Prepare Your Home for a Successful Open House

Laura McHolm
Written by Laura McHolm
Updated June 15, 2021
breakfast bar
Setting the table or breakfast bar is a good way to help potential homebuyers envision themselves living in that space. (Photo by Frank Espich)

How can you prepare for an open house and moving at the same time?

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It’s officially the busiest relocation season of the year. More people buy and sell homes during the spring and summer than any other time of year.

But that doesn't mean the process is easy. The thought of opening your home to potential buyers and real estate brokers and then packing up all your belongings can be overwhelming. However, you can  prep your home for an open house and a move in one sweep.

The secret to a successful open house and move is to pretend your home is already sold. Start the sorting, clearing and packing now. Obviously you’re still living there, so the basics stay, but the personal stuff goes. Your home will sell faster and most likely for more money if it feels like anyone (not just you) can live there.

Review this room-by-room guide to help you get started preparing for an open house and moving.


• Remove all appliances and clutter off counters. Counters should be completely clear. If you don’t use the appliances often, pack them up for the move.

• Clean all appliances.

• Clear out the dishes. Give the dishes, pots, pans and silverware you don’t want anymore to your favorite charity. Then pack up the dishes you do want, and set them aside for the move. Leave behind one matching set of dishes in the cupboard, and display them neatly. Buyers will open the cupboards, and you want them to appear spacious.

• Clean out cabinets and the fridge, and donate pantry items to your local food bank. If your mover works with Move for Hunger, they can donate the food for you.

• Clear out every single drawer. Organize and put back only the items you use regularly. Pack up the rest, so it’s all ready to go on moving day.

Living room

• Remove items from shelving and surface areas. If you have ten things on a shelf, make it three, so people can visualize their own belongings in the space.

• The gallery of paintings completed by your kid has to go, as well as any family photos. Hang generic art. Use spackle to fill the holes and paint in order to leave a blank slate.

• If the room needs to be painted, paint it. It’s cheap, and you will get a better price for your house.

• Fix any light switches, curtain rods, burned out bulbs, etc. Everything needs to be in working order. Hire a handyman if you need help.

• Perform a thorough cleaning.

• Recycle old magazines and newspapers.

• Examine the way the furniture is arranged. Does it show the room’s best features? Remove extra or oversized pieces. Either donate them or rent a storage unit


• Get rid of all products in the shower and on top of the counters. Have each family member use a travel toiletry bag while your house is on the market.

• Clean out medicine cabinets, and lock up valuables.

• Paint if needed.

• Clean any water stains. Fix dripping faucets.

• Clean the bathroom as if the in-laws are coming over. It should be spotless!

• Invest in a new set of towels for when you are showing the house. Stow the others away. 

staged bedroom
Remove any clutter from dresser tops and nightstands. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Ali P. of Dayton, Ohio)


• Clear all dresser tops and nightstands. There should be no personal items remaining.

• Go through each closet with a critical eye. Donate what you don't wear anymore. Place out-of-season clothes in storage, and put everything you really need back neatly. Remove extra shoes and clutter — you want the closets to look as spacious as possible.

• Paint and clean carpets if needed.

• Clean the windows.

• Place one or two decorative items on the dressers, and put the rest in storage.

Finally, walk through your house. It should look like a very nice hotel, where each space is defined for a purpose and there is plenty of room for potential buyers to envision how they can make this house their home.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on May 11, 2015.

What are some other ways you can prepare for an open house? Share your ideas with us in the comments section below.

As of May 25, 2016, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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