Before the internet completely redefined the real estate market, open houses were one of the most effective ways to showcase a home. Everyone interested in touring a house could do so — all at the same time, which not only minimized prep time for sellers and real estate agents but also conveniently kept several potential buyers together in one place.

So with the onset of virtual tours and the majority of homebuyers relying primarily on the internet to find a home, can open houses still work?

The short answer is yes, but you’ll need to employ some important strategies to make the most of one. Using the following tactics can improve the effectiveness of your open house:

Consider curb appeal

When it comes to open houses, first impressions matter — anyone who drives past an “open house” sign will immediately gauge their interest based on the exterior of the building. Besides that, buyers who hear about the open house might drive by the property first to see if it’s worth attending.

Either way, the exterior of the home should be set to impress. Spend time cleaning and polishing it. Make sure the yard is green and vibrant, and make the siding as clean as possible.

Advertise well in advance

The more time you have to generate interest in your open house, the more potential buyers you’ll have in attendance. Rely on multiple advertising methods, including signage, online ads and even word-of-mouth, starting several weeks before the open house is set to begin.

Change the lighting

Lighting in the home is more important than you realize, and you’ll have ample opportunity to get creative with it. Natural lighting will show off the true beauty of the home, while internal lighting can help you focus on key features that will make the house easier to sell. For example, you might shine a light on an interesting centerpiece, or show off the kitchen island.

Clean everything

It should go without saying, but make sure you clean everything from top to bottom. This is especially important for sellers who own pets. One rogue stain or smell shouldn’t be enough to compromise an entire home sale, but if it leaves a negative impression with an otherwise interested buyer, it could ruin the deal.

In general, the fewer “things” your seller has out during the open house, the better. Furniture and personal items should be kept to a bare minimum, to allow for more open space and a more neutral scene for your visitors.

Rearrange the furniture

If you’re creative, you can rearrange the remaining furniture in a way that shows off the size and features of each room. For example, you might position the living room couches in a way that allows for more walking space and highlights just how open the house really is.

Make more information available

This isn’t just about the house; it’s about the buying experience. Accordingly, you’ll want to make more information available to your buyers, including details about home loans and information about the neighborhood.

Educated buyers are more likely to move forward.

Offer food and drink

It’s always good practice to have cookies baking before an open house — not only does it provide buyers with a delicious treat during the tour, but it also fills the home with the comforting smell of baked goods.

Cookies aren’t the only option, though, as long as you offer some kind of food or drink to make buyers feel more welcome and make the experience more memorable.

Keep the sellers out of the picture

Your seller might be interested in attending the open house as well, whether it’s to help find buyers or supervise their home. Unfortunately, the sellers’ presence can make buyers feel uncomfortable, so it’s much better to leave them out of it altogether.

Listen to buyer feedback

Listen to what people are saying about the home. Is there one ugly feature that most of them seem stuck on? Is the consensus that you’re asking too much money for the home?

This is a good opportunity to learn what people think, and adjust your expectations and strategies accordingly.

The follow-up

It’s highly unlikely that anyone will make a perfect offer the day of the open house, though you might get lucky if you have all the right pieces in place. Instead, the burden will be on you to follow up with your most promising leads, and guide them through the next stages of the homebuying process.

Don’t let your leads sit for too long, but don’t use too much pressure either; if you’ve made a good enough first impression, they’ll be eager to move forward with the next steps of the process.

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher and business consultant specializing in entrepreneurship, technology and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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