With the summer housing market in full-swing, it's time to ramp up your marketing efforts to get your clients' homes sold. In addition to your traditional marketing and lead-generation channels, try holding open houses as well. 

HomeSmart's designated broker, Laurie McDonnell, is an advocate of the power and benefits of open houses. In promotion of HomeSmart's National Open House Weekend this July 14 and 15, we're sharing a recently-published RISMedia article where Laurie focuses on what it takes to hold a successful open house in "The Art of Holding an Open House".

The Art Of Holding An Open House

By Laurie McDonnell

There are a lot of folks out there that think holding an open house is only useful if you are looking for new buyer leads, not for selling a home. But, that’s not true. Houses do sell as a result of holding an open house, but you need to do more than set a sign outside and unlock the door. You need a strategy.

Plan for It

When selecting a property for an open house, careful planning needs to take place.

Location is important. Before selecting an open house property, consider choosing one that’s easily accessible from major streets or has few turns. When it’s hard for buyers to get in and out of properties, you may find that you’ll get less traffic coming through your open house.

Work with the seller's schedule. If you have a family residing in the home, the open house will have to be on their schedule. However, if the property you’re showing is vacant, you won’t need to be concerned with scheduling restrictions.

The time of day and day of the week of the open house make a difference. Generally speaking, Sundays mid-afternoon to late afternoon are known to be the best times to have an open house. But, there are agents that even hold open houses after school and work hours on the weekdays. You just need to know the area, what your market is like and who your buyers might be, and be sure to adjust accordingly for that. Each neighborhood is different, so buyer demographics and habits need to be taken into consideration.

Make sure the house will show well. How people live in a home and how you visually prepare to sell a home are very different. It should be clean and possibly staged a bit so buyers can envision themselves living in the home.

Bring supplies and a few essentials. If the house is vacant, you might need a chair and a table. If you want the house a little tidier, it’s a good idea to bring things to sweep or wipe down counters or clean floors. Don’t forget a sign-in sheet, printed information about the property, your business cards or other marketing materials.

Get Creative

Get creative and go above and beyond what people normally come to expect in an open house. For example, if you have a house on the lake, make it a lake-themed open house. Staging the home with themed touches, food and drink or coordinating staging decor would set the vibe for what living in the home might feel like. When buyers come in, you want them experience it-- what it’s like to live there. Another idea is hiring a food truck for a couple of hours during the open house. For example, some agents have waffle trucks if it’s an open house in the morning.

Establish Beneficial Relationships

Real estate is a relationship-building business. Partner with affiliates and ask them to attend the open house with you. This could be lenders, movers, a title company or anyone in the industry that’s part of the home-buying experience. They’re there to be able to fully answer questions that you, as an agent, may not have the expertise to answer.

Typically, these other companies are very open to the idea of being present at the open house. It’s a great opportunity and good exposure for them, too. Plus, when the conversations between you, the buyers and affiliates occur, you build rapport and that’s the best way to meet leads: in person.

Master Your Marketing

As a listing agent, your responsibility is to expose that house to the market as much as you can, and this is crucial from the seller’s perspective. This means letting as many people know about that property as possible and open houses are just one facet of that.

When marketing your open house, aim for high-impact activities-- you can’t just put signs out on a Sunday and throw an open house together. You plan, you door-knock, you make flyers, send an evite to let people know, post on social media-- it’s almost a community event at this point. Folks in the neighborhood post and share on social, giving you even more exposure.

Be Consistent

Holding open houses is more effective when you are consistently and actively hosting them. Try holding an open house twice a month or four times a month, but don’t expect to do it once every six months and see the return on that. Each time you hold an open house, it increases your expertise-- you know what works and what doesn’t and it just becomes part of your business strategy.

Know How To Connect With Buyers

As potential buyers visit the open house, you need to be ready to interact with them efficiently and effectively. Don’t overwhelm them with being too focused on the sale, that will scare them off. Think of yourself more as a source of information. If they are interested enough in visiting the open house, they are likely interested in the learning more about the neighborhood, schools, shopping or anything that may have to do with your hyper-local expertise. Although we are increasingly doing business with on-demand consumers, at the end of the day, people still want to touch, see and feel. For buyers, open houses are beneficial because they can experience what living in the home might be like without the pressure of buying or setting up an appointment with an agent. Of course, you ultimately want to gather their information if you can, but only if it’s conducive to the conversation. Most importantly, you should focus on learning where they are at in their search for a new home and if they have an agent they are working with already.

Make open houses part of your business model, they do work! But, be ready to prepare a solid strategy and invest some time and effort into hosting them. Agents that have been successful with open houses have built their careers doing them from the beginning, but it’s never too late to start. If you’re a new agent, open houses are a hands-on approach to familiarizing yourself with your local markets, building your experience showing homes and becoming comfortable conversing with potential buyers.

Laurie McDonnell is the designated broker at HomeSmart and has more than 25 years of experience in the real estate industry, including 10 years as a designated and consulting broker with other brokerages.
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