When family and friends come to visit, is your home ready to welcome them? Preparing, or even improving, your home in ways that help make your guests feel expected, welcome, comfortable and safe can be a significant expression of hospitality and caring.

As much as we love getting together with friends and loved ones, visiting can be stressful for guests and hosts alike. Routines fall by the wayside, visitors’ surroundings are less familiar and everyone is thrown together in a social soup. But by planning ahead and making a few household improvements, you can lighten the stresses so both you and your visitors can fully enjoy the best parts of being together.

Here are a few preparations and home improvements that will help make your guests’ visit a memorable success, whether they stay for one night or a week.

Extend a friendly greeting. Be sure your home presents a friendly and welcoming first impression, from the street to the front door. If you haven’t paid much attention to your home’s curb appeal, now is the time to make a few improvements. Not only will curb appeal improvements create a great first impression, they will pay off long-term with homeowner pride and increased home values.

[See: 9 Easy Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal.]

A good start toward improving first impressions is to get rid of clutter and trash, mow the lawn, sweep or blow off the walkways and tidy up the front porch. Take it to the next level by providing a welcoming new doormat, polishing the door hardware and providing a little natural greenery and color with potted plants next to the door.

For nighttime beauty and safety, illuminate the walkway, driveway and stairs with outdoor lighting. Motion-activated lighting is a good choice both for convenience and security. If you want guests to park in your driveway, alert them to this ahead of time and be sure to leave room for their cars.

Check the doorbell to make sure it works so you don’t leave your guests hanging when they arrive. The goal is for your guests to feel expected. To that purpose, provide a convenient place for coats inside the entry.

Clean up the house. Though some believe, “cleanliness is next to godliness,” a level of cleanliness approaching godliness may be overkill. That said, basic house cleaning is a good way to honor your guests. Pick up clutter and tidy rooms. Dust the furniture. Vacuum and clean the floors.

Be aware that you may have grown accustomed to things in your home that emit unpleasant odors, so look around. Remove diaper pails, pet supplies, litter boxes and animal cages. Instead, greet guests with sweetly fragrant candles or sachet.

Prepare the guest bathroom. Prepare the bathroom your guests will use by cleaning the toilet, tub, shower, bathroom sink, countertops and mirror. Empty the wastebasket. If guests will share the bathroom with other household members, put away personal grooming items like hairbrushes and body scrubbers. Set out a couple extra rolls of toilet paper and a hairdryer where guests can easily find them.

Fold freshly laundered towels and place them on the counter so your guests can identify which towels are the right ones to use. Another nice touch is to put new shampoo, facial tissue and lotion in a basket next to the towels.

[See: 10 Ways to Save Energy and Reduce Utility Bills at Home.]

Ready the guest bedroom. The elements that make a great guest room depend on the guest, so stick with the basics: A comfortable bed with freshly laundered sheets is a good start. Make sure the bed’s mattress is firm enough to provide support so your guests don’t awaken with backaches. Store extra blankets where your guests can find them. If you want the guest room to be flexible, choose twin beds instead of a queen-size or double bed. That way, friends or children can use the room as well as couples.

A comfy chair, a reading light and a few current magazines ensure that your guests can retreat comfortably to their room if or when they’ve had enough socializing. A TV (with channel guide) and Wi-Fi will give them even more autonomy.

Other thoughtful amenities include: a vase of flowers, drinking glasses, bottled water and an alarm clock.

Be sure to allow plenty of space in the closet for hanging clothes, and provide empty hangers for shirts, skirts and pants. Because many guest closets double for household storage, they’re often jammed with clutter. You can maximize your guest closet’s storage capacity by outfitting it with a closet organization system.

Think about where suitcases will go – a bench or folding rack can be helpful.

Hang blinds, shades or curtains on guest room windows so guests can control daylight and privacy, and to add a touch of comfort and style to the room.

[See: From the Front Door: Making a Welcoming Entryway in Your Home.]

Check the home systems. To ensure your guests’ comfort and make hosting easier during their stay, be sure your home’s plumbing, wiring, heating and appliances are all fully operational. For example:

  • Be sure the toilet flushes properly and the bathtub drains. Put a toilet plunger behind the toilet in case of a clog.
  • At midnight, the sound of a dripping faucet can be like Chinese water torture – repair dripping faucets. Similarly, spray a little penetrating oil onto squeaky door hinges so they don’t creak at night.
  • Be sure lamps, lights, electrical receptacles and switches work. In the guest room, consider changing regular switches for dimmers so guests can adjust lighting to their comfort levels.
  • Check the heating and cooling before guests arrive. If the guest room has separate temperature control, show your guests how to adjust the settings.
  • Be sure doors and windows close and lock properly to ensure security and privacy.
  • Many accidents happen during the excitement of visits, particularly when children are on unfamiliar turf.

If small children will be among your visitors, investigate childproofing techniques to keep them safe.

Last but not least, be forewarned that if you implement all of these measures, you will probably be dubbed “The Ideal Host” and your guests may never want to leave.

Don Vandervort offers expert home improvement advice at HomeTips.com.

Tags: real estate, housing, family, travel


Don Vandervort is the founder of HomeTips.com, a leading home improvement advice site. Don has authored many home improvement books, written extensively for MSN.com, and served as a segment host on HGTV.

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