Are open houses a waste of time and resources? Or do they produce buyers for a home? Of course, the answer to these questions lies in the event itself. The success of an open house depends on the planning and execution, as well as your level of creativity.

  • Use an open house to build business opportunities, not just sell the home.
  • Capture leads and generate buzz by having attendees check into a Facebook page.
  • Stage the home with the help of your sellers and local interior design students.
  • Don't just sell the home; sell yourself as an agent.

Are open houses a waste of time and resources? Or do they produce buyers for a home? Of course, the answer to these questions lies in the event itself. The success of an open house depends on the planning and execution, as well as your level of creativity.

I talked to many different real estate agents who told me what they do to make their open houses stand out from the crowd and what they consider a profitable open house — even if they don’t get a buyer.

Open houses: Are they worth it?

Some real estate agents say that an open house is rarely worth it — it’s possible there won’t be an interested buyer at the home and, if that’s the case, it’s a waste of time, right? Wrong.

Open houses should be used as a lead generation tool. Sure, there are going to be people who will look into the home and possibly buy it, but in the end it’s only one person. As a Realtor, you should be using the open house to your advantage — to get clients.

Most potential homeowners attend open houses as a way to peek inside homes without setting up a committed appointment. If they’re at an open house, they’re probably just starting out on their real estate journey.

“Remember: chances are if they are in an open house, they do not have an agent,” Josh Wells, Realtor at Keller Williams Realty Kansas City North, said. “I hold opens to try and sell the home, but nine times out of 10, the buyer of the home will not be at the open house. You have to make your time worthwhile and make [the open house] a productive lead gen tool.”

By focusing on selling yourself as an agent at an open house, you could sell the home and get new leads and clients.

“It’s win-win,” Wells said. “The seller is happy we have people through the door and may get a buyer, and I’m picking up new business.”

Todd Ruckle, broker at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox and Roach, said hosting an open house allows customers a degree of independence.

“In today’s digital world, we find customers like to find their own home,” he said.

Not only that — but open houses also draw in buyers, something that Ruckle says he and his team have found a lot of success with.

“We have the largest team at BHHS,” Ruckle said. “We sell around 40 percent of our listings from someone walking into the open house.”

So yes, open houses sell a home. They also help the agent generate new business along the way — but only if the event is well-executed.

How to make your open house work for you:



Market the event with online and in-person means

Before an open house is even planned, the most important thing to focus on is how to get potential buyers inside the home. Of course, you’ll probably put up a listing on the MLS or post it on your site, but to ensure you have the most interested buyers coming, you need a multifaceted marketing plan.

Kenny Sperry, Realtor at Easton Real Estate, says he finds the most success with open houses if they’re well-marketed beforehand and that a combination of print and online methods produce the best results.

“The success of an open house depends largely upon the work put into marketing and building excitement before the big day,” Sperry said. “Social media, signs, emails and mailers really make the difference.”

A boosted Facebook post and a few shares could attract hundreds of more interested parties at the event than flyers would, though printed promotions shouldn’t be eliminated. Besides the obvious signs around the neighborhood and handing out flyers, printing some physical invitations and handing them out can help boost attendance at the event, especially if you invite the neighbors.

Lois Peterson, executive director of Referral Marketing for Re/Max and Royal LePage Realtors, said that inviting the neighbors an hour earlier for free food and drinks can bring a lot of traction to an open house event.

“As a neighbor, I am always wanting to know what is happening in my area and what my home might be worth in comparison, but I’m reluctant to go to the open house,” Peterson said. “[With this card,] now I have a personal invitation to attend!”

Rob Cooper, partner and agent and LAER Realty Partners, said he always walks around the neighborhood a week before the open house and invites the neighbors personally.

“The neighbors will come and create energy and discussion among buyers,” Cooper said. “It also makes buyers feel more at ease meeting potential neighbors and [lets them get a] better feel for the environment. This both drives sales and creates new connections. It’s a win-win.”

Many times neighbors will attend an open house and then reach out to their friends and family if they’re impressed with the home. Neighbor referrals can bring many potential buyers to the open house.

