I know when most people think about open houses, they think they are a lot of work or they think they draw nothing but “tire kickers” — buyers who are driving through the neighborhood and are stopping in just to stop in.
If you think about it, though, most open houses, when they're done correctly, will also attract a lot of sellers.
Getting a bunch of sellers in a room with you is certainly a great way to get listings and also build your authority in any neighborhood.
If you're farming a neighborhood, for example, open houses are your best friend. They're a lot of work and they're kind of a pain, but they can produce a lot of business and really plant you as an authority in the local community.
Years ago, back in the recession, we did these mega open houses — we called them “Sold in a Week.” We were able to sell homes really, really quickly, by doing these huge open houses and getting hundreds of people through them. I’ll share with you some of the things we did in these mega open houses which you can leverage on a smaller scale and help your own events be effective.
Schedule the Open House ASAP
The first thing we would do is schedule the open house as quickly as we possibly could after launching a listing. If we listed the home on Monday, maybe we would put it on the MLS on Friday, and then we’d do the open house that first weekend if possible. We did this because you can get that first rush of buyers and maybe capture some of those buyers yourself.
If it's a brand-new listing, you can get that early excitement and you could potentially get some really good sellers through the door, and hopefully win some new listings.
Unfortunately, there’s no tried-and-true method for scheduling that works for every home in every location. This step is going to require you to know your area and understand the market.
- Weekends: Most open houses happen on weekends, within a 1-4 PM time frame. Scheduling your open house in that window is smart because most people expect open houses to occur during that time and will plan their days around it. However, if 20 open houses are happening that day at those times, you’re going to get lost in the crowd! In other words, don’t automatically default to weekends from 1 – 4; do your research and make sure that’s the right time.
- Weekdays: In general, “happy hour” times during the week are the best, i.e., from around 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM. You want to catch people as they’re leaving work or after they have picked up their kids from school, but you don’t want to go so late that they’ve already settled in at home for the evening.
- Competition: Pay attention to what’s going on during your planned event time. This doesn’t just mean other open houses, but local community events as well. As an example, if there’s a huge PTA meeting on a weekday evening, it’s probably not a good idea to compete with that for your open house. Big sports events are another thing to watch out for.
Prepare for the Open House
It’s never a good idea to make absolute statements, but here goes: You can’t over-prepare for an open house. No matter how prepared you think you might be, you can always do something more to improve your chances of success.
What kinds of things can you do to prepare? Here are some ideas to get started.
- Selling Points: Take a look at MLS listings and drive around the neighborhood where you’ll be throwing your open house. What trends do you see? How does the house you’re selling buck trends or stand out? You need to have three immediate talking points about the house, which you can list off right away when you start talking to a potential buyer. Is the house bigger than other comparable properties? Does it have higher ceilings? Does it get more natural light? Whatever you think are the three most important features, figure them out well before the event.
- Organize: You’re going to be saying a lot of things over and over again and — depending on how busy your open house is — you’re going to be dealing with a lot of people all at once. With that in mind, you should print off a single sheet of paper that has a detailed floor plan of the property on one side and a list of pertinent information on the other. You can hand these out to attendees as they arrive so they can refer to them as they walk through and — most importantly — refer to them later when they’re decompressing after a long day of looking at houses. Whatever you do, don’t cut corners on this: make sure you create a professional-looking document — think of it as a kind of business card. Hire someone to create it if you must.
- Repair: Unless the house you are selling is in perfect shape right now, you should convince the owners to give it some love. Creaky doors, chipped paint, rusty appliances, dusty windows, and unsightly stains can ruin the allure of a property for a buyer. Also, don’t wait until the day of the open house to do these things – the earlier you can get them done, the better. After all, you don’t want to worry about guests getting wet paint on their clothes as they walk through what could potentially be their future home.
- Stage: Staging is probably the most important thing you can do to prepare an open house. That means cleaning, removing and/or adding furniture, removing clutter, opening drapes to let the light in, tending to the yard, etc. You want the home to look welcoming and pleasant, but also neutral. The goal is to help buyers envision themselves in the home, not think about the people who currently live there or lived there most recently. There are plenty of professional organizations that focus on staging homes — use one if you need to.
Promote the Open House
As with preparation, there’s really no such thing as “over-promoting” your open house. The more people who know about your event, the better.
