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How to Plan the Perfect Open House

Have you ever spent time and energy planning an Open House, just to have less than five people attend? Have you ever had a ton of people show up at your Open House, and been unable to convert a single one of them into a sale or a future client? Are you unsure about why your Open House failed?

Open Houses are now more important to the real estate agent than ever. A report in 2015 by the National Association of Realtors Home Buyers and Sellers indicated that 48% of home buyers cited the Open House as an important source for most of their information. The reasons for this are obvious, for many it’s the first time that they’re getting to smell, see, and feel the home in person. It’s also a way to see what other people think of the house, which is a powerful push in a person’s perception of a particular home.

I’m Cindy Bishop of Cindy Bishop Worldwide. I pride myself not only on being a successful real estate agent with over 28 years of experience, but a knowledgeable and helpful trainer and coach. I’m committed to making everyone who comes into contact with me succeed, and have compiled the following open house tips for you, both from my own experience, as well as teaching and coaching friends of mine. Use them to succeed, and contact me if you have any questions at all!

Here are the best ways to make your Open House perfect:

1. Pick a unique property, that’s easy to find.

We often don’t have control over which property we’re showing, but when we are able to select a house at which to host an Open House event, we should look for properties with the following:

* A direct route to them with very few turns. Street names are easy, and street signs are visible.

* Properties that are well kept, and visually pleasing from both the inside and outside.

* A home with some kind of “conversation starter”. It has a unique feature, and is not just four walls. It might have an infinity pool, a walk-in closet, or a newly redesigned kitchen.

* Your signage should be larger than life. On the event day, you need something to make the signs stand out even more. Balloons are often used, or you could even try streamers, or pinwheels. Be creative, just try to find something professional, but that catches the light and people’s attention.

2. Have your Open House event at the right time.

* Don’t have your event after dark. Plan your event to end at sunset.

* Consider having a separate open house preview, for neighbors only. And then an open-to-the-public type of event later. Neighbors love this preview event concept, because it makes them feel special, and they love suggesting who should live in their neighborhood. It also allows them to start thinking of friends and family they want nearby, and they become part of your sales force for you, as well as your advertising force for the actual open house.

* If you do have an event only for neighbors, consider taking out a camera and interviewing and recording them talking about the neighborhood. This is something you can add to your website, or social media, or have on repeat loop during your Open House. For example, imagine how powerful it is to have a recorded testimonial from a mother in the area about the school district?

* Don’t pick a date and time where people are not available, for example, the majority of people work Monday through Fridays from 8am-5pm, and may not be free on a Wednesday at 3pm. Additionally, people are usually not free on holiday weekends.

3. Make your Open House event the right vibe, and the more exciting, the better!

* Entertaining music is a possibility, but be careful that it’s not distracting and that you avoid certain genres or language that may be offensive. Music may be seen as a way to cover up noises or mechanical failures in the house. Make sure that you’re sensitive to how the music is being perceived.

* Snacks are a must! Try wine and cheese, or beer and wings. The most important part about the food is that it needs to match what type of neighborhood you are in. Fried chicken and hamburgers probably aren’t appropriate at a million-dollar listing, but champagne and caviar probably aren’t appropriate in a first-time homebuyer situation, either. Just a word of caution; however, if you are serving alcohol, be very careful about who you serve. You may even want to get someone on your team to help you out with this. The last thing you need is for someone to drink at your open house as a minor, or someone to drive off over intoxicated and get into an accident. If in the right kind of setting, having comfort foods is especially welcoming and makes many visitors feel more at home. Careful to avoid foods with bad odors or smells, as you don’t want them attributed to the home.

* Consider leaving a hand-written sign to “Help Yourself” along with a list of ingredients, so that visitors feel like they are able to eat the snacks provided without fear.

* Consider having a slideshow or interactive photo board featuring the home at various times of year. You may want to show the home off in summer months, for example, if it’s currently January and the garden and pool are frozen over.

