Let’s face it, sometimes even the most experienced real estate agents draw a blank when they finally start to realize that food and drinks are always welcome for guests at their open houses. Some go frat party and just dump some pretzels into a bowl and call it a day, others raid their local Whole Foods and buy enough meat and cheese to feed an army. I mean, the food you serve at your open houses isn’t a big deal right? Why overthink it?
Well, for starters, every element of your open house sends a message to potential clients. Do you want that message to be that you’re a cheapskate who couldn’t care less about their guests’ comfort?
Of course not. You want every single potential buyer and seller who walks through that door to think you’re the creative, thoughtful, and considerate person you really are. To help you get started sending the right message with your open house food, here are 17 trendy and tasty open house food ideas for 2020.
Trendy Food & Drinks That Spark Conversation
Since your goal here is to stand out and send the right message with your open house food, you might want to consider avoiding the tired standbys and instead go with food that can spark a conversation.
While “foodies” are a natural target here, don’t forget that serving say, an interesting iced tea, will give your traditional guests an easy talking point. Whether they’re talking with you or each other, casual conversation will give your open house the positive vibes it needs.
Here are a few recipes and ideas for food and drinks that will start conversations with your open house guests:
Salsa Macha With Crudites
Unusual but delicious colors, textures, and tastes make this recipe an open house snack that your guests can’t help but talk about. Get the recipe at Bon Appetit.
Eggplant Parm Chips
Even though they may look like somewhat traditional chips, these eggplant parm chips skirt the line between dinner and snack. A surefire conversation starter. Get the recipe at Delish.
Black Sesame Mochi Cake With Black Sesame Caramel (Cubed)
A treat for the eyes along with the taste buds, this unusual cake will surely get your guests talking and probably asking you for the recipe. You can also dice this up into cubes and serve on toothpicks. Get the recipe at Bon Appetit.
If you think avocado is only for guacamole or overpriced millennial toast, think again. This humble but healthy fruit can be used for everything from smoothies to crunchy, salty chips like these. Just be warned that keeping yourself from gorging on them before the first guest signs in will be a challenge. Pair with a spicy Peruvian Aji Verde sauce and you’ll have an irresistible combo to keep your guests chatting. Get the recipe at Delish.
Chocolate Date Caramel Cups
While these decadent little morsels might violate the “no sticky snacks” rule a bit, they’re just too delicious and too pretty to ignore for a winter open house. They also mix dates, chocolate, and caramel, a combo that is sure to spark conversation or at least get people to sigh with pleasure. Get the recipe at Bon Appetit.
Healthy Open House Snacks (Keto, Vegan, Vegetarian)
If you’re working an open house in an area where windsurfing is a competitive sport or there are more bikes than cars, chances are your guests aren’t going to want Doritos and coke. Instead, try some of these healthy yet tasty keto, vegan, and vegetarian ideas to keep them smiling.
Prosciutto-wrapped Avocado With Goat Cheese & Arugula (Keto)
Decadent but good for you, these keto-friendly wraps will please even the non-CrossFit-obsessed who just want a tasty snack. Just make sure to roll them well and you can slice into smaller portions and serve on toothpicks. Delicious! Get the recipe at thekitchn.
Gobi Manchurian (Vegan)
Gobi Manchurian (Manchurian Cauliflower) is a fiery and sweet vegan Indian delicacy that will leave even the most snobbish meat eater happy. It’s also easy to make and 100% vegan. Get the recipe over at Cook with Manal.
Just because you’re not serving alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t replicate the festive atmosphere that a well-mixed batch of cocktails adds to your open house. Mocktails generally taste just as good, and you won’t have to babysit the drinks table to keep curious kids away. Even better, the ingredients are generally very affordable. Just make sure to label them to tell guests that you’re serving mocktails and not the real deal!
Strawberry or Watermelon Margaritas
Nothing says fun like a margarita, and adding sweet, fruity flavors makes everyone happy. Get the recipe for decadent watermelon margaritas from thekitchn. These taste amazing with or without the tequila, so just leave it out if you want to serve mocktails at your open house.
If you want to go trendy, you could do worse than a Moscow Mule. This Mocktail Mule recipe from Plated brings all the gingery spiciness of the original without the vodka. It’s also easy fodder for topical political jokes if you can keep them lighthearted. The last thing you want to do is start a political argument at the drinks table. Get the recipe along with five more delicious mocktail recipes from Plated.
Kiwi Mojito Mocktail
If you want to go for a more tropical vibe, check out these fun and delicious Kiwi Mojito Mocktails. If you can’t find kiwis in season, swap them out for strawberries or raspberries. Get the kiwi recipe from Brti+Co here.
Trendy Ice Tea, Lemonade, or Fruit-infused Water
If you’re working an open house south of the Mason Dixon line, then serving up some nice cold sweet tea is practically your fiduciary duty to the general public. That said, you can always put a creative spin on tea and lemons if you want to make an impression.
Southern Sweet Tea
A southern classic that even a northerner can’t resist, sweet tea is a surefire winner for summer open houses. Is there anything more refreshing-looking than a big glass pitcher of iced tea on a hot summer day? Check out a recipe for traditional southern sweet tea at add a pinch here.
