Plan the Perfect Open House!

For many real estate agents, nothing is as valuable (or as daunting) as throwing a terrific open house.

While online listings, 360-degree images, and video tours are certainly making waves in the industry, nothing beats a good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting with various people interested in possibly purchasing a home.

However, there’s a lot that goes into throwing a successful open house. As any real estate agent will gladly tell you, it’s not as easy as throwing up a sign and hoping people show up.

As with most things in life, a little preparation and a lot of knowledge and experience can make things much easier. Veteran agents probably have a routine down cold and feel very confident in their open house approaches. But even the most successful agents should always be open-minded to new ideas and ways to enhance their craft.

With all that in mind, here are four steps you can take to plan the perfect open house, as well as some tips and tricks you can use to really make your event shine!

Prepare

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!

Granted, you have other things to do with your life besides throwing open houses, so your preparedness does have a limit. But, in general, the more you can do before the event, the better your open house will be — and the better your chances of making a successful sale!

What kinds of things can you do to prepare? Here are some terrific 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. Do whatever you can to prevent this! 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!

Schedule

While you’re preparing the house for the event, you need to start thinking about scheduling. You probably aren’t going to have 50 open house events for one property; it’s more likely you’re going to have one or very few. With that in mind, you have few chances to make an impact, and scheduling is an important factor!

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. However, there are some general tips we can throw your way!

  • 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!

Promote

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!

However, there is such a thing as the cost-benefit ratio, i.e., is the amount of money/time you’re spending promoting the open house paying off enough to make that money/time worthwhile? The answer to this question is going to vary wildly depending on your location, clients, and experience level, so, unfortunately, there’s no surefire solution we (or anyone else) can give you.

That being said, we can give you some out-of-the-box ideas you may not have thought of before! Here are three strategies that could help you get the word out about your event:

  • Pre-Party: One of your most valuable promotional resources for your open house is the neighborhood itself. People who live nearby will be some of the first to let friends and family know, “Hey, there’s a neat open house in our area.” Why not use that word-of-mouth publicity by throwing a pre-party for your open house and inviting everyone in the neighborhood? Granted, this adds a whole lot of work onto your plate, but giving the neighbors a sneak-peek helps you in two major ways: 1. It helps neighbors alert their friends and family to the main open house event, and it also keeps the neighbors away when you want to be focusing on actual potential buyers. The neighbors may be great people, but they’re most likely not looking to buy the house and therefore shouldn’t take up space at the actual event. Get them to the pre-party instead!

  • 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!

Deliver

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.

We know you’re a professional and will take your open house seriously, but there are some mistakes even the most seasoned veterans can make. 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, and that means no texting or Facebook-ing!

  • 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!

  • Snacks: Some agents swear by offering snacks and others might think it’s tacky, but 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Market Yourself!

Open houses are designed to sell houses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of an opportunity to sell yourself!

One of our members, Debbie, uses her open houses to hand out books and promote her business! Check out her story here!

Armed with these tips, you should be well on your way to throwing a terrific open house event! Ultimately, though, your personal touch is what’s going to really make or break your open houses, so be sure to take these ideas and make them your own! Good luck!

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avatar_joe Joe Nickelson is a real estate professional dedicated to helping home buyers and sellers achieve their real estate dreams, and helping real estate agents stop using the sometimes-vicious tactics that weigh on their consciences. He believes that the Smart Agents books will, quite literally, change people’s lives for the better. Check out his full bio here

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