Here's how to make buyers fall in love with your home—and what to do if it isn't selling.

By Nancy Mattia
May 15, 2019

Having an open house to attract buyers is a big undertaking. Make yours a success by showing your home in its very best light. Here, we've gathered some helpful tips on how to prepare for an open house, plus last-minute makeover advice and steps to take if nobody's making an offer.

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Make Your Home as Appealing as Possible

You know you have to give it a good cleaning before an open house but go beyond scrubbing: Declutter each room by getting rid of excess furniture and accessories to make the space more open and airy. The goal is to make your home's features stand out, and too much stuff could get in the way of that. If you need to, consider renting a storage space to stash furniture, small appliances, and toys that your family doesn't use daily. Remove family photos, too-buyers want to imagine themselves living in your space, and it's hard to do that with a group portrait hanging over the mantle.

Hire a Stager

That's someone who'll come into your home with furniture that has no scratch marks, throw pillows that match, and lots of other furnishings to transform your well-used home into a fresh, new space. This is an especially good idea if you've already moved into another home and have taken your furniture with you.

Lighten Up

Buyers are attracted to homes with good light, says Jeffrey Phillip, a professional organizer and interior designer in New York City. Open the curtains, drapes, and blinds, and lift up the shades. Then turn on each lighting source. "A good rule of thumb is to give each room at least three points of light: table lamp, floor lamp, task lamp, overhead lighting," he adds.

Ask Friends to Take Your Pets

While dogs, cats, and other animals will be happily embraced by some buyers, they'll be less than welcome by others, due to allergies or fear. Find someone to watch your beloved pets until the open house is over.

Create an Online Presence

To get as many people as you can to attend, give your home a strong digital presence. Post your open house dates on your Instagram, Facebook, and all other social media. Even if you know your neighbors aren't looking to move, they may have friends and family outside your network who are.

How to Prep for a Showing on Short Notice

The real-estate agent just texted you: Can she bring potential buyers over within the hour? Yikes! The house is a mess, but you're not going to turn down an opportunity to move closer toward that sale. Luckily, there are a few things you can to do-besides asking the agent to drive slowly-to give your home a quick makeover. Start by making the bed in the master bedroom (and ideally all other rooms, too). Then move on to the kitchen. You'll want to wash the dirty dishes piled in the sink. If there's no time, fill your dishwasher instead. Give your kitchen table a good look, too. Clear away any clutter, especially bills, money, and half-eaten food. Next, empty bathroom trash bins and give counters a quick wipe. Last but not least, remove shoes and coats from the entryway-but don't just shove them in a closet. Hang them where they're supposed to go since buyers will likely check out this key storage space.

To make it easier for future unexpected drop-ins, get into the habit of making the beds right after you get up each morning, using only one bathroom so the others always remain clean, and spending five minutes per room tidying up every night.

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What to Do If Your House Isn't Selling

The median number of days a home spends on the market is 44, according to the National Association of Realtors. If your house is lingering and you're getting frustrated, there are a few things you can do. Start by making sure the price is right. "It just takes price reductions by a few competitors to change how your listing is situated in the market," says Robin Kencel, an associate real estate broker at Compass Real Estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. "Your listing should be as appropriately priced today as it was the first day that the property was presented on the market."

Next, consider renting it instead. If homes aren't selling but rentals are a hot commodity, you want to become a landlord for the time being. Just be sure to have a plan in place for managing the property. If you're set on selling right now, rethink the photos you're sharing online. They make a huge difference in getting the right buyer in the house in the first place. "I look at the current collection of photographs and particularly how they appear on the internet, which is today's first 'showing,'" says Kencel. "I recently sent a photographer back to one of my listings to take new shots of the front exterior to catch the short season of cherry blossoms in bloom."

You could also take your home off the market for a few months and spend a little money making minor changes, like painting the rooms a neutral color or having a stager give the place a fresh look. When you're ready to list it again, there will be a whole new set of potential buyers. When all else fails, consider changing agents. It may be awkward but since the agent is so vital to selling a home, it's a good idea to assess them when analyzing why your property isn't selling. Sellers may change agents because they disagree with the agent's marketing and sales plans, says Kencel, or they feel the need for a fresh voice and look of the listing.

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