Open Houses: Worth it or not?
Ask ten real estate agents, “What do you think about open houses?” and eight of them will answer, “Open houses don’t work.” Wrong. What doesn’t work is the way most agents conduct an open house. Open houses absolutely do work, and let me tell you why. As a former builder of million dollar spec homes, the majority of my sales came from open houses. When you put an ‘Open’ sign in front of your home, guess who comes in: People who were driving in your neighborhood. Why were they driving in your neighborhood? For whatever reason, they were attracted to it and thought this might be a nice place to live. The first rule of real estate: location, location, location, is forgotten by most when it comes to holding an open house.
When a person gets out of their car to come through your home unaccompanied by an agent, they must have enough interest to not just drive by, but to see what’s actually in the home. Usually, if they were out with an agent and had a scheduled appointment, the agent would be taking them into that house whether they saw drive up-appeal or not. The fact that people will actually get out of their car on their own accord shows that there’s enough interest there to take a more in-depth look.
Open houses have great potential to generate interest in your home. So why do people hesitate to host an open house? Logistically speaking, one of the reasons that so many real estate agents are reluctant to hold open houses is that they are almost always held on a Sunday. Your agent is usually showing homes on Sunday and does not want to commit to an open house. And the inconvenience to you as the Seller is that in this 60-hour-work-week world, it’s probably your only full day home. Finally, it’s uncomfortable to have strangers go through your home and see your personal things. And I am sorry for your personal inconvenience. However, I want to sell your home! Do you?
Most Real Estate Agents have had no formal training on how to have an effective open house.
In my experience, if anything is keeping an open house from working, it is the way the agent has arranged and handled it. Open houses are a business and should be treated as such. Let’s say, for discussion’s sake, you own a retail business located in a strip mall. In that mall, there are three other businesses selling exactly what you’re selling. To keep the field level, all four businesses are regulated and only allowed to be open on Sunday.
Your business and two others are open for only two hours in the afternoon, 1:00-3:00 p.m. or 2:00-4:00 p.m. The fourth is open one hour longer, 2:00-5:00 p.m. Additionally, the fourth has been open four times in sixty days. Your business and two others have only been open once in the same sixty day period. It’s obvious that the business open twice as long and more often has a higher volume of sales. This is a simple example to stress that FREQUENCY AND DURATION will have better results.
Of course, you could open your home for three hours every weekend, and unless the house is situated facing a major city street, you will also need a system for drawing traffic your way. Since your home is more likely nestled comfortably somewhere inside a neighborhood, proper signage will do the job of pointing buyers in your direction. I am always amused when I drive through a neighborhood on Sunday and see a tiny, bland open house sign tucked up in the yard. It’s like saying, “I really don’t want to be here – please don’t come in and bother me!” If I’m going to run a business that’s only open one day a week, I want everyone to know when I’m open. Short of having electric neon signs and a loud speaker, I want to use the largest, brightest signs I can find, and stage them at every intersection that will lead to my business.
Preparation for your open house does not begin or end with signage, though. The one day your business is opened this week will be most effective if you and your listing agent also utilize the days leading up to it. One of the reasons that agents are not very successful with open houses is that they don’t prepare for them. To have a successful open house, your agent should start preparing days in advance. He or she should create hype, or interest, by letting people know starting on Thursday that your house will be open this weekend. The first thing your agent should do is put a sign out three days prior to the open house, alerting people that this home will be open on Sunday. That way, your house is being pre-marketed for the next three days in the hopes that any drive-by candidates will take note and plan to show up on Sunday.
Secondly, your agent should send an email invitation to every single client that is a potential buyer in your price range. Personal invitations to an open house are well-received by people actively in the market, or who will be in the market within the next year or two. I have 15,000 plus contacts of local potential buyers that have been collected over the last twelve years in my database. Every Friday, I send out email invitations to my Sunday Open House Tour with links to my website. This is an example of how to make e-marketing EFFECTIVE for your specific home. Your agent should also advertise your open house on every real estate website available.
Approaching open houses from a business perspective — having better hours of operation, being open more often, having good signage, and making the extra effort to market your open house ahead of time — pays off.
We love your nosy neighbors.
Of course, because they’re nearby and perhaps a little nosy, your neighbors are sure to walk through your open house. Because of this, many times, the biggest objection to having an open house comes from the Sellers. “I don’t want Susan down the street in my home, she goes to all of the open houses in the neighborhood. . . we always see her there when we are looking!” (Note the irony.)
The reality is, you want your neighbors. They know what a great neighborhood you live in. Even Susan can be your ally in selling. She might have a friend or co-worker who wants to live in your school district. People move literally across the street or down the block to a larger (or smaller) home all of the time. They love their neighborhood, but need one more bedroom for the new baby. You didn’t even know Susan was pregnant.
Also, we want your open house full of happy, smiling people when that potential buyer walks in. I have sold many listings because Susan was there and met the potential buyer — they discussed carpooling options for their six-year-old boys.
After holding open houses for over twenty years, there is an additional benefit I’ve become proficient at — creating synergy.
Having scheduled showings occur during an open house creates a sense of urgency when the potential Buyer sees a house full of people.
As I previously stated, real estate agents are usually showing homes on Sunday. This becomes a huge advantage, now that your agent is facilitating your open house. First, it is very convenient for other agents to bring their potential buyers through because the door is already open. Additionally, your agent can (and should) schedule appointments for his or her other clients to visit your open house. When an agent schedules showings during an active open house, a sense of urgency is created because potential buyers are seeing the home full of other people. This will spark their interest, making your home appear highly desired, and may even prompt a serious buyer to take action before anyone else does.
Ultimately, successful open houses require more than just a sign in the yard; they require a well thought-out plan of attack, approached from a business perspective.
Many times when I am on a listing appointment, the Seller has interviewed multiple agents. When discussing open houses with these potential sellers, I have been told, “Joanne Smith of XYZ Realty says you have open houses because you are just trying to get Buyers!” Really? Did Joanne really say that? Oh my gosh… She’s got me. The jig is up.
Can you believe an agent would even make this statement?
Yes. She is right. I am looking for Buyers. I’m looking for a Buyer for your home. I am looking for a Buyer for Bill and Mary’s home two streets over. I AM A REALTOR® AND I AM LOOKING FOR BUYERS. (That should be one of the “secrets”!) I hope this is not shocking to you. I thought that was what you hired me for. I must get your home in front of as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time to generate your sale.
Mrs. Seller, allow me to introduce your home to the market in the beginning of the listing, and then once every 3 weeks or so. This is not a must. I can still sell your home without having you open. But remember, open houses are a weapon. Please do not tie one of my arms behind my back and send me out to battle.
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