There’s more to conducting an open house than planting a sign and leaving the door unlocked for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon. In this how-to article, we will break down the dos and don’ts” of holding a successful open house. We have done countless open houses and we know what works. More importantly, what doesn’t work.
For the most part, listing agents hold open houses for two self-serving reasons: the seller expects the hired listing agent to hold them because it was part of their “master marketing differentiating pitch” that enticed them to hire them, and it’s a way for the agent to find new buyer clients for other properties. Top producing agents do not spend their time sitting in someone’s home waiting for nosey neighbors and unqualified buyers to show up. This isn’t to say open houses are completely self-serving. A good agent who understands the psychology of real estate sales and the mindset of today’s home buyer should know how to handle buyer objections before they are brought up.
There’s a lot of psychology in real estate marketing so keep this in mind as you hit each bullet point below. If you have any preconceived notions about how to conduct an open house because you have seen open house tours on reality TV shows, toss these thoughts in the trash and proceed. Following this information will make a huge difference if you are selling by-owner or if you are a real estate agent who is looking to improve your skills. Not all agents know what they are doing. It takes a 100’s of showings and deals before agents know what they are doing. A good agent doesn’t rise to the top without getting their ass handed to them by a more experienced agent who has been around the block. You learn by failing, not succeeding. Successful comes shortly when you have about 10,000 hours of experience within the market. Growing up in a real estate family, it’s safe to say I have learned a lot from my mentors so I am here to share what I have learned since 2002.
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The points below are just the tip of the iceberg but this information should help you think outside the box.
- Only hold open houses on Sundays. Do not hold more than one open house during the week. There’s a lot of value in limiting access. The rule of scarcity should never be ignored when marketing real estate. The scarcity heuristic is a mental shortcut that places a value on an item based on how easily it might be lost. You also don’t want to be that home in the neighborhood known for having open houses every weekend. Doing so will make you look like you don’t know what you are doing. Desperation attracts sharks like bloody water. If you want low-ball offers this will do the trick every time.
- The most popular open house time is 1-3 pm. Never do an open house for longer than 2 hours. See point 1, less is more. If you live in an area with a popular NFL team be sure to check the Patriots season schedule (2019) for game times and schedule your open house around the game. If you need to hold the open house during the game, make sure the TV is on for all who are visiting the open house. This will keep fans who got pulled off the couch by their significate other from checking their phone every 3 minutes. Live sporting events also make for good topical ice-breakers. I was holding an open house during a playoff game and we had a little gathering at the open house and watched 2/3 of the game. The seller came home early and brought some wine and it was fun. We got to know the interested partners, talked shop, built rapport and the next day we received 3 offers it was unexpectedly great.
- Perception is everything. Another goal of an open house is to get every prospective buyer into the home at the same time. If people see loads of cars outside and a lot of interest inside, their impulsive behaviors will heighten. Although humans are not hardwired to think like sheep, they tend to follow the herd when they see a certain level of interest. People tend to want what others want. Cars outside is a good thing. With this being said, I typically schedule my open houses for one hour. I like 1 pm – 2 pm and if it goes longer great. Again, packing everyone into a short time frame is a great tactic. You can always extend.
- The visitor registration sheet is important. First off, you want to know who is entering your home and it’s a great follow-up tool. It’s also a critical element to determine a questionable procuring cause (ie. RDFN buyer who has yet to meet their agent.) Use it to get honest feedback. Most people will say nice things in person. People tend to be more direct when not in front of you. Give prospective buyers a reason to not put in a fake email address or scribble. Tell them you will email additional information like the seller property information disclosure, monthly expenses, renovation costs, and/or estimates. Get the point?
- Tidy up your property and keep it clean. If you are an agent press the seller to tidy up. Again, perception is everything. To put things into perspective. Let’s say we have two identical homes next to each other. Everything is exactly the same except house ‘A’ is orderly and clean while home ‘B’ is unorganized and cluttered. Guess which one will sell quicker and for more money? That’s right, home A.
- Greet people, ask them to kindly sign-in and back-off. Let the buyers roam. Do not hover or tell your life story. Yes, we know you are proud of your home, but people just want to see the property. Open houses are awkward enough so giving visitors space and keeping a distance can be beneficial. Feel free to point things out that may not be obvious. If they have questions the prospective buyer(s) or their agent will circle back.
- Dress down. Be relatable. Suits and residential real estate went out of style in the late 1990s. Your attire should mimic your prospective clientele/demographics. If your listing is in a trendy spot in a hip building, dress as-if… Be relatable and comfortable.
- Protect yourself. Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society. Sellers should make sure their homeowner insurance is in good standing and covers accidentals and personal injury. Depending on your state, agents should have an Errors & Omissions policy in place. Never let prospective buyers roam into areas such as attics and rooftops unless you know they are safe. Always accompany them. Posting a do not enter sign in areas that should not be entered is a good idea.
Always keep in mind that you are letting strangers into your home.
- If female, do not work an open house alone. While we don’t condone the use of illegal weaponry, we do believe in self-protection. Pepper Spray is always a good choice. Click here to purchase from Amazon.
- Sellers should remove all items of value that can fit in a pocket. Trust no one. Strangers are entering your home. They will steal if you give them the chance.
- Remove all medications to prevent theft. Your bathrooms will be used.
- Do not light scented candles or cook a curry meal the night before your open house. The sense of smell is often too memorable. This is not the time to create a memory for your prospective buyers.
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