5 Tips for a Successful Open House

4422978725_e87e2664bd Put signs on street corners and cookies in the oven, then sit back and wait for the happy buyers to show up.

That’s all there is to holding a successful open house, right?

Wrong!

There is, or at least should be, a lot more thought and effort put into holding an open house than just directional signs and making sure the home smells good, although those are important too.

Whether open houses are effective in selling a home is subject to debate within real estate circles, and this article isn’t going to attempt to solve that debate. Like many other aspects of real estate, the use and effectiveness of open houses varies by region. NAR has reported for years in its annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers findings that 10 to 15 percent of people find the home they purchase via yard signs/open houses. While that’s not a huge number, it is significant. And, let’s face it: Any exposure to potential buyers is a good idea.

Regardless of your definition of “successful open house” the fact is thousands of homes are held open every weekend, and if you’re going to hold an open house, here are some things to think about.

5 Tips for a Successful Open House

Market the event: If you want traffic, you have to let people know about the event. Aside from the curbside directional signs (and yes, tying balloons to them really does help people notice them) here are some ideas for marketing your open house:

  • Team up – Talk to other agents with listings in the area and coordinate a “neighborhood open house weekend.” Having multiple homes in the area held open will attract more traffic, and you can all take advantage of each others’ marketing efforts. Try something fun like creating a “punch card” or “open house bingo” where visitors get a stamp at each house they visit and can turn it in at the end for a gift card or prize drawing. 
  • Tag along – Time your open house to be held at the same time as a community event. A local soccer game, the neighborhood garage sale, the grand opening of a local restaurant. It’s OK to shamelessly borrow traffic from another event to help yours.
  • Old school door hangers – Door hangers work. The neighbors want to see inside that listing. So let them know about it. But don’t limit hanging flyers to just surrounding homes. Put them in adjoining neighborhoods as well. Lots of people want their friends and family to move close by, but not that close, so target the surrounding subdivisions as well as nearby homes.
  • Advertise on public sites – You can post your open house for free on Zillow. It’s easy!
  • Change it up – Why does every open house occur on Saturday or Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.? I have no idea. Dare to be different. Try an open house on a evening during the week. Do it on a Saturday morning and advertise there will be cartoons on the big screen for the kids. Hold it during the big football game and turn the open into a tailgate party. Think outside the box. Being different attracts attention, and attention means visitors.

Educate the sellers: Make sure your sellers understand the positives and negatives of having their home held open. Share NAR’s data with them so they don’t have false expectations of getting a sale THAT DAY. Let them know the risks of theft. Help them understand that traffic is good thing. And yes, tell them that you may pick up buyer clients for a home other than theirs. In short, set the expectations up front.

Let the neighbors be nosy: Rather than sit there and lament that the only traffic you are getting are “all those nosy neighbors that just want to see the remodeled kitchen they’ve been wondering about for months,” try actually embracing the fact that nosy neighbors can help sell a home. “OMG Sally! You should see that new kitchen in the home down the block. You’d love it, and we could walk the dogs together every morning if we lived so close to each other!” It happens. Consider a “neighborhood exclusive.” Open the house an hour early to just the neighbors in an “invitation only” event. All that is needed for this is creating a few special flyers highlighting the early and exclusive opening, just for them.

Hide the valuables: Hopefully you’ve educated your seller clients long before open house day about the need to secure their valuables, and prescription drugs. Those should all be safely tucked away for the duration that the home is listed. It is especially important for open houses though as, sadly, opens are a known source for the bad guys to either case the home for a later burglary, or outright theft at the moment. Prescription drugs are highly targeted. Lock them away.

Collect contact info: Make it easy for visitors to sign in to the open house. “Registering” or signing in serves two purposes: 1) it helps from a safety perspective (but isn’t foolproof!); and 2) it gives you a way to add contacts to your database as well as follow up with interested visitors. Registrations can be done with something as simple as a piece of paper on a clipboard, or as cool and techy as an iPad app.

Bonus Tip: Be safe. Unfortunately, there are bad people out there, and sitting in a home, alone, can make you a target for the bad guys. There is better safety in numbers, so consider partnering with another agent in your office to sit the open together. Even better, bring along a trusted lender. That gets you an extra body while providing your visitors with the opportunity to talk to a lender right on the spot. Other safety tips include being aware of your surroundings, pre-plan escape routes, and don’t go into rooms with no exit. Here is a good article with more safety tips.

The bottom line is this: Your open house is a marketing event. Treat it as such and plan, prepare and follow up. Your sellers will be impressed, your database will get some entries, and you just might wind up cashing a commission check.

Photo Credit: Phil Sexton. CC Licensed on Flickr.