* Consider making a table, desk, or station with local school information, neighborhood information, etc. The more resources you can provide, the better. You want the guest to stop at this station and pour over the resources, and ask as many questions as possible.

* Make sure to engage each and every visitor so they have are interested, and want to stay longer.

4. Don’t just advertise your Open House, create buzz around it.

* Create an event on social media, and share it with all of your friends and clients, as well as everyone on your e-mail lists. Facebook ads have become an amazing resource for reaching a ton of people in your area that wouldn’t have been in your networks otherwise. And it’s incredibly cost-effective, for what it does. You should filter the Facebook ad to include only people in targeted zip codes. You can also un-invite or exclude people who work for other realtors or competing brokerages.

* Flyer surrounding businesses and schools in the area of the listing. Knock on as many doors as possible.

* Visit neighbors’ homes with nice newsletters or invitations. The nicer the invitation, the higher the chance that they will pop in to see what all of the fuss is about. Some agents even suggest using wedding style invitations.

* Don’t just advertise on one channel. You can try Facebook events, Twitter, your own website, your e-mail list, your newsletter, NextDoor.com, and even Craigslist. Just make sure you follow all of the appropriate advertising and marketing laws as designated by your brokerage and state laws.

5. Logistics, Logistics, Logistics

* Make sure everything is in order so that you look your best, and the house looks it’s best. it should be clean, light bulbs should be new, dust should be gone, air fresheners should be working, the climate should be controlled. I’ve even heard of certain agents baking cookies in advance of the big event so that the house feels and smells extra homey.

* Consider removing clutter, which makes navigating the home difficult. You can also remove or hide offensive art, or anything that might make someone feel uncomfortable. But be careful- make sure the homeowner doesn’t just throw the clutter into closets or cabinets! People care more and more about storage these days, and if it looks like the cabinets and closets are busting at the seams with junk, they’ll automatically assume that the amount of storage space in the house is not sufficient

* Use natural light to your advantage. Make sure all window treatments are open and all curtains are drawn. All light switches should be turned on, regardless of where they are. You don’t want someone afraid to go in the basement, or thinking they aren’t allowed to enter the garage.

* Make sure the home owner is not present. The last thing you need is them having an emotional breakdown because they are going down memory lane, or answering a question incorrectly. People also feel uncomfortable freeing roaming when the person who owns the property is looking over their shoulder.

* With that said, valuables, if left in the home, should be secured. At the very least, you should know what they are and where, and make an inventory of them. I strongly advise you insist that the home owner take them out of the property before the open house, so you’re not held liable for them in case of damage or theft.

* Use your team. If you are alone at an Open House, you may be spread too thin. If you leave for a minute to check that a sign on the corner hasn’t fallen down, you may miss someone who pops in to find no one there. Have one person for signage and the guest book, one person on food and drink detail, and that leaves you free to talk to and engage guests.

* Have a loan agent or lender on hand, in order to answer any potential questions the home buyer may have about the process.

* Make sure you have the necessary paperwork required. You can print out a copy of the MLS but it’s strongly suggested that you make a booklet, flyer, or something more personalized to the property, and to yourself.

* Make sure you know the neighborhood, and have done comparisons of values in the neighborhood. You may lose credibility if someone asks you a question and you’re unfamiliar with this territory, and I’m sure you’d rather look like a pro!

6. Use the Personal Touch

* It’s not enough to have each visitor sign in. You should take detailed notes on your conversation with each person. If you can’t remember this, a helpful suggestion is to hide a notebook or tablet inside a kitchen drawer, and make notes as the day goes by.

* You should remember one thing about each visitor and bring it up at some point during their tour of the home. “Jerry, wouldn’t this be an amazing place to store your golf clubs?”

* Don’t try to sell anyone. They will come to you, and request the information they need, when they need it. This is a time to establish relationships. Your only objective should be to make this home (and yourself) memorable.

