Marketing

Will people pay to attend an open house?

How one agent started charging for open houses — and filling them up

We all know that a significant reason why agents hold open houses is not to sell the house, but rather to gather contact information of the potential buyers who are attending.

There are so many different ways to hold an open house. You can do what 90 percent of agents do: Put a sign out front with some balloons and place a “Hey, come to my open house” notice on the local multiple listing service (MLS).

You can do what 10 percent of agents do (and those are mostly Keller Williams agents): Knock on doors for two weeks, distribute ads with several directionals, and place a “Hey, come to my open house” notice on the local MLS.

You might even go as far as placing a small ad in the classified section of the newspaper to draw in some new prospects.

What about an incentive to attend? I’ve seen cookies and wine. I have even seen a $100 Visa card drawing. So here we sit, going into debt for holding an open house just to find possible buyers for the listing. And sellers seem to think that a stranger walking past is going to walk into their home and fall in love, write a cash offer and move in next week. We can all dream, right? Well, not when you get only three to four people attending your open house and one name that might be fake.

How can you get a guaranteed number of clients to your open house? How can you get all their accurate contact information? How can you get to know them without hard-selling? How can you make it more entertaining so that it makes an impression on your potential buyers? Hmmm …

6 ways empowered agents embrace disruption to drive success
Using technology to generate leads and win listings READ MORE

I started holding open houses that my clients pay to attend. I provide enough value to the visit that they are eager to pay to get in the door.

How do I do it? Below are seven steps to get people paying to step through the door of your open house.

1. Get your clients to agree to the open house. This is self-explanatory.

2. Find entertainment that is out of the ordinary. Maybe you’ll hire a psychic or hypnotist, book a small-town band or display work by a local artist who’s there to talk about the work. It has to be something that draws interest.

3. Set up a payment account with a site like eventbright.com so you can collect money for admission easily and privately. Your attendees will appreciate it.

4. Market the event through your clients’ sphere of influence (SOI), through the entertainer’s SOI and your own SOI, as well as using traditional marketing for the open house. Even do a Facebook event and invite everyone you know and everyone they know. You can even send out invitations.

5. Open early for the open house tour. Give your attendees a chance to check out the place without any distractions.

6. Start entertainment on time. Do not wait for everyone who has paid to make it.

7. End with a great food or drink to allow future clients to visit with entertainment and other attendees.

My last open house event had 35 in attendance. The entertainment ended at 3 p.m., but the party did not end until 7. Plan on a long day of fun, networking and no pressure sales!

Melinda Goodwin is a luxury real estate expert in St. George, Utah.

Email Melinda Goodwin.