gray simple living room

10 Creative Ways To Make Your Open House Stand

Rachel Burris12- minute read
August 03, 2021


The expectations for open houses used to be simple: Advertise the event, have sign-in sheets, brochures and floorplans readily accessible, make sure the property is clean and tidy and greet buyers with a smile. However, the world is changing and so is open house culture.

These days, real estate professionals are finding it increasingly difficult to make their open houses memorable. Buyers see so many properties over the course of a day and all of those properties tend to blend together. By the time they get home, even the most serious buyers may have already forgotten about your listing. Meaning, if you want your listing to sell, you’re going to want it to make an indelible impression on the buyers who come to see it. Here are 10 ideas that will help your open house stand out among all the rest.

Visual Ways To Drive Traffic To Your Open House

Having a successful open house begins with having a busy one. You want a steady stream of interested buyers to come to your event, which means that you need to advertise it appropriately. Real estate professionals have been turning to social media to help them gain more traction. Using Facebook or Instagram can be a great way to get the word out, but it can be exhausting trying to figure out how to grab users’ attention and increase their interest in attending your open house.

Make Your Photos Pop

white kitchen with marble island

Credit: Amaryllis Lockhart

Photographs are the first step in motivating individuals to come to an open house. They’re crucial in drumming up interest in a property because they’re windows into the style and feel of a home.

If you don’t have strong photos of a listing, you can pretty much guarantee that few buyers will be coming to see it. Valerie Burmester, a real estate broker with Marketplace Sotheby’s International Realty in Redmond, Wash., explains, “If you can’t get the buyer to get past the first four photos of a home, it’s because you haven’t made the home inviting enough.”

When it comes to making a listing more inviting, Burmester recommends consulting a color palette. “Real estate photos need pops of color to catch a potential buyer’s attention. Our eyes are drawn to color and order,” she says.

This advice seems to follow social media trends. According to research conducted by Curalate, photos that feature a single dominant color tend to earn the most likes on Instagram. So if you want to get more attention on social media and attract potential buyers to your open house, consider adding a splash of blue to that listing photo – it seems users prefer blue to red.

Capture The Everyday

Even with a pop of color, sometimes those classic listing photos can feel a bit tiresome. Every listing has the same collection of wide-angle shots of each room. If you want your listing to stick out in potential buyers’ minds, you may want to consider mixing up the types of photos you use to market it.

While standard wide-angle images illustrate how spaces can be configured, they rarely stir an emotional response in viewers. You want potential buyers to feel attached to the property and flock to your open house, so consider having lifestyle photos taken of the home beforehand.

What’s a lifestyle photo? It’s an artistic photograph that tells the story of everyday life. Halie Venema, an interior designer for Modernous, explains that a lifestyle photograph is a close-up shot that “evokes a nice mood for the house, similar to what you would see in a magazine.”

close of home decor on table

Credit: Modernous

To help market a particular house, Modernous decided to take a lifestyle shot of a vase filled with vintage arrows. The shot is a close-up that uses the decor piece as a focal point and leaves the rest of the room blurred in the background. Venema explains, “If you are looking for a home, this shot doesn’t tell you a lot about the layout or features of the house, but it is a lovely image that draws a potential buyer in.”

By advertising your listing with a few artistic close-ups thrown in with the traditional wide-angle shots of each room, you can show buyers that what you’re selling isn’t just a home but a lifestyle as well.

Easy Ways To Sway Buyers’ Senses

When it comes to open houses, real estate professionals know that the key to selling a home is helping buyers see what it’d be like to live there. Nevertheless, most forget that sight isn’t the only sense people use to make decisions. If you want your open house to stand out, consider playing around with ways to seduce buyers’ other senses.

Get Buyers To Move To The Music

Music is said to lift people’s spirits, encourage them to pay attention and deepen their memories. Just as movies include soundtracks to set the mood and shape viewers’ emotions, you can create a soundtrack for your open house to persuade potential buyers to make an offer on your listing.

James Both, the owner of One Hour Smart Home, is frequently asked to step in and help real estate professionals prepare homes for open houses. One of the most popular requests Both receives is to add portable plug-in Sonos Speakers throughout the home.

“Oftentimes, real estate agents will buy a set of two or three Sonos Speakers and take them from house to house. Having ambient music in the background can really help set the stage during an open house and can help buyers envision living in the new home,” Both says.

If you’re thinking about including music in your open house, make sure not to go overboard. Instead of playing pop music that may distract from the home, consider allowing potential buyers to float through the rooms while listening to uplifting jazz or classical tunes. Melodies stay with people over time, and with the right soundtrack you can get buyers to remember the home long after viewing it.

