18: Open Houses
It's a deliberate process. Give it some thought, and commit to not just one open house, but commit to 24 to 48 a year.
About This Episode
Hosting an open house can lead to all kinds of unique business opportunities, if you put in the time and effort to make it great. Beyond just putting some cheese and crackers on a plate and tying balloons to the mailbox, holding an open house is a unique opportunity to tell the home's story.
In this episode, we break down the basics of open houses, and offer insights from industry experts on how you can master them to create more buzz for your listings.
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JON: We made it through the polar vortexes, bomb cyclones, and winter death explosions, and now it’s finally spring! The temperature is rising and everyone’s returning their winter coats to that weird closet that they only use to store off-season clothes. The flowers are blooming, adding some much-needed color to neighborhoods, and mixed in among them are signs. On any given weekend, you’ll find sign after sign announcing a nearby open house - sometimes dozens of them announcing a single house, depending on how overzealous the selling agent is.
JON: Open houses are of course a real estate staple year round, but they’re far more festive events when it’s warm and homebuyers are on the prowl. According to the National Association or REALTORs, only 8% of buyers actually meet their new home at an open house. Though shockingly low, that percentage doesn’t take into account all the other business connections that a real estate agent just like you could make at an open house, useful both now and into the future.
JON: Hello and welcome to Shop Talk: The Real Estate Show. I’m Jon Forisha and this week we’re dissecting open houses to see what makes them tick, and how you can host yours for maximum impact.
JON: Let’s first start with when you should hold your open house. The most generally accepted time is a Sunday afternoon, since there’s the highest probability of interested parties being available at that time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold one on a Saturday, though keep in mind that buyers with children will likely be busy with sports or other activities.
JON: Many buyers will hop from open house to open house, evaluating each as compared to the others. In certain markets, you may be surprised by how many attendees you get by hosting an open house on a weeknight. By choosing an unusual time for your open house, you increase the chances of standing out from the pack - if for no other reason than because yours was the only one they saw that day. On the flipside, they may not necessarily be in the mood to picture themselves in a new house on a Tuesday night after a grueling day of work.
JON: Most open houses last between 2 and 4 hours, but it’s not unheard of to have particularly attractive properties open all day. In that case, you could tag-team the open house with another agent to ensure that a friendly face is always present, and never yawning.
JON: Opening a house during holidays was previously frowned upon, but in certain neighborhoods like a vacation community, that might actually be a great practice. Houses are already decorated and festive, and many buyers may only be in town for a few weekends out of a year. Buyers also might have family in town, with nothing more to do than eat and drink their way across town. Occupying their family time at the same time that they can check out an interesting open house might be exactly the kind of killing two birds with one stone that they’re looking for.
JON: Once you have a time for showings, you’ll need to make the house presentable. It will be open, after all, and you’ll have no hope of selling the thing if it’s covered in dog fur or smells like smoke. The name of the game isn’t to make it appeal to the sellers or to you personally, but rather to present the house in the most widely-appealing way possible. The goal is to make it easy for visitors to imagine living in the home, and pictures of strangers on the wall or tennis trophies lining bookshelves probably won’t do the job.
JON: Jill Malloy is the National Real Estate Expert at The CE Shop, where she leads a team of curriculum writers tasked with making the best possible online courses. Here’s Jill:
JILL: Here are some things that can be done to help an open house stand out and I will tell you that it really in my mind is all in the prep. You can't begin one Saturday to think about a Sunday open house. You better start thinking about it at the latest, the proceeding Tuesday and the things that you can do to assist with it is to make sure that it’s on open house websites that are available, people do if it those websites when they're going to look, probe and houses. The days of just relying on directional arrows that are stuck in the ground or not. It's, it's not that you shouldn't do that legally, but it's not sufficient. So you need to make sure that you use the websites that publicize open houses. If your community allows it, you need to put up signs before the open house saying things like open on Sunday, you know, this house is going to put that little rider up on the sign in front of the house, open on Sunday and put the hours on it if you can.
