How to Throw a Halloween-Themed Open House That’ll Scare Up Buyers

Halloween open house

Katja Rovinowicz/iStock

Selling a house with Halloween on the horizon can be tricky. Maybe you want to decorate, but you’ve been told over and over again to keep your space neutral, so buyers can picture themselves in your home.

It’s good advice. But before you give up your grand plans for carving jack-o-lanterns and start stuffing the scarecrows back into storage, know this: There is a way to indulge in the holiday and make your home stand out from the crowd at the same time.

To the rescue: a Halloween-themed open house! Read on for expert tips on using this holiday as a marketing tool that’ll help you scare up potential buyers.

Don’t actually scare the buyers

Although it’s tempting to make your home the spookiest on the block, the experts advise against it.

Take it from Benjamin Ross, Realtor® with Mission Real Estate Group in San Antonio, TX, who has a graveyard with an animated pumpkin head and a zombie coming out of the ground.

“My granddaughter came over and was afraid to get out of the car,” Ross says. “Luckily for me, I’m not selling my house.”

When it comes to decorating your home for the big event, the best thing to do is keep it simple.

“Keep it tasteful and light,” says April Struhs, Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Schmitt Real Estate Co. in Key Largo, FL. “For example, a couple of pumpkin spice candles would be a great idea; then the buyers would remember the house that smelled like pumpkin spice.”

Of course, you can always stock up on the pumpkins, fall leaves and wreaths, Halloween throw pillows, and orange twinkle lights. You can even add in a Halloween doormat and some themed music. Jon Tetrault, partner and Realtor with the Nick Slocum Team in Warwick, RI, even recommends giving your buyers a laugh by writing “Not Haunted” on your For Sale sign.

But the creepy decorations? Consider skipping those this year.

“I would strongly stay away from blood and gore decorations,” Struhs says.

“My advice is to keep it fun-scary, not deathly scary,” Ross adds.

Keep it kid-friendly

Halloween ring toss
Set up activities to entertain the kids while parents tour the home.


One of the best ways to make your event memorable is by having some fun activities prepared for the kids who might be traipsing along with their parents to your open house. Simple games that are easy to win (for a modest prize, of course), like a pumpkin corn-hole or ring toss, are always a hit.

But something even better? A game that keeps kids engaged—while also ensuring that their parents can see the entire house.  For instance, you could set up a mini-scavenger hunt, says Seattle-area real estate broker Valerie Burmester.

“While the parents look around, the kids will be on the lookout for those painted pumpkins, fall pillows, photos of a pet in a costume in the bedroom,” Burmester says. “It will be well worth the effort, because both parents and kids can get in on the games while still looking at the home.”

You might also consider having a small arts and crafts table where kids can entertain themselves while parents have a look around. (Struhs recommends Halloween-themed coloring books with crayons.)

And be sure to make up some small goody bags, or stock up a “treasure chest” of prizes that kids can pick from after every game. If your prizes include candy, get the parents’ permission before handing them out.

Stock up on the snacks

Halloween open house snacks
Spooktacular snacks


Speaking of treats, it’s an old adage for good reason: The way to buyers’ hearts might just be through their stomach.

“A lot of time kids get bored looking at houses, which can mean the parents don’t get a good viewing,” Struhs says. “One way to keep them entertained is with food.”

While candy is fine, chances are kids will get plenty of it while trick-or-treating. Opt instead for fresh and homemade treats.

“Fall-themed cookies, homemade pumpkin bread, and apple cider all give a home warmth,” Burmester says. “And they’re delicious for adults and kids.”

Pick the best room in your house to set up a snack table. Be sure to stage it with some fun Halloween decorations and a few pumpkins. If you have a coffee maker, brew up some java for your buyers. Most likely, yours isn’t the only home they’re visiting that day, and you’ll stand out even more by making it a fun and relaxing experience for both them and their children.

And if you needed another reason to feed your guests, consider this: “Giving the buyer something to drink and eat will help them stay longer at the house, which gives the real estate agent more time to really talk up the property,” Struhs says.

Don’t overdo the decorations

The goal of any open house is to sell the home—so just be sure to keep this top of mind when planning your event. Costumes, games, and decorations are all fine and good, as long as they don’t detract from the house, or negatively affect your buyers’ experience while they’re visiting it.

“Stay away from anything satanic or demon-inspired, and any race-appropriating costumes, like Native American or geisha,” says real estate agent Regine Nelson of Wealthward Realty in Austin, TX.

And always avoid anything political—during Halloween or any other time of the year, Ross adds.

No matter how you choose to plan your spooktacular event, stay focused on why you’re doing it.

“You want to make sure the buyer is focused on the correct things, like the house,” Struhs says. “Not how great you decorated for Halloween.”


Why should people have all the Halloween fun? Check out these homes that got tricked out for Halloween!

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