Here are strategies that could help you get the word out about your event:
- Live Tour: Ten years ago, the idea of filming a tour of a home and broadcasting it on the internet would have been monumentally expensive and difficult. Nowadays, you can record and broadcast a live tour on your own with your smartphone and a few hours of preparation. All you need to do is film yourself giving a tour of the house just like you would during the real event. The only difference is you’ll be talking to the phone in your hand instead of a client. Film it and put it up on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or any online hub where you have a good following!
- Raffles: What better way to get someone to come to your event than the potential of winning free stuff? This is especially a good idea if multiple open houses are going on at the same time nearby, as the promise of a raffle could set your event apart from the pack. You don’t need to go hog wild with the raffle, but a classy, widely-applicable prize (that people actually want) could do wonders. Some good ideas would be gift cards, technology (tablets, computers, cameras, etc.), passes (spa days, hotel stays, etc.) and event tickets (sports, concerts, etc.). Get creative!
- Use as Many Signs as Possible: Another thing that can make an open house really popular is signs. I know, I know: this isn't a new idea. But I feel like, a lot of times, people tend to forget how important signs are.
For me, personally, I would do as many signs as I could get away with. I know every city and area has different ordinances when it comes to signs. Some won't let you put them up at all, and some set strict limits.
Back in 2008, when we were doing those mega open houses, we would schedule multiple homes at the same time on the same weekend, and we would stick up 200-600 signs. I know that sounds nuts, but it really ramped up the excitement for the event.
The crazy thing is that all those signs and all of that excitement from the hundreds of people would have a strange effect. All the real buyers would be mixed with the “tire kickers” and think that they were also real buyers, and it spiked the price of the home. We would sell 30% to 50% of the homes during the weekend that we did the mega open house. So believe me when I say that open houses are a really good way to get leads and sell homes. And this wasn't even a hot market! It was during the recession, a horrible time to be selling homes.
So when it comes to signs, I would do as many as you can get away with. Put up “just listed” flyers, mail out postcards, hang up door hangers — just go crazy. If you do decide to mail the neighborhood, do Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). It's about 17 to 18 cents per postcard. It's a lot cheaper than mailing things yourself.
One of our agents, Debbie, got 4 listings and 3 buyer clients by handing out books at open houses.
“At one of the open houses, I had a family come through, and I gave them one of my books about the Secrets of Wealthy Home Sellers. They are buying a $595,000 home that is closing on August 3rd. And I will be listing their home for probably about $400,000 to $425,000. Basically, that all came from giving them my books at my Open House.”
- Knock on Neighbors’ Doors: Finally, another thing you can do to promote your open house is to knock on doors (remember, be sure to check your state laws before you do). Introduce yourself to all of the neighbors, invite them to the open house, and get them to come to the event. You want people to come through the door and experience what you do differently as compared to everyone else. Everyone who walks in is a potential lead.
Deliver the Open House
You’ve done a lot of work to get your open house off the ground, and the last thing you want to do is let things slide during the actual event. With that in mind, here are some tips about hosting an open house you may not have considered.
- No Phones: Put your phone away! Unless you are doing something with your phone that will help you sell that house to the people walking through the door, it shouldn’t even be in your hand. You want visitors to see that you are 100% present.
- No Scents: Some agents will go through an entire home spraying fragrances, lighting candles, or installing air fresheners. While yes, you want the house to smell nice, there’s a big difference between smelling “nice” and smelling like a fruit salad. Keep things as neutral as possible.
- No Owners: You should do whatever you can to keep the current owners of the home away from the open house. Some might insist on attending, but try to convince them otherwise. You want potential buyers to feel comfortable in the home and free to say whatever they want — and the current owner standing right there might prevent that.
- Yes to Snacks: Let’s face it: People love food. If you’re throwing an open house, refreshments should be there, hands down. Serve finger foods, candy, pastries, chocolates, and soft drinks or seasonal beverages like lemonade, apple cider, or hot chocolate.
- Yes to Technology: If at all possible, use a tablet or computer for people to sign up on your mailing list. The days of putting a pad and pen out are over. Not only will using software make you look more professional, but it will prevent you from having to deduce someone’s name or email from their poor handwriting. There are many different software products out there that can help make your sign-up sheet presentation amazing.
- Arrange the open house as close to the listing as you can, and choose the timing carefully.
- Prepare as much as possible, including sprucing up the house and promoting the event.
- When people show up, have something to give to both buyers and sellers, such as your own book. You want to separate yourself from other agents. Learn more about this at authorify.com.