When it’s time to sell your house, there’s one thing that’s certain - it needs to be show-ready. Open houses and showings are a great way to give potential buyers an intimate look into your property. In-person viewings always make more of an impact than photos.

Without proper preparation, though, the event could end up hurting your market more than helping it. The entire goal of the showing or open house is to make your home as appealing as possible.

Here are some steps to do just that:

1. Clean and declutter your home

It may seem like common sense, but the first thing you should do before an open house or showing is to clean and declutter your home.

It may feel like an overwhelming task if you’re still living in the home during the time of the open house, but you can’t have a messy home when potential buyers arrive. You should target all areas of your home for cleaning. Nothing should be left unclean. This includes packing up children’s toys and putting away dirty clothes in the washroom. You should also make sure your bathrooms and kitchen are spotless, as these are two of the biggest selling points in a home.

Make sure your closet and storage spaces are clean and organized, too. Open house guests will want to know about those areas.

Cleaning Tip: If your not sure how much cleaning you should do, you should act is if you’re prepping your house for a magazine photoshoot. Anything you wouldn’t want in those photos and displayed for the whole world to see shouldn’t be displayed during your open house. That includes personal items and cleaning supplies.

2. Get your pets and any pet smells out of the house ahead of the showing

If you have pets in the house, make sure all signs of your pet are away before an open house or showing. Remember, as much as you love your furry friend, not everyone is a pet lover or wants pets in their home. If there is an odor or strong signs of pets, like hair, crates, litter boxes, and pet bedding inside your home, it could be a deal-breaker for some buyers.

Experts say that pet smells and pet leftovers are the number one turn-off when buyers look at a house. To make sure your pet is not an issue, get them out of the home during an open house by boarding them at a kennel or hiring a pet-sitter. Remember to remove any major signs of pets living in the home, and deep clean your carpet, floors, furniture, or any other surface your pets spends time on.

3. Create a great ambiance in your home

For an open house or showing, your home should be as welcoming and feel as warm as possible. The potential buyers are the ones who may be living there in the future, so it needs to be a soothing, fresh place to be.

A few tips for creating a great ambiance

  • Light some quality scented candles – You want your home to smell as fresh and welcoming as possible. By lighting a few scented candles and placing them throughout the home, you can make sure your home smells great. Buy quality, neutral, seasonal-scented candles. You don’t want an overpowering scent, and you don’t want them thinking you pulled out some old candles you had laying around for the occasion. Think about what is in season. A pine or pumpkin scent would not be ideal for the hot summertime and a beach scent would not be ideal for cold winters.

  • Ready some soothing music – By having soothing music playing in the background during the open house, it brings a sense of calm and warmth to your potential buyers. Combine the music with the candles, and you’ve got a winning combo.

  • Make sure all your interior and exterior lights are on – Most house lights create a warm environment. Lights also let your potential buyers see how the home is lit. If you know the open house will run into the evening or is at night, make sure your home is well lit outside. The last thing you want a buyer to do is to pull up to a dark, unwelcoming home.

  • Have light refreshments ready – Nothing is more welcoming to a guest than food and beverages. Avoid any messy items that could be dropped or spilled during an open house or showing. Light finger foods and clear or nearly clear liquids such as bottled water or lemonade are advised, just in case of spills.

4. Make sure your home’s exterior is clean and your yard is well-manicured

The interior of your home is not the only place to prepare before a house showing. You must not overlook the outside of your house and the condition of your yard or landscaping. Make sure all your windows are clean and your lawn is freshly mowed.

If you have swimming pool, make sure it’s clean. If you have landscaping or flowerbeds, make sure nothing is overgrown and unappealing. Remember, your home’s exterior is the first thing house guests will see. You want it to look great.

Tip: If you think you’ll need a professional for the exterior work, don’t wait until the week of the open house or showing to start finding a crew. Make sure you’ve lined up any pros and informed them of the show date well in advance. You don’t want to get caught a day before the showing with a messy yard.

5. Do a last-minute check with your realtor

As the day comes for the open house or showing, make sure you do one more review of your home’s interior and exterior with your realtor. A good realtor will want to do the same since they will likely be hosting the event. Be sure to ask your realtor for any last-minute tips. Remember, the event could mean selling your home, so make it a great one.