October 7, 2020
“How to hold a great open house” is not something any real estate school covers in the classes that teach how to get a real estate license. At Garden State Real Estate Academy, one of the reasons we only hire instructors who have had very successful real estate sales careers is that we also teach the things that agents need AFTER they earn their new real estate license in the same course as their pre-licensing preparation.
And few things are more likely to help those newly licensed Realtors® make their first sale than by sitting open houses.
What NOT to do.
The average real estate agent’s open house goes like this:
“Oh, it’s Saturday, and I forgot to advertise my open house tomorrow. Let me put it in the MLS right now.”
The next day, the agent races to the office at 12:30, prints out a few copies of the MLS listing sheet while she is blowing up some balloons, then dashes over to the house, putting up a directional sign or two on the way.
At 1PM, she runs from room to room turning on the lights, and then sits and waits. I have had clients tell me about certain Realtors® who greeted them with a “Welcome. Have a look around and let me know if you have any questions.” Then the agent went back to whatever he was typing on his laptop.
Hmm, I wonder why I never saw that agent at any of the Superstar Sales Award events?
Rule #1: Plan ahead.
Work with your seller to explain how important a selling tool their open house can be. Have them mow the grass, blow away the leaves in the flower beds and remove cobwebs from around the doorway, remove anything that is not essential from the kitchen counters, take down most of the 50 photographs of all the grandchildren, leave the bathrooms immaculate—perhaps with a little array of colored hand towels and soaps. Clean the carpets, being especially careful to remove any stains.
But the planning advice also applies to the agent. Whatever you enter in the Multiple Listing Service ultimately gets fed into sites such as Zillow and Realtor.com. If you want potential visitors to include your open house in their Sunday plans, you should have it on Zillow, etc by Thursday, which means you cannot put the open house in the MLS any later than Tuesday.
Work with your mortgage loan officer or title company representative early in the week asking them to provide you with full-color flyers for the open house. Most of them will give these to you free.
Rule #2: Place signs strategically.
Without question, signs attract visitors to open houses, so putting them up an hour before it begins means you potentially miss thousands of passersby who drove past that spot earlier. So long as there is no municipal ordinance against it, have your open house signs up by Thursday—showing when it will be open, such as “Sunday 1 – 3pm.”
Rule #3: Use Social Media.
We used to spend thousands of dollars on full-page open house ads in the Sunday newspaper. Today, you can get more focused local exposure FREE by posting your open house on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. If your town has a community Facebook site, post the open house there too.
Rule #4: Talk to the neighbors.
By Wednesday or Thursday before the open house, take some attractive colored flyers with “Personal Invitation” printed at the top. Then use the “10-10-20 Plan.” Knock on the door of 10 neighbors to the left of your listing, 10 neighbors to the right, and 20 homes across the street. This is an especially good idea for the first open house, because we are ALL nosy neighbors!
Your script would be something like this: “Hi, I’m David from ABC Realty, and you probably noticed that we just listed for sale the beautiful home at #24. I know how you’ve probably had friends and relatives visit you over the years and remark about how nice your neighborhood is. I wanted to give you this personal invitation to stop by on Sunday and to bring anybody whom you’d like to have as a neighbor.”
If they do show up, many times they will say “I just wanted to see what houses on the street are selling for.” This gives you a great entrée to ask why, and perhaps discover that they are thinking of putting their own home on the market soon. They will often be looking with the thought of finding a place for a beloved family member whom they would like to live near them.
Whenever it is a really spectacular home, I have adjusted my invitation by saying, “The public open house is from 1 to 3, but as a neighbor, I wanted you to have a special invitation-only offer to come from 12 to 1. But you need to bring this invitation with you.”
Trust me, it has worked many times!
Rule #5: Make your guests feel welcome.
Without jumping down their throats before the front door is fully open, great your guests with a smile and a friendly greeting. Offer them a bottle of water. Here’s an even better idea: offer some warm spiced apple cider but use Styrofoam cups without lids. They will spend longer in the house because they don’t want to throw it away, and they cannot risk spilling it in their car!
There is the longstanding advice about making the house smeel wonderful by baking bread or cookies during the open house. If you’d rather not go home with lots of bread and cookies, here’s a great tip: open a can of beer, put it in a baking tray and turn the oven on to the lowest heat setting. The heat will make the whole house smell of baking bread because of the years in the beer! Being English, I always liked this idea, because then, after the open house, I had a nice warm beer!
Ask them such questions as “If you could paint a word picture of the home you are looking for, what would it sound like?” Ask if they have a signed representation agreement with another Realtor®. If they do, it is unethical to try to have them break that agreement.
I once sold a house to a client from an open house. Once we got to know each other he told me something amazing. He said he had probably visited 10 open houses in which he had been asked to provide his name and contact details on a sign-in sheet, but had never had a call from a single one of those agents.
If you have done your job by asking the questions to determine the type of home the guest was wanting, your follow-up phone call could be after you have done research and have found homes that meet those criteria, which you can then send them. Of course, your first job is to discuss the fine attributes of the home where you met them and to discuss what they liked most and least about it.
In all likelihood, your primary interest after getting your new real estate license is to earn a commission. At that point, you don’t have any listings. But without question, you will find agents on your office who have more listings than they can hold open house each week. Ask your broker to suggest some of those agents. To most of them, having another agent offer to sit an open house on one of their listings would be most welcomed, and any buyers that you meet would then be your clients.
Good luck, and happy selling!
Garden State Real Estate Academy is New Jersey’s top-rated real estate licensing school. pre-licensing and broker licensing classes must usually be taken in live classroom settings, we have temporary permission to offer these classes via Zoom. We have both daytime and evening classes that start every two weeks. For more information, go to www.GSREacademy.com
David C. Forward is a licensed real estate broker and instructor and was first licensed as a Realtor® 31 years ago. During his career, David and his business partner sold more than 450 homes in South Jersey. He is now School Director of Garden Real Estate Academy, has won numerous awards for real estate sales, is a much-requested public speaker who has addressed audiences on six continents and is the author of 15 books. David can be reached at Support@GSREacademy.com