HOMES MARKET/Maxine McLeod Miller


Preparing your home for a successful open house

It might be cold outside right now, but with interest rates low and new jobs in the area, people are out looking for homes to buy.  For sellers, this means it is time to spruce the place up and get ready to invite potential buyers in for an old fashioned open house.

Buyers are drawn to homes that appeal to their senses and this is important to remember when preparing your home for an Open House. Through sight, sound and smell, buyers should leave your home with a lasting impression. Here are some tips to showcase your home in the best-possible light not only for an Open House but also before putting it on the market.


Start outside by inspecting the front of your home from across the street. Does it have curb appeal?  It should look inviting, with a trimmed lawn and flowerbed.  When holding an open house in the winter you have to take a few extra steps, as your lovely garden is not in its spring glory.   Consider placing some nice plants in planters at your front door or on either side of your driveway.  A welcome wreath can also be an inviting addition to the front of the house. 

Check your front door.  You want to have a freshly painted front door. Polish door handles and knockers and replace worn items such as a rusty doorbell or mailbox. Clean the windows and remove any ugly stains from the driveway or sidewalk.  Consider adding a new doormat at the entrance. 

Next check the side and backyard.  In February your flowerbeds are going to be low on flowering plants but adding fresh mulch or bark to your beds really makes a huge difference. Rearrange the outdoor furniture to look inviting. Put away gardening tools and tidy up around the grill area or any storage area or shed.


Now focus on the inside of the home where cleanliness, space, smell and lighting are key.  First, get your house in tip-top condition by cleaning and clearing away clutter and excessive knick knacks.  Steam clean and vacuum the carpet and wax the floors to a shiny finish. Touch up nicks on walls and make sure the porcelain sinks and tubs and metallic fixtures shine like new.  Your kitchen and bathrooms should pass the white glove test and be sure to empty all trashcans.  Be conscious of any lingering odors such as smoke, pets or strong-smelling foods. You may need to air out your home prior to the Open House. And in addition to removing offensive smells, consider also providing inviting aromas, such as by grinding fresh lemons in the garbage disposal or even baking chocolate chip cookies prior to the Open House.

Next, set the mood. You want buyers to be able to picture your home as their own. Consider rearranging the furniture so that rooms look more spacious. Add accessories from rooms with too many furnishings to those that appear bare. Look at your countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms and the tops of your bureaus. Do they seem cluttered? Clear away and store as much as possible. The idea is to make your home appear spacious.

Lighting is also an important factor in creating an inviting atmosphere. Bright lights provide a cheerful environment and make a small space appear larger. Pull back all the drapes and open the blinds. Turn on all the lights. Make sure all the light sockets have working bulbs and install the maximum-wattage bulb that is safe for that fixture. For rooms that you want to have a warm, cozy feeling, use softer lights.

Do not forget little touches such as fresh flowers, lighted candles in the bathrooms, new logs in the fireplace, or a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. You may even want to set your dining room table with color-coordinated table settings.

An Open House is a terrific way to show your property to many people in a short amount of time. However, keep in mind that buyers may see seven or eight homes in a single day. The most memorable home will be the one that seemed the brightest, the most spacious and the most cheerful. So, do not rely on buyers to use their imagination. Help them capture it. Work with your real estate professional to get more tips on creating an unforgettable home.

Maxine McLeod Miller is the managing broker of Prudential Carruthers Realtors Old Town Alexandria office.  She may be reached at 703-836-1464.