JILL: The other thing that I think is essential is to either call or call on. I prefer calling or calling on people in person to invite neighbors to come to the opening and they're all curious anyway. They'd love to see what it looks like and just to let them know that if they know of anyone who's looking, you'd want to increase the traffic to the house. So anything that you can do like that to increase it. I do know some agents will also stand postcards to other close by neighborhoods that have prices that are about a third to a half less than the property. Which I don't think is a bad idea, but I really think the neighbors are a huge help.
JON: Not only might one of the neighbors be your special buyer, they also might have some good stories about the house that can breathe life into the place. Neighbors tend to get curious when a house sells in their neighborhood, so welcoming them in and letting them see what a great agent you are could be the key to producing some lucrative follow-up business.
JON: Once the obvious clutter is cleared out, the house might need some touch-ups. These are probably repairs the sellers would already be doing as part of the selling process, and they vary from slapping a new coat of paint on the walls to fixing the foundation or getting a new roof. These kinds of repairs can be costly, but tackling them early in the selling process - or, even better, before listing the house - will ensure that they never become an issue.
JON: To prepare for an open house, you’ll want to remove all vehicles from the driveway, open up the blinds and curtains to let in some light, and have some kind of soft music playing. It’s wise to serve some light refreshments and snacks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean providing lunch for everyone who comes in the door. If there’s a well-loved restaurant or shop nearby, you could have some of their food or products on hand to show off the local flavor. Simplify things by not providing any alcohol and make sure anything you do offer appeals to the widest pool of buyers possible. Are you seeing a trend here?
JON: There are a few schools of thought in regards to staging a home. It can be one of the most daunting aspects of a new agent’s career, since it can feel like your open house’s success is dictated by how well you can manage interior decorating. Though you may love a well-designed home, your own ability to decorate likely wasn’t the reason you got into real estate.
JON: Start simple. Once all the seller’s private possessions and valuables are stored away, paint any vibrant walls in a light, neutral hue. Bright purple walls or neon green bathrooms will only deter any interested parties, and they definitely don’t photograph well. If the seller’s furniture doesn’t fit your staging vision, you could rent new furniture. In the event of a totally empty home, you could bring an iPad with virtual staging apps pre-loaded to give buyers an idea of all the possibilities of a space.
JON: Speaking of technology, there are a lot of great ways to upgrade your open house with technology while making it easy for you to follow up afterwards. Have a tablet by the door with a sign-up sheet on it for guests to fill out. If you get really smart with it, this sign-up form will directly input each entry into your CRM system, where you can send them an email after the event to thank them for stopping by.
JON: David Childers is the VP of Content and Marketing at Keeping Current Matters, which offers research and industry insights for the working agent. David is a fan of systems, and hosting an open house can be easily conquered if you follow the right system. Here’s David:
DAVID: The thing that I would do right now, I'm just gonna be a little bit of a different spin maybe is go search and go find Tom Ferry's mega open house strategy and follow that best in the business out there right now.
JON: Who's Tom Ferry for those who don't know?
DAVID: Tom Ferry is, you can go to this website is the number one real estate coach in the US, is really taking what I would say his knowledge, what to do with that knowledge. So the action and then ultimately as a coach giving you the accountability to say, Hey, this is what I want to do. So that in the market today is the winning formula, you know what to do, you know, how do they go apply it and you have people that you've invited into your life to say, hey, did you go and make the number of calls? Did you do the number of things? You said you wanted to have this open house and you were going to have this, this and this as components. Did you do that? This is where I see great agents winning a market.
JON: After the break, we talk about incorporating social media, what to print, and why you should never invite your seller to their own house.
JON: When the open house is sparkly and beautiful and ready to roll, start posting about it on social media. Stream a short walk-through video on Facebook Live, and post a few snaps on Instagram, while paying special attention to hashtags. Buyers out for a day of open houses in your area will very likely be searching any relevant hashtags.
