Are you interested in having open houses that actually appeal to potential buyers?

Steve Kantor of BestAgentBusiness.com has been conducting regular studies of what consumers want from their real estate buying and/or selling experience. His past consumer surveys show that agents should dump their pictures from their mailers (Who do agents think they are — movie stars?) and that virtually everyone detests receiving cold calls.

Are you interested in having open houses that actually appeal to potential buyers?

Steve Kantor of BestAgentBusiness.com has been conducting regular studies of what consumers want from their real estate buying and/or selling experience. His past consumer surveys show that agents should dump their pictures from their mailers (Who do agents think they are — movie stars?) and that virtually everyone detests receiving cold calls.

His latest research asked consumers to share their perspective on open houses. Much of what he found goes back to the fundamentals in the business — the basics still work.

Here are the primary highlights from his most recent research:

1. The basics
Consumers expect the open house to be sparkling clean, the landscaping beautifully maintained, fresh towels and linens in all the baths, a fire in the fireplace, and fresh flowers throughout. Ask the seller to depersonalize the rooms by putting away family photos, mementos, and distinctive artwork. Have soft music playing in the background. Keep children occupied while their parents are viewing the property with coloring books or other activities. If there is an awkward room, make sure it is properly decorated to show buyers how it is best used.

Market the property in local papers, on Craigslist.com, on other open house sites, as well as to other agents who work the area. Also, make sure to have plenty of signs directing visitors to the property. Most respondents said that colorful balloons were a good way to attract their attention.

2. If you feed them, they will come
Virtually everyone surveyed recommended serving food, preferably something homemade such as chocolate chip cookies, brownies, or apple pie. Others suggested having open houses at different times and using food as a main attraction. For example, you could hold a "Brunch" open house on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or "Happy House" on a weeknight from 5:30 to 6:30. (Consider using non-alcoholic drinks to avoid liability issues.) You could also do an evening open house with champagne and hors d’oeuvres. The point is to make it an occasion that motivates people to attend and shows how much fun it is to live in the property. A different approach is to ask the seller to have a "pre-open" house party where they invite their friends, much like a Tupperware or Avon party.

3. Aromas matter
The number one scent that the survey respondents said they liked was chocolate chip cookies. They also emphasized eliminating unpleasant smells including pet odors. Make sure the sellers avoid cooking foods that leave a strong smell after the meal is served. Also, avoid plug-in air fresheners since many people said they were allergic to them.

4. Give me, give me, give me
Almost everyone surveyed indicated that having a giveaway would motivate them to attend an open house. Suggestions included discount coupons for furniture, a reduction in title or mortgage fees, or a complimentary home warranty policy if the buyers purchased from attending the open house. Also recommended were bottles of wine, tickets to local sporting events, movie tickets, calendars with local school events, and refrigerator magnets.

5. Create a theme
Have an open house featuring local artists. Include pictures of their work on your open house brochure and in your web advertising. For historical homes, provide a printed history of the area or invite a local expert to give a lecture at the property. Contact local antique dealers to see if they would be willing to display some of their wares that are appropriate to the era in which the house was built.

If the property is located near a medical center or major hospital, consider using a health theme such as, "Good health starts at home." Advertise in the med center and hospital publications. Invite a nurse to be on site to check blood pressure. Provide "heart-healthy" snacks like fruit and nuts. If the house has health-promoting features such as special air or water filters, emphasize those as well.

6. Additional consumer suggestions
Hide the fliers. Don’t hand them a flier right away or leave them sitting out. Make them work for it. Have a conversation about the home instead.

Use your laptop to show comparable sales including virtual tours of other comparable properties.

Turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes to make the lawn sparkle and use wood chips to cover bare spots under swing sets or other high traffic areas.

Advertise on college campuses to reach "nontraditional" students who are looking for their first homes. You also have the benefit of reaching the professors as well.

For advertising, Scout troops often are eager to raise money to fund their trips or camps. Hire them to help with cleanup of properties or distribute fliers. You can also invite the seller and/or open house visitors to make donations to the troop that helps you.

Have visitors rate the house on a scale of one to five. Ask if they would like to know about other open houses and, if so, whether they prefer to be contacted with a postcard, text, e-mail, or phone call.

If you want to hold great open houses in the future and attract more open-house visitors, following the simple steps above is a great way to do it.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters" and "Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?" Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com  or visit her blog at LuxuryClues.com.

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