Real Estate Selling

The Best (and Worst) Things You Can Do Before an Open House

Selling a home can be an emotional process, but in order to get the place ready for sale, you’ll need to set your emotions aside. With a ruthlessly objective eye, identify your house’s strengths and weaknesses. Next, prep your house for showings in way that plays up the pros while downplaying the cons. To help you put your home’s best face forward, check out these do’s and don’ts for home staging.

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Your goal: Make 20 to 40 percent of your stuff disappear. Store, sell, or donate furnishings and belongings to create an impression of ample breathing space in each room—including the basement and the garage—plus the closets and bookshelves.

Related: Let It Go: 14 Things to Trash Without Thinking Twice

Don't Overdo It

On the other hand, try not to leave your home looking naked and afraid. Keep pretty rugs and well-maintained furniture in place (you make want to rearrange it to better fit your newly decluttered spaces) and keep your best art up on the walls.

Related: 11 Easy DIY Projects to Declutter Your Home


You adore your burgundy and green walls, but potential homebuyers can be seriously put off by a paint color they dislike. So play it safe: prime, then repaint bold color choices, and be sure to repair any cracks or dents.

Related: 7 Painting Tools You Never Knew You Needed

Go Beyond Basic White

Even though very strong colors are ill-advised, most real estate pros agree: a bit of tonal variety adds a layer of warmth to a home. Creamy whites, light grays, and taupes feel welcoming, and are ideal for highlighting woodwork and built-ins painted in bright white.

Related: The New Neutrals: 9 Colors You Can Trust for Today’s Home

Do a Deep Clean

Yes, it’s a pain, but the effort can pay off big time: make sure your home is spotless before showing it. Pay special attention to the bathroom and kitchen: no moldy grout or spotty chrome faucets, please!

Related: 21 Timesaving Tricks That May Change the Way You Clean

Remember Outdoor Spaces

Your outdoor space will need TLC too. Make sure to mow the lawn, of course—but also weed the garden beds, prune trees and shrubs (especially near windows, to allow maximum natural light into the interiors), and sweep the deck, walkways, and driveway.

Related: 9 Mowing Mistakes Everyone Makes

Make a Good First Impression

Load your home’s front facade with so much curb appeal that it will be impossible for house-hunters to simply drive on by. Place flowering containers by the front door, invest in a new porch light, hang some hip new house numbers, and repaint the mailbox.

Related: Don’t Make These 8 Mistakes in Your Front Yard

Send the Pets on Vacation

If you have a cat, it’s time to send it off to Grandma’s house—along with its litterbox, its bed, and all its toys. The same goes for dogs. Clear them out at least a few hours before every showing and open all the windows to let any lingering odors clear. You don’t want to miss out on a sale because of somebody’s allergies.

Related: 11 Home Staging Tricks That Don’t Cost a Penny

Style Your Space

A basket of plush towels and a fresh shower curtain and bathmat in the bathroom, a cozy throw tossed over the master bed, a bowl of fresh citrus on the kitchen counter and a few flowering branches or daisy bouquets here and there. These small touches can help make a room look its best. Seek out pretty interior photos online to pick up stylist tricks.

Related: 10 Simple Tricks to Make Buyers Love Your Home

Don't Bake Cookies (Or Anything Else)

A strong smell—even a welcome one such as the aroma of baking cookies or a floral candle—can suggest that you’ve got something to hide. Your goal is to make your home smell utterly neutral. If it doesn’t, boil a lemon before the showing—it can help remove odors and leaves just a faint, pleasant scent behind.

Related: 7 Super Simple Ways to Make Your House Smell Fresh

Clear Out

As tempted as you might be to loiter in your home and overhear what visitors are saying, don’t do it (unless, of course, you’re selling your home yourself). Head for the local coffee shop, go visit friends, take the dog for a long walk. Give potential buyers the space they need to really check the place out. You’ll be glad you did—and so will your real estate agent.

Related: 9 Age-Old Real Estate Tips to Ignore Completely