Another way to make sure you have people trickling into the home is to get creative with how you market the open house itself. If you have other real estate partners showing homes in the same area, group together and have an open house roundup.

Potential buyers can go from house to house and get a punch card filled. If they see all the houses, they can put their card into a drawing for some sort of prize, and then you’re able to capture information.

You could also hire food trucks to cater the event, which is always a sure way to bring people out of their homes and into the open house.

Get leads creatively

Don’t ask for visitors’ name, phone number and email address at check-in. Instead, get them to want to give you their information by doing a free drawing or giveaway.

Michael Oden, chief marketing officer at Real Estate Success, suggests offering a free drawing for movie tickets.

“Be sure to collect contact information from attendees and make sure to send out thank-you cards afterward,” Oden said.

Hava and Sean Johnston of Johnston Realty Group said they create a Facebook page for the property they’re selling and then use that to capture leads and boost knowledge of the open house. The couple says they offer a gift card giveaway and have the attendees check into the page on Facebook to enter the drawing.

“When buyers arrive, ask them to check in on Facebook instead of a notepad,” Sean Johnston said. “You’ll capture their Facebook profile for follow-up later, and all of their Facebook friends will see the property through the check-in.

“That will generate additional buzz … and potential buyers who weren’t even at the open house will end up messaging you asking questions about the property. It’s a really good lead capture system with a little marketing bonus on top.”

After you obtain the leads, make sure to follow up with each one. That might include using direct mailers as Oden suggested, or calling or emailing them to ask what they need help with in their search for a home.

The more personal you get with the follow-ups, the more you can understand each of the potential leads’ needs and how to help them get what they’re looking for in a home. Don’t let the leads sit there — you’ll only get more business from an open house by following up.

Stage the home

Next, make sure the open house is someplace that not only will make the attendees want to buy it but also want to stay and look around.

You can do that by thoroughly staging the property, Kimberly Cameron, Realtor and associate broker at Re/Max Properties West, said, even down to the last details.

“Stage the refrigerator, have it spotless and organized,” she said. “A serious buyer is opening closets and the refrigerator, so make it shine.”

Make sure every part of the home is cleaned and ready to be seen by potential buyers. That might mean hiring a cleaning company to get the home in shape or working with your sellers to create a spotless appearance.

Cameron also said that she bakes cookies for the event because they make the home smell great, but she makes sure they’re used as a reminder, not just a treat.

“Have them wrapped in individual bag of two with a business size flyer about the home as a takeaway for people when they leave,” she said.

Another way to make your open house stand out (and get more potential clients to the event) is to have an interior design student help stage the home. You can ask up-and-coming artists if they’d like to feature pieces on the walls.

That way, the students will let their friends and family know their work can be seen at the open house, which could bring even more potential clients to the home. If you want some more great staging tips that you can do yourself, go here.

Cameron also says putting information in the home about the neighborhood can be a great way to help potential buyers picture themselves in the home.

“Never assume a buyer is from down the street, they could be coming from across the country or the globe,” Cameron said. “A dear homebuyer letter from the seller can help to create an emotional connection [to the home] and help them experience living in the area and the convenience of the location.”

Making the home seem clean and familiar and establishing an emotional connection to the neighborhood can get buyers out to the home and the closing.

Sell yourself — and the home

During the open house, you’re not only trying to sell the home but also yourself as the agent. That means you should be knowledgeable and helpful, not a salesperson the entire time.

Broker Michael Rapaport said he removes the salesperson image right from the beginning.

“Make it relational at your initial encounter,” Rapaport said. “Remember, the goal is to not come across as a salesperson. That’s what turns the general public off and why Realtors don’t develop the relationship. You want to be easy to talk to so that people will easily give their contact info and want to work with [you].”

As an agent, you should also make sure you’re safe during the open house. Donna L. Brown, sales associate at Friedberg Properties and Associates, said you should use the buddy system as it keeps you safe but also helps make sure there are multiple people taking care of the potential customers who are arriving at the home simultaneously.

What great and creative tips do you have for agents doing an open house?

Whitney Baum-Bennett is the SEO Specialist at Landmark Home Warranty; see more of her content here.

Email Whitney Baum-Bennett.

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