Your first open house or last minute showing can be pretty stressful with the family frantically running around in circles getting your home ready. As time goes on you will refine the process, until eventually you've got the open house prep down to a fine science. It's just like a play opening where everyone has a part to play and every prop has its place.
Here is a handy checklist to use the next time your agent calls and says, "I'm bringing someone over in ten minutes".
Background noise: Turn off the TV and the radio. Some people play soft music, but for some, it can be a distraction.
Visual stimuli: Let the light in by turning on every light in the house and opening the drapes (unless the view is better off hidden).
Scent: The house should smell nice, especially the entrance (first impressions are everything). Have a standard container of potpourri on the counter, use plug in scents or quickly spray the major rooms.
Kitchen: Everything comes off the counters, throw your dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and remove the fridge magnets. Strive to display a clean, model home type of kitchen; the kind we all dream of having.
When we were selling our home, our breakfast nook was set with the same matching table setting right before a showing. We knew right where to find it and assembled it on the table in seconds.
Bathrooms: Close the toilet lids - this is vital. Put out a set of thick towels that you keep handy and display only for the showings, and quickly remove anything from the bathroom counter.
Living/Family rooms: Find a good hiding spot for any clutter, such as magazines, toys, newspapers, etc. Arrange the pillows on the furniture.
Bedrooms: Make certain the beds are made and clutter is stowed in a place prospective buyers will not look (try underneath the bed).
Outside: Clear the walkway, clean up any gifts your dog may have left on the lawn and stow away trash cans and toys.
Out you go: The family and pets should disappear for the duration of the showing. Potential buyers become uncomfortable when the owners are around, and they are more likely to spend less time at the house and ask fewer questions with you there.
Don't forget to hide the checklist!