be removed. Less furniture makes a room look bigger.
  • Make sure every light works and that all light switches are clean with no fingerprints.
  • Clean the carpets. If they can’t be cleaned, replace them.
  • Make sure the bathroom is functional and clean, including wiping down sinks and buying new towels.
  • Hide cords and cables.
  • Clean and organize closets, and leave them open with their lights on.


  • Turn on every light, and add additional lights to dark areas of the home.
  • Have every drape or blind open.
  • Remove family photos and other personal knick-knacks. A potential buyer wants to be able to envision themselves in the home, not the sellers.
  • Remove pets from the home; clean up hair, toys, feeding bowls and other signs of a pet.
  • Add a neutral, but positive smell using light baking or another homey method. Try not to go crazy with something like Febreze.
  • Unless you’re trying to emphasize how quiet the area is, play some soft, relaxing music.

Community Preparations

  • Invite, or otherwise alert, all neighbors a few days in advance to the open house. Give word of mouth time to spread to increase interest.
  • Figure out the best time for the local community to come out to the open house. Plan around local events and holidays.
  • Try to schedule around the weather. Avoid rainy days if possible, and delay if the weather will be too bad.
  • Put out a lot of open house signs.
  • Have a registry ready online for potential buyers.
  • Anticipate buyers’ questions and be ready with answers.

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