John Grimes once hosted an open house for a listing that he didn’t represent. While the event didn’t reel in a buyer for the home, Grimes snapped up a client from the 10 or so people who showed up. That sparked a referral chain that led to three sales and two active clients today.

  • Agents are using tech to outsource more open houses to colleagues, sometimes offering or charging fees to hosts.
  • Meanwhile, open house sign-in apps are helping agents use open houses to generate and qualify more leads.
  • A wide range of online marketing channels and tools are also helping agents maximize open-house turnout.

John Grimes once hosted an open house for a listing that he didn’t represent.

While the event didn’t reel in a buyer for the home, Grimes snapped up a client from the 10 or so people who showed up. That sparked a referral chain that led to three sales and two active clients today.

Grimes was offered the chance to host the open house through an online platform that lets agents outsource open houses to each other. He’s one of a growing number of agents who are leveraging technology to tap open houses for more business.

Open house tech helps increase ROI

John Grimes

John Grimes

Sign-in apps, digital marketing and software that let agents easily farm out open houses are helping agents use open houses to capture more clients and earn additional income.

Grimes got the open house gig that generated him five referrals by using a platform developed by his brokerage, Atlanta-based Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers.

Listing agents can post open house “donations” on the platform for colleagues to claim. They typically specify a fee they will pay to the host, perhaps $500, if a buyer who attends the event ultimately buys the home.

Open-house referral platforms gaining traction

Listing agents can also charge fees to hosts.

If an open house is likely to attract many buyers, listing agents may require a host to pay a referral fee if the host acquires a buyer client through the event.

Mark Broyles, another agent at Metro Brokers, says that he often uses the firm’s open house platform to produce four open houses on a single weekend. He makes sure his hosts know how to pitch his listings to visiting buyers, and he requires them to send reports on how the events pan out.

“I can load up every single open house, every single Sunday,” he said.

Screen shot showing an open house 'donation' page in Metro Brokers' open house platform.

Screen shot showing an open house ‘donation’ page in Metro Brokers’ open house platform.

‘Super Sunday’ at Metro Brokers

Metro Brokers, which has around 1,800 agents, milks its open-house platform for all it’s worth by hosting “Super Sunday” every month. It’s an open-house bonanza, offering consumers the chance to win $1,000 for visiting any Metro Brokers-hosted open house, which can number around 300, if they register their contact information.

Agents claim open house donations scheduled for Super Sunday not only due to the possibility of grabbing potential leads, but also because they stand to earn $500 if the open house they host attracts the winner of the $1,000 prize.

“The reason for that is because that drives the hosting agent … it inspires them to put registrations into the system,” said Craig McClelland, chief operating officer at Metro Brokers, speaking of the brokerage’s company-wide customer relationship management system.

Brytecore, a real estate startup recently spun out of Metro Brokers, plans to make a version of Metro Brokers’ open house platform available to other brokerages in mid or late-2016.

Quikshow, an app that lets agents bid out showings to colleagues, also plans to eventually roll out a feature that will enable agents to easily outsource open houses to other agents.

Quikshow was created by three agents at Frisco, Texas-based JP & Associates Realtors, and was recently released after beta testing by around 120 agents at the brokerage.

Yapmo, a communication platform used by a number of brokerages, is another tool agents can use to methodically farm out open houses.

Metro Brokers' 'Super Sunday' web page invites users to return to the site to browse open houses in early December.

Metro Brokers’ ‘Super Sunday’ web page invites users to return to the site to browse open houses in early December.

Publicity is king — and easier than ever

Technology has also likely helped agents boost turnout for open houses, increasing their potential to yield business. In the past, agents could only use labor-intensive marketing practices that offered limited reach, such as putting up signs, distributing flyers and door-knocking. Today, they can combine those time-honored techniques with digital marketing.

Josh Montgomery, a Long Beach, California-based agent, offers a laundry list of tactics including: throwing up a notice on Craigslist and other classified ad sites, scheduling an open house on Zillow, posting a “pre-open house video” and notices on social networks, creating an Eventbrite event and running ad campaigns on Facebook and Google.

Lead sign-up tech

Wesley Stanton, a team leader at New York City-based Douglas Elliman, uses another type of technology that’s helping agents get more out of open houses: an open house sign-in app.

His tool of choice? Spacio Pro, an iPad app that invites open house attendees to enter their names, email addresses and phone numbers. Similar apps include AM Open House and Open House Toolkit. They help agents do a better job of capturing the contact information of open house attendees and converting those prospects into clients.

“It really mainly helps you organize things in a way that’s a lot more efficient and saves you a lot of time in the office,” he said, referring to Spacio Pro’s ability to capture, export and automatically contact leads.


Spacio Pro's sign-in page.

Spacio Pro’s sign-in page.

Spacio also integrates with two customer relationship management systems, Top Producer and Contactually, enabling some agents to seamlessly pull prospects into their contact database.

Besides nabbing contact information, sign-in apps can also help agents massage their brand. Spacio recently began enabling agents to display testimonials sourced from RealSatisfied, so the first thing people see upon entering an open house are resounding endorsements from the host’s past clients.

Spacio CEO Melissa Kwan sees open house sign-apps benefiting agents the most by qualifying leads.

Spacio Pro can prompt visitors to answer questions such as whether they are working with another agent or if they’re prequalified for a mortgage. It’s working on matching leads with information from social media profiles to help agents gain insight into prospects, while weeding out those who enter fake contact information.

Where are the beacons?

Beacons were briefly thought to be the next big thing for open houses. Buyers would enter a home and receive notifications about highlights as they toured a property.

That didn’t pan out. The barrier to adoption is too high, said Kwan, whose startup, Spacio, worked on developing beacon technology for open houses before focusing on its sign-in app. The problem is that open house visitors must download an app that synchronizes with beacons in order to enjoy their benefits, she said.

But smartphones might not require users to download apps to communicate with beacons in the future, at least raising the possibility that they could eventually enhance open houses.

Do open houses actually help sellers? 

While technology may be helping agents get more out of open houses, whether they benefit sellers has become a matter of dispute.

Publicizing open houses may have been an effective way to attract buyers before the Internet, but property search sites and listing alerts ensure that all serious buyers immediately find out about homes that match their preferences when those properties hit the market, open house detractors say.

“It’s a great way to get paid to prospect for new clients … but it’s not going to get a seller’s home sold,” wrote Mike Minihan, CEO of Atlanta-based Terrace 24 Realty, in a blog post casting open houses as a “pacifier” for sellers.

Agents who frequently hold open houses predictably take a different view.

Hosting an open house is an effective way for agents to demonstrate to sellers that they are doing everything they can to sell a home, advocates say.

When asked if that demonstration of commitment also actually helps a client sell a home, open house supporters often cite cases where open house visitors have written offers on the spot.

Buyers are more likely to pull the trigger at open houses than ever before because the Internet has enabled so many to have already figure out exactly what they want, they say.

“I believe in today’s world that open houses are much more relevant than they were in the past because consumers have data that’s so accessible that without the guidance of an agent they move further down the pipeline,” McClelland said.

The benefit of open houses to sellers may also vary from market to market. In areas with sharp inventory shortages, sellers often only have to show a home once, at an open house, to receive multiple bids, said Michael Lane, president of ShowingTime, a showing-scheduling tool that’s built into multiple listing services across the country.

That’s part of the reason why some MLSs covering red-hot markets haven’t chosen to implement ShowingTime, he said.

“Most of them have expressed interest,” he said, speaking of such MLSs. “But when there’s no showings (besides the open house), they don’t really need to make appointments.”

Email Teke Wiggin.

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