JON: Once visitors are in your open house, make sure they don’t leave empty-handed. You don’t need a leatherbound book for them to lug home, but a single page printout showing the floorplan, FAQs, and any pertinent HOA information will go a long way. You could also host a contest, raffle, or giveaway of some kind to encourage them to stick around longer. Even if the open house doesn’t bring out your buyer, you’ll at least add a few new contacts to your list.
JON: If you work in luxury real estate, all of the limitations we’ve been discussing fly right out the window. Obviously you won’t go above and beyond on the open house for every single listing you have, since there are some that just don’t warrant or can’t accommodate a big dog and pony show. If the price point is particularly high, or if you know the house will result in a bidding war, then that’s your opportunity to provide an experience wholly unique to that house.
JON: Each open house is an opportunity to tell that home’s story. If the house includes a dock, park a boat at it. A giant garage might beg to be filled with a sleek sports car to give potential buyers ideas on what their lives could be like, if only they owned that house.
JON: Regardless of the price point of your open house, never allow the seller to attend. They’re too attached and will only distract you and any visitors from the house itself. Never leave pets in or around the house, and make sure to lock up any valuables regardless of how great you think you are at keeping an eye on things.
JON: Lars Hedenborg is the founder of Real Estate B-School, where he coaches agents how to scale their business. Lars grew a thriving real estate business in just a few short years, and was able to hire and train a staff so efficient that he only works one day a week. Here’s Lars:
LARS: So if you're going to work an open house and you think you're going to show up on Saturday, a half hour before the open house and you're going to put up, you know, one sign in the front of the neighborhood and you know, assign a turn sign and then a couple of balloons on the mailbox and you wonder why nobody shows up. You know, we don't do a whole lot more than that. We do about three days worth of advertising, ahead of time and some different things that we do. But we put out 50 signs the day of the open house. So it's obnoxious how many signs that we put out. But we'll get, you know, anywhere from 10 to 30 people show up and that will generate, you know, one to five potential leads at an open house. Because at the open house we have items of value.
LARS: They're like real tangible items of value when we asked them to, to survey the house and give us a survey and give us their contact information. And so it's just a deliberate process. We know that, yeah, we're trying to sell the house and we know you know that it's likely they're not going to buy the house. And so if we can do something a little different than the average agent, even scripting when they walk in, how we, how we greet them. So it's a deliberate process. I mean, as a system we coach to now and I just think if you just gave it some thought, you know, like magically, you know, it'll work if you get it some thought and then commit to not doing one open house, commit to 24 to 48 open houses this year. If you're an agent and if you're in an office and you don't have listings, just find agents that will let you hold their houses open and then commit over 48 open houses.
LARS: How to become really good at doing them. Because if you do one open house, you're not going to do a second. If you do 12 and then you're like, okay, let me evaluate. You know how this is going, like podcasting. I'm 80 episodes in, I'm going to evaluate it every hundred episodes. I've already committed to a thousand episodes and every 10% I'm going to say, is this working? How can I tweak the script? You know where I get a better interview in shorter time where it's more punchy and more people stay. You know, I'm just, it's long term. I just don't think agents think that way. They think magically money's just going to show up and it doesn't.
JON: In the days after your open house wraps, make sure you follow up with everyone who signed in. If you can remember details about the person, that’s great, but at the very least you should send them a short email thanking them for coming and letting them know you’re always available to answer any of their real estate questions.
JON: It’s easy to view an open house as a way to gauge interest in a single afternoon, but you need to view it through a longer lens. Hosting a great open house could have a huge long-term impact on your business, and could help your listings generate more buzz. Besides, who knows what kinds of fascinating and helpful people might show up to your open house, if only you market and stage it well enough to appeal to them.
JON: That’s it for this episode of Shop Talk, thanks for listening! If you enjoyed the discussion on open houses, you can subscribe and leave us a glowing review on your podcast player of choice. Join us next time for a discussion with David Childers, VP of Content and Marketing at Keeping Current Matters.
JON: Shop Talk is a production of The CE Shop.