As I celebrate my fifteenth year in real estate, I’m looking back on many experiences and moments over the course of my career thus far. It’s always interesting to think back on the plenty of awkward occasions when I felt inexperienced and unprepared as a rookie — even in situations that, at this point, are second nature.
Over time, I’ve learned a great deal during open houses, a run-of-the-mill activity in the lives of many real estate agents. As an enthusiastic, newly licensed associate, I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to host an open house for a seasoned agent’s listing.
Her instructions were simple enough: print flyers, place a sign out front, and sell the house.
But I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing when it came to actually selling the house or even what to do beyond welcoming buyers. Overlooking seemingly minor details had a huge impact; for instance, the house thermostat was set to 50 degrees in winter on a 5,000-square-foot vacant home.
Buyers left within a few minutes because it was so cold inside, and I wore my coat the entire time — not exactly an inviting environment for anybody. The listing agent hadn’t mentioned the temperature, and it hadn’t occurred to me.
It was a prime example of a rookie Realtor being thrown to the wolves and being reactive to a situation, rather than proactive. Now, as a seasoned agent myself, I’ve learned a great deal — and continue to gather knowledge and insights every day. Here are a few key things I’ve picked up along the way:
1. If you’re hosting for another agent, ask the right questions beforehand.
Ask if you can preview the home prior to the open house, especially if it is a vacant property. Make sure the property aligns with your image and represents a home you would be proud to show.
On that preview tour, make notes: the home needs a quick sweeping around the back door, a spray of air freshener, removal of leaves on the front porch, etc.
Along with flyers, pack a broom and a few other supplies in your trunk. Those will make things go more smoothly on the day of the open house event, and they’ll give the home and your professional image a much more polished look.
2. Promotion is key for good traffic — and as a courtesy to the neighbors.
A few days before the open house, visit the neighbors, and invite them to the open house. Besides being a nice gesture, it gets them in your corner — and they might be your biggest promotional tool yet! Even if they don’t actually show up, they will view you as an agent who went the extra mile for the seller.
Know your local sign ordinance rules, and follow them to the letter. When placing directional signs, knock on the door of the property owner where the sign is being placed. Ask for permission, thank them, offer your business card, and let them know to call you if for some reason the sign needs to be moved.
Along with signs, carry a large water bottle in case the area has hard, dry soil. And before you load the signs into your car, of course, make sure they are clean.
3. Arrive early on the big day.
Arrive at the open house at least 20 minutes early, turn on all lights and open blinds. Create a space in the kitchen where you can display property flyers and a sign-in sheet.
Have some information about the community, schools and the HOA newsletter on hand, alongside your business cards. If you represent a builder and this is a new-construction home, it is OK to have information on other properties nearby under construction.
But if this is a resale home, do not publicly display information on other competing homes.
I also bring along my listing presentation and statics on the neighborhood — items that stay inside my notebook and are only be brought out for that specific buyer or seller who has direct questions.
If a potential buyer has questions you can’t answer or wants more in-depth information, let him or her know that you will follow up via email that evening. Follow up when you say you will — stick to your word, and don’t delay.
Make sure you are up to speed on the neighborhood so that you can be up-to-date on current news, such as the new school or zoning changes. Buyers will put you on the spot, so be ready! And if you don’t know, be honest, and tell them you will follow up with them.
4. Master the art of small talk.
Small talk leads to big talk. Be able to make simple conversation, and practice it.
During college, I worked at a local television station, and the news director would always remind us that leading with weather was a win and generated good ratings.
Even though it sounds boring, weather is a universal conversation piece. In the summertime, I always thank my open house guests by saying thanks for braving it on this 90-degree day, this house has a cool AC unit, so take your time as you walk around.
Once you break the ice, ask them questions about the buying and selling process. Ask whether they have an agent and what is motivating the search.
Another tried-and-true way to break the ice is the old line of “you look so familiar,” then ask where they grew up. So many times, we do find a common thread can build a connection.
But most importantly, be genuine, kind and smile. Your smile might be the only one they see all day.
5. It’s not over when it’s over.
At the completion of the open house, make sure you do a complete property check. Sweep up if you served snacks, turn off lights, and make sure candles are never left burning (even if seller left them burning for the open house).
Check all of the doors and windows to ensure none were left unlocked, and double-check the gates entering the yard to the property. Immediately call the seller or listing agent and provide feedback.
If they have pets, have them double-check the gates before letting pets back out.
Pick up your signs in the area immediately, head back to your office or home, and get to work! Make a list of the items that you felt worked well during the open house, things that didn’t work and what items you were missing for the next time.
And don’t forget to follow up with the guests by way of a handwritten note card if possible. It’s an old tradition that always adds a nice touch.
In short, always be a student of your industry. Stand out so that clients know you were not just someone from MTV Cribs showing them around the house — make sure they see your professionalism shine every step of the way.
Regardless of the price point of the home, these same rules always apply. Even if you are in a lower-priced home, it might well be an investor coming into preview, on the hunt for a good listing agent, or it may be a neighbor who just received word of a relocation. Professionalism and a warm smile will go a long way on the road to success.