Open Houses generally produce a buyer leading to a sale about 1-3% of the time, depending on the area. Low odds but it does happen.
At an open house, you are allowing the general public into your private space. Most will probably be strangers. So,
put all valuables away.
This includes change laying on top of the dresser, the children's piggy bank, digital cameras, laptops, jewelry, grandma's china, and electronic games.
Consider removing flat screen TV's, high end artwork, and anything of particular sentimental value.
For safety sake, keep your cell phone with you at all times.
Try to have another person in the house with you while it is open.
Never allow yourself to be blocked into a room with a stranger.
Have someone call you every hour; if you do not answer, they should call the police immediately.
Alert the neighbors to the fact that your house will be open; they can keep an eye out.
To get the house ready for the showing:
Make sure you have good curb appeal.
Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, put toys and bicycles away, sweep the sidewalk, etc.
Make the home look spacious.
Remove any excess furniture. Arrange the pieces you have to show the home to it's best advantage.
Your realtor can help you with this. Or you could hire a professional stager.
Paint colors are best if they are neutral.
You want enough decorative items in the home to make it feel lightly lived in but not an abundance of knick-knacks.
If you have a garage, make sure it is cleaned out, organized and obviously capable of accomodating the number of cars it was designed to hold.
The basement should be clean, bright, and odor free.
Your whole house should smell good.
If there are pets, they need to be somewhere safe and out of the way during showings.
Have flyers and copies of your seller's disclosure on hand for people to take with them.
Have utility bills available (black out personal info)
Request all visitors to sign a guest register.
Consider asking visitors to fill out a brief questionaire stating what they liked and didn't like about the house. Ask what they think of the price.
To highlight specific features of your home, place little "Special Feature" signs; for instance:
"new roof 2006"
"working fireplace with gas starter" - last cleaned & inspected Nov 2007
"low flow toilet"
"on demand hot water heater"
"new Trane furnace installed May 2008"
Put in 100watt bulbs and turn on all the lights in every room.
Turn the air conditioning on so that it feels cool when people come in. (heat in winter)
Put out some fresh flowers.
Make it as inviting as the nicest bed & breakfast you've ever visited.
When interacting with visitors, be friendly but keep your information confidential.
No one needs to know you leave the house every day at a certain time. Or that you will be gone for two weeks in August.
No one needs to know your financial information.
No one needs to know how anxious you are to sell the home.
Keep the conversation focused on the house and the potential buyer's needs.
Qualifying buyers: try to determine if the visitors are preapproved, serious buyers or just looking.
Are they preapproved through a reputable, local lender or some .com?
When do they need to move? Are they motivated?
How long have they been looking?
What else have they seen?
How does your home compare to the one on the next block?
Get a phone number to follow up with anyone who seems very interested.
Consider doing an example Good Faith Estimate for potential buyers who haven't yet ordered their financing.
Well, those are the basics; Good Luck!