Allow Buyers To “Sniff Out” The Home

Psychologists say that smell is the sense most closely connected to memory. So if you want buyers to remember your listing, you may want to consider adding an inviting aroma to the home just before the open house. Introducing different scents into a property can not only increase potential buyers’ memories of the home but also trigger their emotions.

Based on his experience visiting various open houses, finance blogger Scott Bates suggests using the tried-and-true strategy of putting cookies in the oven before the event. “By creating this smell in the home of freshly baked cookies, it creates an emotion of feeling at home for a potential buyer. I’ve seen similar techniques used in the past with food, but cookies hit the spot for most people, I think,” he says.

Some real estate professionals recommend using freshly cut flowers or candles instead of cookies to tickle buyers’ senses. By adding bouquets of flowers to a home before an open house, you can create an atmosphere of pampering that’s palpable to the nose as well as to the eyes. Furthermore, candles with a woodsy scent can spark feelings of warmth and safety. When buyers feel an emotional connection to a home, they’re far more likely to want to buy it.

Useful Ways To Set The Stage Before An Open House

Open houses aren’t just about turning on the lights and cranking up the air-conditioning. Great open houses are a production, and like any production, you first need to set the stage. Create the conditions necessary to spark further interest in the property by thinking about what buyers are really looking for in a home.

Consider Buyers’ Tastes

gray living room with city view

Credit: Heller Highwater Design

Real estate professionals know that every buyer is different. What appeals to one potential buyer may not appeal to another. How do you factor in these divergent tastes when staging a home and preparing for an open house?

Christine Heller, co-owner of Heller Highwater Designs in New York, believes that the key to appealing to disparate styles is to “neutralize and depersonalize.” She explains, “We want the buyer to walk into a room and not be fixated on one particular thing. We want them to see the space as a whole and their eyes to be constantly moving.” According to Heller, that means staging a home with neutral colors, clean lines and unassuming accents.

But what if this kind of total home makeover just isn’t in your marketing budget? Meryl Jacobs, a licensed associate real estate broker with Halstead Real Estate, has the answer.

“If full staging is not a practical option for you, virtual staging is the next best thing as it captures the potential of the space from both a spatial and design perspective,” she says.

When selling an empty apartment, Jacobs and her partner were worried about how they were going to make their open house impressive.

“We decided to take our virtual staging to the next level by blowing up the photographs to poster size and prominently displaying them on easels in each of the rooms. When buyers walked in, the rooms were totally empty, but these easels gave buyers a window into how the blank canvas could be transformed into a space that worked for them,” she explains. “You could see it on their faces as they gazed at the easel; they were imagining themselves in the space.”

Turn A House Into A Home With Props

open backyard

Credit: Amaryllis Lockhart

Making a property feel like a home is all about making it come alive for potential buyers. Buyers don’t want just to see a space; they want to know what it’s like to live in it. Adding props to certain rooms can make the property come alive and feel homey without seeming cluttered.

When preparing for open houses, Burmester considers the lifestyle and colors of each room before deciding which props to use to decorate it. “I try to use bright and colorful items that work together. For example, in a movie room, I’ll use a tray with striped popcorn boxes filled with popcorn, colorful soda bottles, multicolored straws and boxes of candy. For a kitchen, I use bright limes or lemons in wood baskets or bowls and I fill three large same-size glass containers with three different items for more color – from white rice to red quinoa to yellow beans.”

back patio with two red lawn chairs an outdoor brick fireplace

Credit: Amaryllis Lockhart

Burmester has also added s’mores fixings to a fire pit to help buyers visualize what it’d be like to spend an evening at home around the fire. When determining which props to use to make a room pop, she explains, “I look at how the room will be enjoyed by the new homeowner and then create that space for them. You want to invite them to imagine living there and what ‘home’ could look like.”

Using this strategy could also help you gain a leg up on the competition. After checking out other properties in the area, you can see what your listing has that others don’t. Adding a few carefully selected props like popcorn to a movie room or s’mores to a fire pit can remind potential buyers of the property’s unique features and emphasize why your listing is superior to the competitors.

Bring The Indoors Out

back yard filled with wood patio

Credit: Modernous

Although real estate professionals know that buyers love homes that come with plenty of outdoor space, most don’t think to make use of it during open houses. While most realtors and agents know the usefulness of bringing the outdoors in, many overlook how helpful it is to bring the indoors out.