Passion Fruit Iced Tea
Based on traditional Vietnamese flavors, passion fruit iced tea is a sweet summer treat that everyone will love. Here’s a great recipe using green tea from Martha Stewart.
If you want to keep the CrossFit crowd happy, nothing beats a nice big dispenser of fruit-infused water with ice. It’s a little bit fancier than plain water, but not as sweet (or sinful) as soda, mocktails, or fruit juices. Taste of Home has a whopping 23 recipes for fruit-infused water here.
Make the Whole House Smell AMAZING by Baking Fragrant Snacks
They say that smell is the sense most linked to memory, so why not trigger some happy memories for your guests by baking delicious-smelling treats before the open house?
Blondies > Brownies
Blondies are brownies’ tastier, more cookie-like cousins and smell absolutely incredible when they’re in the oven. Here’s an easy recipe for blondies at thekitchn.
Chocolate Chip Cookies!
They’re an open house cliche for a very good reason. They smell and taste like childhood for pretty much everyone. Is there anything that reminds you of home more than the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in an oven? Check out the classic Toll House recipe above.
If you’re one of those odd ducks who finds the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking too heavy or just want to avoid open house cliches, then sweet, tangy lemon bars just might do the trick. They’ll fill your listing with a bright, energizing scent that will make your guests make a beeline for the kitchen—and your waiting open house sign-in sheet. Here’s a great recipe for lemon bars from the excellently named Sally’s Baking Addiction.
Tasty Frozen Finger Foods & Snacks From Trader Joe’s
Of course, not everyone has the time or talent to cook before an open house. If you’d rather raid the freezer aisle than mix up cookie dough, then Trader Joe’s is for you. They offer all kinds of tasty and affordable hors d’oeuvres, like arancini bites, spicy meatballs, mini quiche, samosas, and more that are tasty enough to pass off as homemade or at least expensive. Just remember that presentation is everything! No one has to know that you didn’t slave away for hours over a hot stove to keep them well fed and happy!
If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, then check out the frozen section or deli section of your local supermarket or Costco. Just remember to try things out before serving them to your open house guests.
7 Rules for Serving Food or Drinks at Your Next Open House
1. Always Include Bottled Water on Ice
While it may not be eco-friendly, if there’s one thing your open guests will want—and expect—it’s cold water. Some people are picky drinkers, some are counting calories, so that means water should be a no-brainer for your open house.
You don’t have to go super-fancy here. Generic bottled water will work just as well as the good stuff. That said, if you’re hosting a super-high-end open house in say, Manhattan, you might want to spring for some Evian or San Pellegrino. If you buy in bulk, you’re looking at around $1 or less per bottle, which might seem steep until you remember that water lasts forever, and not every guest is going to reach for a bottle of water. You may only give out 10 at a busy open house.
2. Remember to Tailor Your Food to the Listing & Your Farm Area
Whenever we mention this rule, we inevitably get pushback. “Why can’t I serve lobster canapes for my $125,000 listing open house?” We’ll let luxury Manhattan broker Philip Scheinfeld handle this one:
“I always let the property I am holding an open house for dictate what I put out. If it’s a $10,000,000-plus listing and I am holding a broker’s open house where I am expecting a large turnout, I may do a catered lunch or snacks from a restaurant in the area. If it is a lower-end listing that has been on the market, I might just have some water and candy. I have thrown extravagant open houses where I have hired full staff, bartenders, and even had some sushi chefs come and make sushi. Every listing is different and everything must be customized for the listing. There isn’t anything I won’t do, but it has to be a fit for the product I am selling.”
3. Avoid Messy Foods
This one may sound obvious, but you should always avoid sticky, crumbly, or gooey snacks at your open house. First, because balancing a drink, a tiny plate, and a phone will inevitably lead to spills, and second, because those spills are just as likely to end up on your guest’s blouse as they are your homeowner’s white rug. Ditto for red wine. Unless, of course, you want to spend the remainder of your weekend on your hands and knees frantically scrubbing a wine stain out of a white sofa.
4. Make Sure You’re Serving the Right Message With Your Food
Don’t be that guy who serves store-brand cheese puffs to a tech company founder or foie gras to a bunch of new teachers. First, because it will just be weird, and second, because the food you serve sends a message. Make sure the message is friendly and says what you want it to.
5. Avoid Foods That Won’t Keep for a Few Hours
Since there’s nothing nastier than cold French fries or warm shrimp cocktail, make sure the food you serve at your open house will last as long as your open house does. As a general rule of thumb, keeping food warm with chafing dishes and sterno is a bit much for an open house. So make sure to serve food that will be just as tasty in three hours as it is when you serve it. An extra bag of ice in the freezer can be a lifesaver on hot days or at slow open houses!
6. Keep Your Marketing Materials Near the Food
While a table with your business cards, one sheet, and listing packet is easy to slink by and avoid, if you play your cards right, no one will be able to resist your food table. So why not keep your marketing materials on the same table?
7. Always Label the Foods You’re Serving
Before you leave your office, make sure you have a set of little placards to label the food you’re serving at your open house. First, to make sure you can warn people of potential allergens like nuts or gluten, and second, to show off your attention to detail and the delicious food you’re serving your potential clients.
Over to You
Have a great open house food idea we forgot? Have a different opinion about serving alcohol to your open house guests? Let us know in the comments.