One of the most stressful parts of selling your home is prepping for showings and open houses. Download this comprehensive Open House Checklist to streamline the process.
Looking back on the home selling process, I am incredibly thankful that our house sold in just a few days, since I can honestly say that if I had to keep my house in “show ready condition” for weeks (or months!) on end, my head would have exploded.
If you’re a first time home seller, be forewarned…preparing your home for an open house (and even a simple one-buyer home showing) is downright stressful. But in some ways, it’s also super exciting. It’s finally your time to shine after all of the home improvement tasks you’ve completed and the home staging tips you’ve lovingly implemented.
Before we dive into the actual checklist of pre-showing tasks, let’s talk a bit about house cleaning.
Cleaning Your Home When It’s On the Market
When your home is on the market, it’s hugely important to keep in sparkling clean condition at all times. You never know how much time you’ll have to prepare for a showing (sometimes it’s 24 hours, and sometimes it’s 10 minutes).
You likely won’t have sufficient time to give your home a good cleaning prior to a showing. So you’ll need to build in a daily morning cleaning routine so that you’re prepared at all times. Consider house cleaning your new part-time job.
Your daily cleaning routine should include the following tasks:
- make beds
- put all dishes away
- do laundry (so it doesn’t accumulate in bedrooms)
- sweep floors/vacuum carpets
- wipe down all countertops & sinks
- clean bathroom mirrors
The kitchen and bathrooms are the most important rooms that need to sparkle. You definitely don’t want buyers walking into this:
Remember how you decluttered and organized all of your closets, cabinets and drawers during the home staging phase of your selling prep work? Maintaining these organized spaces should also be a part of your daily cleaning/tidying up process.
A sparkling clean and tidy home is foundation of a successful open house and home showing.
It’s a few hours before your open house kicks off. What do you need to do to set your home up so that buyers fall in love with it once they cross the threshold?
House Showing Prep: The Open House Checklist
Create a Shoe Removal Station
Put out a boot tray near the front entrance so buyers have a place to put their shoes if you prefer that they remove them. Our agent provided shoe booties for guests to use as well.
Display Important Homeowner Information
Your real estate agent will likely provide marketing brochures for your home. Be sure to display the brochures in a prominent place prior to a showing. If you have any additional “marketing tools”, display those alongside the brochures.
I’m a huge fan of creating a homeowner binder that provides a summary of info about the house (I’ll be walking you through what to include in the binder in my next post). The binder sends the message to the buyer that the homeowners did a great job maintaining the home.
In our case, I also displayed a photo album that enabled the buyer to see what the exterior looks like during the warm weather months (since we were selling in January). Our deck was a prime selling feature, but the winter weather made it difficult for buyers to envision how awesome an entertainment space it is — hence the need for the photos!
Remove or Secure Valuables
It probably goes without saying that you should remove valuables such as money, jewelry, credit cards etc. prior to an open house or a home showing. I’d also recommend removing or locking up firearms, prescription drugs, and any financial documents (or other documents containing personal information that could be used by identity thieves).
Consider removing most of these items from your property and stored them off site at the home of a trusted relative or friend prior to listing your home for sale.
Hide Everyday Clutter
A large chunk of your home showing prep time will be taken up by clearing the everyday “clutter” — those items that give away the fact that actual humans are living in the house. Designate containers in each room that you can use to quickly clear clutter from all the flat surfaces.
We used this simple bin in my daughter’s room to put away everyday items that typically lived on the top of her dresser, nightstand, or book shelf:
In the bathroom, we used this bin to quickly stash away toiletries and cosmetics from the shower and vanity tops:
In my husband’s home office, we designated several of the cubes in this storage cubby as “clutter keepers” for items we didn’t want displayed during home showings:
Other common items you’ll want to hide from site during open houses and showings include:
- “everyday towels” (more on this below)
- dish drying racks
- small kitchen counter appliances
Need places to hide these items? My favorite hiding spots include:
- inside the washer/dryer
- remote corner of the basement
Oh, and don’t forget the exterior. Remember the importance of curb appeal — remove any debris, toys, trash cans and pet items from the driveway, front yard and back yard.
Hide Pet Stuff
Pet owners – the fact is that there are buyers who aren’t keen about animals. In fact, they find them to be a be a big turn off. So as much as we love our fur babies, your mission is to remove all traces of “animal” from your home before the open house.
Here’s a list of things you need to remove from sight:
- food bowls
- outdoor leads
Oh, and if at all possible, take your animals with you when you leave the house prior to the showing. It’s hard to hide the fact that a pet resides in the house if they are are present in the house for the showing!
Once you’ve hidden away the traces of every day life, it’s time to set the stage for buyers.
Use White Show Towels
Don’t underestimate the power of new white fluffy towels to evoke a spa-like feeling in the bathroom. Invest in some white “show towels” that are used exclusively to display during showings.
Let In the Light
When it comes to real estate, light and bright spaces sell. Now’s the time to open all of the curtains and blinds to let in the natural light.
And even if it’s a sunny day, turn on all the lights in every room. While you’re at it, turn on those accent lights (in china cabinets and under countertops).
Set Up Emotional Connection Points
We talked about the importance of using emotional connection points to stage your home in a previous post. Now’s the time to set up those vignettes (e.g., place settings on the kitchen table, trays on the master bed). Here are some other ways to make your home inviting:
- set out essential oil diffusers around your house to make it smell fantastic
- play soft instrumental music throughout your home (we programmed Alexa to play George Winston songs)
- light a fire in the fireplace
- set out a tray of refreshments in the kitchen
The Final Details
As you’re about to walk out the door, cross these final To Dos off of your open house checklist:
- put toilet seats down
- empty trash can and waste baskets
- set ceiling fans on low
- open all interior doors as far as the can go (except non-walk in closets)
- close TV cabinet doors
- fluff pillows
- smooth out bed comforters
- remove cars from the driveway/front of house (so that buyers can have a clear view of your home’s exterior)
- put the garage doors down
One last tip: Whenever you leave your home (whether it’s for a few hours or a full day), be sure to leave the house in show-ready condition. That way, you don’t need to sweat it if there’s a house showing during this time.
Phew! That’s a lot. No wonder I was so stressed during those 3 days our home was on the market. With an open house and 10+ showings over the course of those few days, all I was doing was prepping for showings!
I wish I would have had time then to sit down and create a simple open house checklist to make the house showing preparation process easier. Well, I finally got around to creating one so that I have it on hand for the next time we sell!
This printable Open House checklist is just one of the free 100+ pages of printable planners, checklists and guides you’ll get access to if you become a newsletter subscriber. My subscribers (or my VIPs as I like to think of them) have full access to the Organizing Printables Vault.
Click on the image to get the Checklist:
If you’re planning to sell your house soon, I hope this summary of home showing and open house checklist items will be helpful when you’re getting ready to show your home to buyers. Selling a house can be a stressful experience. My goal is to eliminate as much of that stress as possible for you.
What open house prep tips would you add to my list?