When it comes to open house food, dumping some pretzels into a bowl isn’t going to cut it. After all, every element of your open house is an opportunity to earn potential clients—so send the right message and impress prospective buyers and potential future sellers. Try out some of our favorite trendy and tasty open house food ideas that could actually help get your house sold!
Make the Whole House Smell Amazing
They say that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory, so why not trigger some happy recollections for your guests by baking delicious-smelling treats before the open house? Afterall, happy guests make offers on houses…
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 from Kitchn.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
They’re an open house cliché for a very good reason. Chocolate chip cookies smell and taste like childhood. Is there anything that reminds you of home more than the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in an oven?
These sweet, tangy lemon bars will fill your listing with a bright, energizing scent that will encourage your guests to 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 cooking blog, Sally’s Baking Addiction.
Fresh Baked Bread
The smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house is sure to make anyone want to immediately call it home. There are some really simple bread recipes that can be accomplished in a dutch oven. Imagine serving the warm bread with butter, local honey, or fresh jam or preserves. Bowl of Delicious has the perfect no-knead recipe for your next open house.
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Easy, Tasty, Frozen Finger Foods & Snacks
Not everyone has the time or talent to cook before an open house. If you’d rather raid the grocery store than mix up cookie dough, then the freezer aisle is for you. You can find all kinds of affordable hors d’oeuvres that are tasty enough to pass off as gourmet. Just remember that presentation is everything. Sprinkle on some microgreens and no one has to know that you didn’t slave away for hours over a hot stove.
Our favorite options are arancini bites, spicy meatballs, mini quiche, and samosas.
It’s not just about the food. Boost that festive atmosphere with a batch of well-mixed cocktails, or maybe better yet, some trendy mocktails. Mocktails generally taste just as good and you don’t have to babysit the drinks table to keep curious kids or overindulgent adults away. Even better, the ingredients are generally very affordable. Just make sure to label them so guests know 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 Kitchn. These taste amazing with or without the tequila, so just leave the booze out if you want to serve mocktails at your open house. Or try this recipe for sweet and tangy strawberry margaritas from the king of flavortown himself, Guy Fieri.
If you want to go trendy, you could do worse than a Moscow mule. This mocktail mule recipe from The Mindful Mocktail brings all the gingery spiciness of the original without the vodka. Get the recipe, along with five more delicious mocktail recipes, here.
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 Brit+Co here, along with more than a dozen other fun drink ideas.
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 this recipe for traditional southern sweet tea at Add a Pinch.
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.
What Do Top Producers Serve? Open House Food Ideas & Tips From Douglas Elliman Agents
Not inspired yet? Take a look at these tips and ideas from top-producing agents from Douglas Elliman:
Insta-worthy Rainbow Bagels
Brad Miles, Douglas Elliman New York City & The Hamptons:
“I have tried offering many different foods, but rainbow colored bagels are my favorite—great for social media posts drawing attention to my listings.”
Offer Food-related Giveaways
Miltiadis Kastanis, Douglas Elliman Florida:
“When I go do open houses, I love to think outside the box constantly. Most recently, I did something food and beverage-related … I gave away a culinary weekend getaway at the Four Seasons Surf Club to experience the neighborhood and get to know the fantastic amenities that the Surf Club has.”
Have a Local Restaurant Cater Your Open House
Christina Kremidas, Douglas Elliman New York City:
“I like to have my open house refreshments catered by a favorite local restaurant in the area. I’ll even give the restaurant my marketing materials and have them post on their social media that they’ll be catering my open house for extra exposure of my listing to neighborhood residents. This helps my advertising resonate and brings in a crowd who loves the area, who then shares the listing with their friends and family who are looking to buy. It’s always a fun time when we do this!”
Think Like an Event Planner
Jessica Robertson, Douglas Elliman Florida:
“As a former wedding venue owner, I miss events—so I make my open houses unique. I implement ideas like upcoming holiday themes, cuisine that reflects the best of the area, homemade desserts from locals, live entertainment, adding special effects to pools, hiring talent when appropriate, partnering with local boat or car brokers and bringing them to the property for special previews, playing music that matches the environment, and more.”
Have a Mortgage Broker Provide Food for Broker Open Houses
Bridget Harvey, Douglas Elliman New York City:
“My Citibank mortgage banker used to order lobster rolls for broker open houses, broker continuing ed open houses, and first-time buyer seminars.”
Hire a Fresh Fruit Vendor to Provide Healthy Snacks
Kevin Krakower, Douglas Elliman California:
“I was always so disappointed with the little sandwiches and grocery store cookies at open houses. I knew I wanted to do something different for mine. Plus, we live in LA, where everyone is so health-conscious. With that in mind, I drove around the area until I found a fruit vendor on the street and asked them if I could hire them for an open house.
They agreed, and I asked them to make sure everything was ripe and fresh. We agreed on a price, and they showed up the following Sunday. I set them up in the front of the property on the driveway. It was super busy and by the end of the open house, the guy was completely sold out. Not even a cucumber. The house ended up selling after multiple offers and I have received many calls from other agents asking for the fruit stand guy’s number.”
Serve Wine in Custom-branded Bottles
Sherry Cutillo, Douglas Elliman Long Island:
“I recently listed a fabulous 6,000-square-foot waterfront home in South Amityville. I wanted to have an amazing luncheon for the brokers outside on the 150-foot multilevel deck overlooking the open bay. I decided to have wonderful bottles of wine with custom labels made of the home put on them to give as a gift to the brokers who attended the open house. It turned out to be a great hit!”
Offer Brokers Snacks in To-go Boxes
Jennifer Ho, Douglas Elliman Connecticut:
“Last year, I had a listing with an incredible backyard, so I hosted a Valentine’s Day soirée and we made s’mores on the fire pit outside. This got people to enjoy and see the backyard. This year, I did a Chinese broker’s open house. I made and served potstickers in tiny takeout boxes for agents to take with them. That was a big hit.”
Use Food & Drinks to Highlight Home Features
Stacey Pinkas, Douglas Elliman Westchester:
“A glass of sparkling rose at a sunset showing at our property on the water, or freshly baked chocolate chip cookies baked in the home before an open house so the scent drifts through the home.”
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, and 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 virtually forever, and not every guest is going to reach for a bottle. You may only give out 10 at a busy open house.
2. Remember to Tailor Your Food to the Listing & 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-million-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. 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 dabbing 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, it will just be weird, and second, the food you serve sends a message. Make sure the message is friendly and speaks to the audience.
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
A table with your business cards, one sheeter, and listing packet is easy to slink by and avoid. But if you play your cards right, no one will be able to resist your food table. So why not keep your marketing materials in the same space?
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 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.
Bringing It All Together
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.