Open House Opportunities

Open House

By Tom Hopkins

Many new or unsuccessful agents in real estate don’t understand that open houses often are better for listing than for selling. When done well, holding houses open is a marvelously effective listing technique, but it’s not done well very often. Doing it well enough to make big money requires work the week before. Unless you do that work in time, your weekend open house has little chance of being as worthwhile as it could be.

I would like to share with you some techniques you may not currently be using when holding your open houses. This simple step-by-step process can provide you with great opportunities for listing and selling houses.

In order to have a productive open house, you have to invest time and effort – which is the same thing as money. Before you commit yourself to such an investment, make sure that the property you want to hold open has what it takes. Here are the five things you need:

  1. Make sure it is priced right. Any neighbors who visit your open house probably have some idea of selling in the not too distant future. When these neighbors, or other sellers come to your open house, they often have a good idea of the values in that area. When they see your overpriced tag, it ruins your reputation with both the potential buyers and the potential listers.
  2. Create good traffic flow with directional signs off a main thoroughfare. It doesn’t make sense to hold an open house when no one can find it. When it is necessary to place a sign on someone’s private property, always ask permission. Otherwise, they might turn the sign around or lay it down. And remember to send a thank you note to them right away.
  3. List within your service area. Don’t drive 40 miles to hold an open house. The buyers who come in soon realize that the out-of-area agent doesn’t really know the neighborhood and any potential listers realize the same thing.
  4. The sellers must be gone. Buyers only go to open houses to avoid contact with either owners or salespeople who are too pushy. They see open houses as opportunities to get a maximum look at a property while giving the agent minimal information about themselves.
  5. Brighten up the home. The sellers must know that unmade beds, unwashed dishes and unmowed lawns won’t help to sell the house. A little paint, polish, and elbow grease will always make the house more attractive and thus enhance the value of their home. Also, consider bringing some brighter light bulbs for lamps in rooms without much outside light.

The advance preparation that goes into an open house is critical to making your day a success. Part of the preparation includes hand delivering at least 20 invitations to the neighbors living closest to your open house. Hand delivering, not mailing these invitations, opens up an opportunity to meet people in your service area as well as demonstrate your energy and professionalism. They may come just to find out what the home is listed for. It could be enough that they would consider selling, too.

Serving refreshments at an open house is one way to get the people coming through your open house to slow down. Most want to come in, take a quick look, and keep moving. Have refreshments to slow them down so you can ask them a few nonthreatening questions. Nearly every potential buyer who walks in the door will own another home they may have to sell in order to move. Therefore, every open house contact represents a potential listing.

When offering cold drinks or coffee, don’t serve them in plastic or offer water bottles. Those are easy for people to take with them. When being served in glassware or coffee cups, guests will take more time on the property, and will most often ask what to do with the glass or cup when they are leaving, which gives you another opportunity to speak directly with them. Note that you’ll have to do an occasional walk through the property yourself to look for any cups or glasses set down and left instead of being brought to you. And, you’ll have a do a few dishes, but this strategy is worth it for the added face time you get with visitors.

Finish up your advance preparation by having a nice little guest directory for people to write their names in. Or, offer a small gift (with your photo and contact info) to each person who leaves their name and thoughts on the property with you. The sellers like to see signs of activity. And for the periods when no one is there, keep a set of work materials so you can use your spare time productively. If you’ve followed everything outlined thus far, your open house is sure to attract some attention. Now, you must keep that attention.

The day of your open house, start early so you have plenty of time to get everything set up and operating at the appointed hour. This involves placing the signs in the right locations, and making sure the sellers have left the residence. Switch all the house lights on and open all the drapes. Set the thermostat so the temperature is noticeably cooler or warmer than the outside temperature, and light a small fire in the fireplace if there is one, especially in the summer. This is a great attention-getter and conversation starter.

Open houses require a lot of time. If you want to be an open house specialist, create your own checklists for all the things you must do to make them a smashing success. I ask just one thing. Don’t do it halfway and expect 100 percent success.


Tom Hopkins is world-renowned as a real estate listing and selling expert. Learn more at www.tomhopkins.com.