Last week we offered some tips to buyers to help them get the most out of visiting open houses. This week we turn the tables with tips for sellers getting ready for an open house.
An open house is one of the best marketing tools for selling your home. But a successful open house takes a lot more than just handing the keys to the front door to your realtor and going to a movie for the afternoon. A little planning and preparation getting ready for an open house will go a long way to helping you achieve top dollar for your home after buyers have had a chance to see it.

1. Getting ready for an open house, not an open home

If you’re getting ready for an open house you’ve got to detach your emotions and start thinking of your home as a commodity, and everything you do from the day you sign a contract with your realtor has to be looked at through that prism. You’ll likely be facing some tough decisions as you depersonalize your home as much as possible.

2. Identify your market when getting ready for an open house

Is your neighbourhood filled with young professionals and families or is it more established? Buyers tend to stick to their demographic so you should be marketing your home to match that targeted population. That means if you’ve lived in your home and haven’t updated it since the 1970s while your neighbours are now all hipsters who’ve moved out from the city, you should probably strip that floral wallpaper in the living room, replace those harvest gold appliances.

3. Assess and address

Make a thorough assessment of your home’s condition and any faults that should be addressed. Most buyers want their new home to be move-in ready and the last thing they expect to have to deal with are your legacy maintenance issues.
Sometimes it helps to get an impartial third party to help with your walk-through; you may have lived with the dingy paint on the living room wall so long you no longer notice it, but it could be readily apparent to a first-time visitor.
Once you’ve compiled your list, prioritize according to what’s likely to be a turn-off to potential buyers and the budget and time you have available. Don’t scrimp! A few thousand dollars and a few weeks work getting ready for an open house could mean many thousands of dollars added to your sale price.
Some areas that are sure to catch the attention of potential buyers include:
• The condition and colour of the paint on the walls. A fuschia feature wall in your living room may be your taste, but if you’re getting ready for an open house, buyers will likely prefer a more neutral slate they’ll be able to make their own.
• Flooring. When you’re getting ready to host an open house clean or replace dirty and worn carpets. You may even consider installing hardwood or laminate as that’s often an attractive feature to potential buyers.
• Update light fixtures and replace or repair any that are broken. This can be a quick and relatively inexpensive upgrade that will instantly make your home seem more contemporary and well-kept.

4. Curb appeal

Give your home curb appeal by ensuring it makes a good impression from the outside. That means trimming the grass and trees, weeding the gardens, straightening shutters, rolling garbage and recycling bins out of sight. Clean out gutters, power wash the siding, repaint the front door and replace broken or faded house numbers. If your home looks good from the street, buyers will be excited to see the inside.

5. Staging

Staging is the fine art of making your home look appealing to the highest number of potential buyers. It highlights your home’s strengths, and downplays its weaknesses. It tells a story, creates a mood.
Staging can be as simple as decluttering, to rearranging your furniture, to hiring a professional stager who will remove much of your stuff into storage and replace it with carefully curated furniture and decor.
As the living room is usually the first room buyers see when entering your home, it should be staged to impress. Remove large pieces of furniture so it appears more spacious. Arrange the furniture so it draws attention to a focal point, like the fireplace or an expansive window.
The kitchen should be spotlessly clean, the countertops cleared of small appliances and storage containers. Take magnets and notes off the fridge door. But don’t make the kitchen seem too sterile; accessorize with small decorative touches like a glass jar of pasta noodles or open cookbook on the counter, a vase of cut flowers on the island.

All of the bedrooms should look neat and uncluttered as possible. The master bedroom especially, should look as nice and inviting as a luxury hotel. Replace everyday bedding with luxurious linens, maybe add some accent pillows.
Bathrooms should be immaculate. Hide the toothbrushes and toiletries, hang up new towels, make sure the shower curtain is clean and bright. Accessorize with fresh flowers or even candles.
Don’t neglect the backyard or deck. Outdoor space is a huge priority for many buyers so when you’re getting ready for an open house you want to make sure your yard, patio or deck is at its best, as a refuge for relaxing or entertaining.

Oh, and don’t overlook how your home smells. Cooking a meal with a lot of garlic when you’re getting ready for an open house the next day is probably not the best idea. Neutralize any odours as best you can, but don’t saturate the air with artificial fresheners as that can be equally offensive to visitors to your open house.

6. The big day

The realtor has hung their Open House signs around the neighbourhood, you’ve made arrangements to be out of the house for a couple of hours; but there’s still a few things to do as you’re getting ready for an open house.
Turn on all the lights and open the curtains to make your home as bright as possible. Put out some fresh cut flowers in nice vases, or fresh fruit arranged on plates or in bowls. Adjust the thermostat so it’s comfortable.

If you and your realtor have put in the effort getting ready for an open house, your home will practically sell itself!