Many homeowners know that it takes more than a plate of freshly baked cookies and a smile to impress potential home buyers during an open house.

Flinging open the front doors and inviting the world inside won't cut it. If you want to get the most out of your open house, you need to think critically about what will attract and deter buyers as well as how you can protect your own interests. Here are some tips for presenting your recently listed home to potential buyers:

Spread the word

Tying balloons to your mailbox and posting a banner on your garage may not be the most effective means of attracting potential buyers. You need to flex your advertising skills to let people know you are having an open house. Utilize snail mail, print and online publications and word of mouth to invite guests. If there are locations where you can post fliers around town, post a your ads. Hand out a few to friends and family.

Choose a time when people are free

Holding an open house at 11 a.m. on a weekday may not be in your best interest, as many potential buyers will be at work during that time. Instead, consider an afternoon time slot outside of the business week. Few people are excited to go house hunting after a long work day, so Saturday and Sunday open houses tend to net the most guests.

Invite your neighbors

The people across the street and on the other sides of your fence can be your best salespeople. Sure, you may not be as excited about having your neighbors snooping through your home, but they can be the key to getting unfamiliar guests interested. They like to talk, especially if your home has a lot to offer. Neighbors can even talk potential buyers who don't attend the open house into giving you a call for a private tour.

Stage your home

Clean everything and depersonalize your property. Rid the house of bad smells so guests don't think a home inspection will reveal issues such as mold or rot and remove dust. Arrange the furniture in a way that's appealing to your prospective buyers rather than your own tastes.

Secure your valuables

Most of the open house is going to be focused on your guests, but you still have to think about yourself. While it may be difficult for someone to stroll out of your home with your large flat-screen television in their arms, there's a risk that small valuables such as jewelry or even mail with identifying information can go missing. With so many strangers wandering throughout your home and few eyes to keep track of all the guests, it's a good idea to store your precious possessions in a secure and locked location.

Create a sign-in sheet

Having guests register when they arrive can also be useful for security, as you have a list of who visited. Additionally, you have a means of following up with interested buyers after the open house has ended. Use an electronic device or simple sheet of paper to collect the following details:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Phone number

Work with a real estate agent

If you want to reduce your workload, enlist the help of an agent. Not only can agents stick around while you host the open house, but they can also completely take the reins if you'd rather step out so guest feel more comfortable. They can give you tips about how to best stage your home and provide you with other valuable information.