Home Selling

5 Tips for Staging an Open House

By Ashley Wirgau on May, 30 2022
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Ashley Wirgau

Preparing for an open house can feel like a mountain of a task, but with some work and a little know-how, that upcoming event becomes far less foreboding. 


By following these five basic steps and breaking the workload into smaller segments, this seemingly giant project can be easily accomplished before those prospective buyers walk in the door.


Go Deep with the Clean


An open house is not the time for a quick wipe down. In the days just preceding the event, homeowners (or the professionals they choose to hire) will need to put in a fair amount of elbow grease. Every corner of the house should be addressed, with exceptional care taken in the kitchen and bathrooms. These areas of the home need to truly shine, as they are key selling points for many buyers. Folks also tend to spend the majority of their time in these locations.


Additional attention should be paid to the laundry room since its intended use centers on cleanliness itself. Finally, all front porches, entryways, and mudrooms should be scrubbed and swept clear of all debris as these are the initial places prospective buyers will see.


Declutter and Depersonalize


Most families have those few select rooms where things tend to accumulate. Attack these areas first as they will take the majority of your time. By the end of this task, floors should be clear of all items except essential furniture and surface areas free of dust and clutter. A few items like an occasional candle or decorative vase are fine, but extra knick-knacks and any personal items should definitely be tucked away.


It is recommended that closets and cupboards contain only the essentials whenever possible. A small collection of towels in the bathroom, some neatly folded clothes in the closet, and the basics organized throughout the kitchen will suffice. Drawers, shelves, and cupboards need to have ample space remaining for buyers to picture their own items in these spaces. Over-stuffed or crowded cabinets and drawers make a house feel small even if the square footage proves to the contrary.


The number of furniture items in each room should also be evaluated, and potentially, reduced. Again, remember to leave space for potential buyers to see themselves within the house, and this might mean limiting the number of armchairs or ottomans to give their imagination some space. It’s best to take a minimalist approach to décor when getting a home ready to sell, so be sure not to overwhelm your furniture choices or embellishments.


Another non-negotiable on the road to an open house is the purging process. As you begin staging your property, a shift in perspective must occur as the house for sale is not “yours” anymore – at least, it shouldn’t be for long. Reduce the number of belongings in each room by asking yourself if the item at hand feels specific to your own unique tastes. While not everything needs to go, it is advisable to streamline the overall vibe of the house to a more classic or universal style. A small storage unit or even a friend’s garage for all those extra belongings can serve as a temporary hiding place until an offer is on the table.


Correct or Camouflage Any Problems


Obvious issues or property damage should never be on display during an open house. At a minimum, all lights, doors, faucets, and appliances should be in working order. Additionally, avoid large scuffs, stains or holes in flooring or on walls and cabinetry. Any existing water damage should also be addressed as this can be an automatic “no” for a lot of buyers. If financially feasible, remedy any issues prior to the showing.


Should a permanent fix not be possible, do your best to minimize the problem. Holes or marks on walls can be hidden with framed art, flooring issues can be covered by decorative area rugs, and a fresh coat of KILZ and some paint does wonders for walls or ceilings with water stains. Any significant issues should be reported to the potential buyer, though, as you do not want to risk the entire sale (or face legal issues later) by intentionally misleading prospective new owners on the condition of the home.


Neutralize the Palette


Homes resembling Crayola boxes typically struggle to attract buyers, so for the open house, it’s okay to dial back on bright colors that may not suit all tastes. Lean toward more neutral shades in beige, gray, cream or even white, especially on walls. While one or two feature walls never hurt anyone, steer clear of multiple bold choices throughout the house, especially if the colors do not complement one another. As for the wallpaper, unless it’s an extremely bland and safe choice, it should likely be removed.


Increase Curb Appeal


An open house is an effective way to obtain that “sold” sign in the front yard, but before that can happen, that yard might need some attention. The first impression is arguably the most important, and as such, you will want to bring your “A” game when it comes to curb appeal. Lawns should be well-maintained, trees and shrubbery pruned, and all walkways recently power washed and swept clean right before the showing.


Freshly planted or potted flowers and foliage add warmth to front steps and window boxes, while new or recently painted trim, shutters or a mailbox also amplify the overall aesthetic. All siding needs to be affixed properly and cleaned, as well, while gutters should be clear. Still, need some inspiration to get you going? Ruoff has a handful of additional ideas to increase curb appeal when you are ready to sell.


Yes, an open house is a large undertaking, but that doesn’t mean it is insurmountable. Don’t bury yourself under the idea that your house needs a full remodel to be buyer-ready. Instead, take our 5-step approach to tidy the house you’ve already got. If you do a good enough job, other people might just wish they had it, too.