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How to nail your open home

September 01, 2017

Open homes are a hugely important part of the process of selling your home. Hosting an open home is a little like dating a stranger. As a seller, you want to put the best possible spin on yourself and your assets, hoping to entice the other party into a second date. You don’t want any old buyer, after all. You want ‘the one’ who is going to fall in love with your home the way you love it and pay a premium because the want to make it their home. 

Opening a home for potential buyers to stomp through is like the crucial first face to face encounter after online dating. People have seen your pretty profile picture online, that artfully styled selfie with special lighting and an Instagram approved beauty filter, and narrowed down the field to a list of “maybes” based on their preferred criteria. 

But now, they’re about to get up close and personal with the real thing. What if the potential buyer takes one look at your lovely but slightly run down home, puts it in reverse and heads straight back out? What if all they see are the tiny flaws, like a bathroom that’s too small, instead of the potential for a true dream house? 

How can a seller improve their chances of a prospective buyer falling in love with their home and making them want to make it their own? 

Mark Wolens, Principal of Independent's Woden Office, shares his experience, top tips and advice for sellers preparing for the vital open home stage of the sales process. And hopefully, to help sellers find their happily ever after! 

Mark, you’re an open home specialist. What’s the best way to get people there? 

You need to start with your advertisement of the home. If the photos make the rooms look dark, or clutter in them makes it look messy and small, you’re going to get fewer people taking the time to give your home a chance. Your agent will help you with what the advertisement should say, but it needs to be highly engaging and point out the feature of the property that will best suit your intended purchaser. If you’re primarily marketing to downsizers, focus on the lifestyle locations nearby, not how great the backyard is for toddlers. Once your advertisement is at its best, get it out there! You want to maximise the number of people seeing your profile. I suggest you: 

  1. Get professional photos taken. 
  2. Tailor your advertisement blurb to suit your target buyer. 
  3. Advertise online at Allhomes, Domain and 
  4. Place ads in the Canberra Times and Canberra Weekly magazines. 
  5. Have a large illuminated sign board and flyers distributed to the local neighbourhood. 

So a date is set. What do sellers need to know about preparing their home for an exhibition? It’s been said that clearing away all the family photos is a must. 

Really, the most important consideration is presenting your home in the best light possible. This means cleaning like the Queen is coming over for tea kind of cleaning. Some busy sellers hire a cleaning company to do a thorough job, although that’s not necessary. It’s best to try and keep it neat and tidy throughout the marketing campaign because in some cases, the agents will bring prospective buyers through during the week without much warning.

To get the best results: 

  1. Remove family photos but replace them with other art. 
  2. Clean, clean and clean again. 
  3. Remove the clutter from the house and keep it that way. 

So, what about the nightmare scenario of people rummaging through a seller’s underwear drawer and checking under the bed. It feels quite invasive…and what’s to stop them stealing the jewellery on the nightstand? 

I totally understand where you’re coming from. It can feel invasive. The best thing to do is prepare for it. People are going to be looking in drawers and cupboards that are built into the home—it’s part of what they’re buying, so they want to know if there are stains or water damage. Visitors won’t (or at least shouldn’t and are unlikely to) look through drawers and cupboards that are pieces of furniture that don’t come with the property. They may check under the bed to make sure there aren’t gaping holes in the carpet that you’ve tried to cover up, so it’s not a great place to store all your junk that morning. 

As for hiding valuables, security is a major consideration during an open home. The agents see it as an important part of their job to be aware of these things you’re worried about. The agents greet every person on the way in and the way out of an open home and are vigilant about watching what’s going on. Having said that, they can’t be in four rooms at once so it’s always good advice to hide expensive items such as jewellery in a safe or store it at a relative’s place in the short term.

Before an open home, you should: 

  1. Put bras and underwear in a chest of drawers. 
  2. Hide expensive items and jewellery in a safe or store them at a relative’s place. 

What should sellers do on the day? Should sellers be there or not? What should be done with the dog? 

In an ideal world, you’ll remove any trace of animals. Not only can a barking or over enthusiastic dog make people nervous and create poor associations, potential buyers may also assume that the house is not as clean as it could be. They’ll start actively looking for pee stains they can’t see on the carpet, or wondering whether cat dander is going to turn a new house into an allergy nightmare. 

On the day, the agent will be in full meet-and-greet mode, focussing on the buyers, answering questions and showing off the home’s best features. In most cases, the agent will need to lock up and leave to the next open home straight away and they will contact you with feedback via phone call or text message.

My top tips for inspection day: 

  1. Remove any trace of animals, take them to the park during the exhibition. 
  2. Give the agent the keys in advance and head out for a coffee to give them the space they need. 

What’s considered a successful open home? 

The crowd at an open home can vary greatly, it depends on the interest in the home. There can be anywhere from 1 to 100 groups. A lot of different factors are at play—the weather, the time of year, what events are on in Canberra at that time and how many open homes have already been held for that property. Regardless of how many groups are there, the agent will be doing the same thing—they will most likely answer the same questions from prospective buyers over and over again. The most common question, “How much is the property?” is asked more often when the home is for auction. 

What are your best tips? Your open home dos and don’ts? 


  1. Prepare your home like it’s going out on a big date! Presentation is paramount in showing the property in its best light. 
  2. Open up all curtains and blinds, turn the lights on. 
  3. Have the house sparkling clean and smelling fresh for the open home session. 


  1. Cook up a big breakfast in the morning and leave the house smelling of food. 
  2. Have a steamy shower and leave the bathroom dripping with water or all misty. 
  3. Ask prospective buyers to remove their shoes since it often upsets people. The only exception would be if it’s raining and there’s a lot of mud around. 

So, there you have it, everything you need to know about open homes. Keep these tips in mind and trust your agent during the process and you’ll be halfway to finding your perfect match.