- Agent safety is a primary concern for those who don't hold open houses.
- New partnership between Adwerx and Spacio could make open houses even more effective for agents who hold them.
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Frank Miles is head of the Miles Real Estate Team at Keller Williams in Nashville, Tennessee. I asked him his take on open houses.
“There’s definitely value in open houses. From the sellers point of view, I think it creates a buzz around the neighborhood and it allows potential buyers — even the ones without agents — to see the home.”
I am intrigued by the industry’s outlook on open houses in light of a recent integration announcement from paperless open house platform Spacio and digital advertising company Adwerx that promises to quickly augment the impact of an open house.
Open house visitors who sign in to an event with their email address on Spacio are automatically added to the listing agent’s database of contacts to be reached via Adwerx’s retargeting technology.
The integration is a really sharp combination of fundamental marketing strategy and technology-driven lead generation.
“I’m a huge fan of open houses,” said Leslie Ebersole, team leader of the Brix Group in the Fox Valley office of Baird & Warner in St. Charles, Illinois. “Agents who say open houses don’t work don’t do them enough, or they don’t have the particular skill it takes to interact with people in an open house setting.”
Ebersole cautioned that “technology should be used to create engagement, not as a substitute for engagement … agents who excel in open houses are those who also have the systems in place to perform follow-up.”
The Spacio/Adwerx collaboration is meant to automate a multi-tiered follow-up strategy for users. It’s all about simplifying the very process required to make open houses successful.
“This partnership helps agents reach customers pre-, during and post-open house,” said Melissa Kwan, CEO and co-founder of Spacio.
Many agents still remain skeptical about open houses.
Emmy Simpson is a Realtor at Realty One Group Mountain Desert in Tuscon, Arizona who believes agent safety isn’t given its due in the open house discussion: “Even with someone along with you, which I strongly advocate, sometimes it’s just impossible to keep track of everyone who is in the house … what they’re doing, opening and so on.”
Spacio’s iPad-based registration pulls a visitor’s social profile into it’s lead report, which could help further identify a person’s identity.
Granted, people aren’t obligated to have a social media presence. And no safety mechanism on an iPhone can make help instantly appear.
When I asked the Inman Coast to Coast Facebook group why agents don’t offer open houses, co-founder and Realtor at the Speicher Group at Long & Foster Real Estate in Olney, Maryland Chris Speicher agreed with Simpson that open houses can be safety risks for agents.
“How would you like complete strangers walking through your home while you weren’t home? That whole practice is ridiculous. Can buyer leads be generated, of course, but that’s not the goal of holding your client’s home open,” he wrote.
Safety wasn’t the only concern, though. Simpson thinks that open houses aren’t worth it in fast moving markets like hers.
“As far as not having the time, homes are moving so quickly that by the time you get things set up for an open house, you’re under contract … I’d much rather be out showing homes to buyers than sitting on my butt for three or four hours.”
As powerful as the Spacio/Adwerx combo can be, technology may also be playing a role in weakening the argument for open houses.
Teke Wiggin reported that the number of people making offers on homes without physically touring them has increased significantly.
Citing statistics from Redfin, Wiggin wrote, “Thirty-three percent of people who purchased a home in the last year bought the property sight-unseen, up from 19 percent last year and 21 percent two years ago.”
Redfin used that data to justify offering 3-D home tours for all of its listings.
Kwan told me her software has registered more than 100,000 open house visitors thus far and is close to an agreement that will add 60,000 more agents to the Spacio user base.
That kind of investment in an open house technology might suggest that the open house never really fell out of favor with customers, but rather with agents who didn’t understand how to best leverage their benefits.
Miles wouldn’t describe himself as a champion of open houses. Instead, he sees them as an alternative to more expensive online options.
“They are nowhere near the ROI of your current sphere, but definitely better and much cheaper than internet leads. We do at least one for every house.”
To echo Ebersole’s statement about technology as an engagement tool, the open house — like much of the real estate industry — is being made better by technology.
While personal safety trumps all other concerns (in 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 47 deaths in the real estate industry during 2013), open houses remain largely low-risk.
When they go well, it’s critical for agents to remain in touch with every prospect who showed up, either directly or through a buyer’s agent.
Both Spacio and Adwerx are engagement tools. Their intent is to help agents more efficiently connect with their audience.
From this technology champion’s position, more integrations like this will make the open house a more powerful lead generator; and most importantly, they will help agent’s sell more homes.
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