Venema suggests making “outdoor space function as an extension of a living space.” She explains, “Bringing in a colorful rug, a comfortable sofa and chairs and a coffee table is a good starting place. We try to add details that make you want to sit down and kick back. This could be a tray of drinks, a fire pit or a nice ottoman where you could put your feet up.

Having a listing with acreage can only go so far. Potential buyers need to know how they can utilize the space. By showing potential buyers how they can increase their living area by properly designing their backyards, you can enhance their interest in a home and make your open house all the more alluring.

Fun Ways To Take Your Open House To The Next Level

Some of you may want your open house to be more of an event than merely an opportunity to view your listing. With so many properties on the market and so many open houses each week, you may feel that you need to create a spectacle to ensure that buyers remember your property even after they leave it. Bryan Stoddard, the director of Homewares Insider, suggests that open houses stand out when they include “anything that engages the visitors and challenges their preconceptions of what an open house should be.” So what might that look like?

Show Off The Before And After

When thinking about notable open houses, the one that always stands out for Stoddard is an open house he visited for a property that recently had been remodeled. Stoddard still remembers the open house, not because the house itself was anything special, but because of the strategy they used to sell it.

“The owners displayed before and after photos of the house. In every room there was a photo showing the previous state of the house, and people could make direct comparisons with the present state,” he explains.

When thinking about the effectiveness of this strategy, Stoddard says, “It definitely increased my interest and made me talk about it to other people that wouldn’t have heard about the house otherwise.”

By allowing potential buyers to see the extent of the work completed during a remodeling, you add a layer of transparency to your open house. Illustrating the work and the attention to detail that went into it will reassure buyers of the quality of the home. And, as Stoddard points out, this trick is a conversation starter that ensures buyers will continue talking about the home long after they leave.

Bring In Holiday Cheer

“I think it is smart to coordinate your open house with a particular season or time of the year. After all, retailers decorate their stores,” says Benjamin Ross.

As a real estate agent and investment specialist with Mission Real Estate Group, Ross has been to a lot of open houses. But two in particular have stood out to him because the homeowners created an experience for potential buyers through holiday theming. While one event featured a haunted house for Halloween, another transported buyers to the North Pole.

“The sellers had Santa asking buyers if they wanted a new house for Christmas. The house had all of the traditional Christmas decor, milk and cookies, and holiday music,” Ross explains. “I thought this was very clever, as I remembered those events years later. I cannot tell you any of the other houses I saw on that day, so it stuck with me. It told me if a seller was willing to go to those lengths, they must have taken care of the house. I can tell you all the little kids wanted mommy and daddy to buy that Christmas house.”

Historically, retailers have attracted customers to their stores during the holidays by decorating their stores and storefronts. You want more buyers to flock to your open house, so why not take a page from their book? By decorating your listings to create seasonally inspired open houses, you can also ensure your event is one that lives on in buyers’ memories.

Tell A Story

There’s been a growing trend of using storytelling in the marketing sphere, and real estate professionals should follow suit. When selling beachfront properties, some real estate professionals add nautical details throughout the home to evoke a laidback lifestyle. When selling a property in a city, some include street signs and cityscapes that give the home an urban flare. But creating a story for your listing usually means moving beyond these obvious details.

Modernous prides itself on “tell[ing] the story of a home by staging it with one-of-a-kind and unique pieces.”

When describing the company’s strategy, Venema explains, “We’ve seen hundreds of homes, and they each have unique quirks and details that fit some buyers and not others. Knowing how to maximize the features and minimize the defects with furniture, art and accessories tells the story of how the occupants could live in the home. That helps potential buyers evaluate how the house’s story fits their family’s story.”

We know that the best open houses enable potential buyers to envision themselves living in the property. The life they envision is the story your open house needs to tell. Before your open house, use your imagination to figure out what kind of lifestyle is appropriate for your listing. Then configure the furniture and add unique details that’ll make the property feel like a cohesive home.

Regardless of the open house ideas you choose to implement, the principle remains the same: the open houses that stand out are the ones that are planned and designed with the buyer in mind. As Jacobs explains, “Any tool that enables a buyer to imagine him or herself living in and enjoying the space will help sell a home.”

Potential buyers want to be able to close their eyes and imagine their futures in the property before them. So before you plan your next open house, think about the resources at your disposal and what you can do to ensure that your listing is the one buyers picture calling home.

Have you hosted or been to an open house that stood out? Tell us what made it memorable in the comments below!

Rachel Burris

Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Rocket Companies, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.