Holding a decent open house may be one of the most important things any real estate agent will do. It’s a chance, obviously, to sell a house, but it’s also an opportunity to make connections and plant seeds that could bear fruit months or even years down the road. A good open house will help build your reputation as well as your client base. 25 to 55 per cent of sales are generated at these viewings, so make sure you do a good job. Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when putting together a viewing:
Think about the people who are coming to your open house. In many cases they’ll have been to a number of viewings already. You don’t want the home you’re selling to be just another in a sea of living rooms and lighting fixtures.
It's good to make the open house an event so that people can come and take a look at the house, but it’s also a way to meet people. To either sell them the property that we’re sitting in or sell them another property.
An open house is a lot like hosting guests. I still employ the tried and true methods like putting out a plate of cookies or a pot of fine coffee, but what’s even more important than a decent snack spread is setting a good atmosphere. Creating a space where people can talk, feel relaxed and comfortable asking questions is the key point.
And just like any good party, an open house needs invitations. There are always the obligatory signs posted around the neighbourhood, but emails and social media remain an invaluable tool. A tool that can help build your reputation, grow your business and just help foster a warm and friendly atmosphere.
I always do Facebook and Twitter and let people know I’m going to be at a house at a certain time. People who follow you may come by to say hello. And also I’ve found that oftentimes with an open house sellers will come to look for their agents, to look and see if the person sitting the open house represents them the way they want to be represented. So that can be a big plus.
You have to know the house.
Find out when the counters were put in, find out how old the lighting fixtures are and when the basement was finished. Your knowledge about the home should spring forth like liquid from the water feature in the backyard.
You have to understand things.
Sometimes I’ll come in and I’ll say to people ‘Hi, welcome—and just so you know, there’s a garage in the back and it has two cars and the basement is finished and it has an apartment in it. Enjoy your walk through and let me know if you have any questions at the end.’ That seems to work quite well.
If you’re creating an event where people feel safe and comfortable enough to ask questions you have to be able to answer them when they arise, but don’t overwhelm them with your knowledge either. Remember that buying a home is a huge step in people’s lives. Let them come to you.
There’s a lot of agents who will do an open house—they’ll open, but they won’t try and engage the people who come by, they won’t answer questions, or they don’t know the answer to questions and so they’re not successful. They just end up sitting there and not doing anything and wasting a perfect opportunity to make connections.
Depending on the neighbourhood and the popularity of the area, an open house can be a very busy few hours. Just because there’s a lot of foot traffic doesn’t mean you can be inattentive.
Some neighbourhoods’ open houses are more popular than others and they do get more traffic. But if you don’t have time to talk to anybody because there’s so many people going in and out then it’s going to be a difficult open house.
Oftentimes, the nicer the house, the more people come to see it. That can make it difficult to be as attentive as you’d like. If that’s the case it may be worthwhile to bring someone else in.
If there’s a crowd and because of the crowd you can’t talk to anybody, that’s going to be a tough one. In our team, sometimes we’ll double up. There’ll be two of us at an open house if we think it’s going to be busy.
When people do approach you, remember to listen to them. It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of things, but being attentive can yield positive results for everyone involved.
Ask them a question and listen to the answer. A lot of times agents don’t do that. They ask the question and then they ask another question. They don’t seem to lead properly. This can be a frustrating prospect when it becomes obvious that people aren’t necessarily interested in buying.
There are people who just want to go to the open house. They just want to see what’s going on. They’re just open house viewers. Sometimes they are quite interested but then they have good questions, but sometimes they’re just wanting to look.
Still, that’s no excuse to turn them away. You never know what brings people to your viewing.
There are some people that will come just to do open houses, but even though they’re not super interested in that house they might tell their friends.
Listening and engaging with your viewers doesn’t just show that you have good manners, it also helps build trust and new relationships. In her essay "On The Fine Art of Listening," Brenda Ueland says the people who "really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and want to sit in their radius as though it did us good."
This is good advice for anyone throwing an open house and leads very nicely into our next tip...
Every once in a while an agent tells me that they did the open house and there were 20 people that came through, but only two were ready to buy and they only value the two. It’s important not to discount the other 18 people.
The other people you saw may not be ready to buy now but they may be ready to buy in two years, so the value is in just making the connections. It doesn’t matter how or when or what part of the process they’re in.
Sure, there are people who will never buy a home, who just like to come for the free cookies and pleasant atmosphere but it’s dangerous to assume they’ll never be in the market for a home.
Sometimes you just make the connection and they remember you. People call me and say ‘Oh yeah, I kept your name. I remember you from the open house. You had a lot of information. I want you to do this or that or the other thing.’ So you’re basically putting yourself out there."
I guess it’s like going to a party and hosting it. Do you find out what people are doing, do you engage them in conversation, or do you just stand in the corner?
In many ways, throwing a good open house is about being polite. Create an event for people to be excited about, but make sure they’re comfortable, engaged and unafraid to ask questions. Be there for your guests if they have questions, make sure you really listen to what they have to say and don’t be turned off by anyone who’s just coming for a gander. Being rude or dismissive to them now could cost you a connection down the road.