Open houses have always been a staple in a listing agent’s bag of marketing tools and with good reason. In the National Association of Realtors 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, it was reported that 48 percent of homebuyers used open houses as a source to gather information in their home purchasing process. To sell your house, you need to give buyers the opportunity to actually spend time in your home, not just look at pictures online.

Creating an effective open house requires careful collaboration between you and your real estate agent. You will need to take into account when the listing is going on the market, where the most effective advertising will be, and how to set up your home so it shows to its full potential. Here are three key things that help to ensure a successful open house.

[See: 10 Unorthodox Ways Your Real Estate Agent May Market Your Home.]

A Carefully Crafted Timeline. You can expect the first open house to be held within the first two weeks of placing it on the market, ideally during the first weekend. When potential buyers are notified of a new listing in their online searches, already having that first open house scheduled can give them a default window of time to view it if they aren’t able to do so sooner.

Any real estate agent will tell you being able to time the market perfectly can’t be done. That said, there are considerations to take when listing your house. If your agent is planning to hold the house open over the weekend, listing the house on a Thursday is arguably the best choice. While it gives potential buyers the opportunity to plan their weekend accordingly, it doesn’t leave a long window of opportunity for other listings to pop up, or for them to forget about it altogether.

Spreading the Word. While you should trust your agent to handle the majority of advertising, there are still things you can do to help out. Your goal is to capture the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time with the greatest results. Simple, right? Actually, it can be – by using social media.

More than likely, your agent will have a social media presence and will be advertising the open house on sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Share these posts with your followers twice – 48 hours and 2 hours prior to the open house. The initial post will allow any visitors enough time to plan for the viewing, while the second will serve as a reminder.

Moving is a big deal and your friends and family will want to stay abreast of what’s going on. Share the open house details with them and ask them to spread the word to anyone they know. Just as importantly, tell your neighbors. People want to live near others they already know and like, and thus will be inclined to tell anyone they know is in the market to check it out during the open.

[See: 13 Photography Tips When Shooting Your Home to Put It on the Market.]

The Power of Prep. Remember how immaculate your house looked when those professional photos were taken for the listing materials? You, your agent or the photographer were probably moving a couple things around last minute so any clutter was cleaned up and not visible. That was the dress rehearsal. Now, it’s opening night and everything has to be perfect.

If you are still living in your house during the listing period, cleaning up all those day-to-day items is very important. Don’t just pile them in your junk drawer, though. Make sure drawers, cabinets, and closets are all organized. If this seems too much to ask, start throwing things in the back of your car while you’re out during the open house. Do whatever it takes for your house to be as immaculate as possible.

Cookies are always welcome, especially those baked right before the open house begins. This will leave a homey, inviting scent and give a reason for people to linger after viewing to discuss the house more with your agent before leaving. Next to the plate, leave a note to “Please help yourself” with a list of ingredients on the back for those who may have food allergies.

Clear off a shelf in your refrigerator so you can also leave a selection of drinks including bottled water and sodas. Don’t leave drinks in a cooler – this isn’t a cookout. Your goal is to have people feel at home, not like they’re visiting a stranger’s house.

Presentation is not the only thing to consider when straightening up your house for the open – safety should also be a priority. It is customary for your agent to remain near the entranceway to greet those coming in, and gather feedback and answer questions as people leave. Part of the appeal of an open house is it allows potential buyers to preview the house at their own pace without having an agent hovering over them pointing everything out.

However, this also allows people who may have sticky fingers to browse your house unsupervised. It is imperative you either lock up or remove from the house any valuables, including jewelry, important documents and anything else you don’t want others accessing.

[See: The Best Apps for House Hunting.]

By creating an effective marketing plan with your agent to maximize attendance, followed up with properly staging your home to show its full potential, you can create a valuable open house experience that is sure to help sell your house quickly for the highest profit.

Tags: real estate, existing home sales, housing market, home prices

Ray Boss Jr. is a full-time, licensed Realtor for Re/Max Realty Group in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with over 11 years of experience working with clients ranging from first-time homebuyers to investors, sellers and renters. You can learn more about Ray by connecting with him on LinkedIn.