7. Follow Up

* Add all visitors to your e-mail list, as well as your newsletter list. AM Open House is a great app and resource to make sure you’re keeping on task with this.

* For those visitors who were seriously interested in the home or in you, handwritten cards should be sent out thanking them for coming, and encouraging their business in the future. Take out that handy notebook you stashed, and make personal notes in each card. They’re more likely to keep it the more personal it is. Above all, make sure your contact information is on each card.

* Some agents even send videos. You could forward on a Facebook live video of the open house, or send a YouTube video of the listing. You could even send some kind of greeting card video for a special way to say “thanks for attending!” BombBomb is a great resource for this type of video.

* Text message is a wonderful way to contact people, and has a 95% open rate. It’s less invasive than a phone call, which people may avoid answering if they don’t know a specific caller. Send a very specific text message with a thank you, the property address, and more information on the property, or a link for more information.

* Send a follow up to the follow up starting with the subject header “I forgot to tell you… ” – You can then point out a feature you neglected to tell them about on the current property, or even point out other properties that you may have listed, if this one fell short for them.

Of course, the best resource for an Open House is a coach, who can suggest strategies unique to your community and clientele. Not only is this more effective, but a coach should follow up with you to make sure that everything went smoothly, and question each step if it doesn’t.

Cindy Bishop is the Managing Director of Cindy Bishop Worldwide, a real estate education company specializing in Business Enhancement and Growth training for the Real Estate Community. Cindy is an active coach specializing in real estate agent business development.

Open House Tips for Realtors

1. Advertise! A study conducted by the National Association of Realtors revealed that 92% of buyers use the internet to house hunt. Make sure your open house dates are available through Zillow. With over 130 million visits per month, Zillow is a great place to start.

2. Invite neighbors to a appetizers or a wine and cheese party at your open house. It’s a great way to network and prospect. Socialize and have fun.

3. Everyone who visited your open house is a potential buyer so create an automated nurturing email marketing campaign to stay in touch. Make sure to also follow up within a few days so you can reconnect and help with their home buying search.

4. Be strategic with open house signage. Sandwich boards are great, but also mix it up with signage that is legible from a distance of at least 30 to 50 feet. Place directional signs to advertise in a five block radius ro reach a wider audience. Add helium filled balloons to attract attention.

5. Depersonalize the property. Remove family photos, diplomas, awards and anything else in the home before the open house. By removing personal items, the home doesn’t belong to any particular group of people and visitors can see themselves in the home.

6. Clean and organize closets and other storage spaces. Buyers will open closets, drawers and anything else with a handle. Instead of an avalanche of boxes when they open the storage closet, make sure closets are clean and organized.

7. Target local homebuyers with online advertising. You can even target potential buyers according to zip code through Google AdWords, Bing, Facebook and other online resources. With Facebook, you can add photos of the property and link to a landing page where more images of the home are available, plus a contact form to learn more.

8. Advertise by drone. Yes, drone advertising. Hoovy advertises open houses by attaching banners to drones and flying them in public places for real estate agents. Hoovy flies the drones at about 60 ft from the ground to be closer to the public.

9. Staging can help sell a home. Group your colors. Try to limit colors to just three per room. Keep larger items lower. If you have an even amount, take one away. Always keep quantities to an odd number as it is more visually appealing. Mix throw pillows and to create a spa appeal, add white towels to bathrooms.

10. First impressions are important. Simple updates to the entry can make a world of difference. Add a planter. If the door is worn, a good coat of paint can make a difference. A new welcome matt will make it more inviting. Sweep, clean cobwebs and remove anything worn.

11. In one study, 30% of people reported scented products as “irritating.” Skip the air fresheners and candles. Instead, encourage your seller to shampoo carpets, open the windows and let in the fresh air, deodorize appliances and toss throw rugs in the wash.

12. Experiment with lighting before your open house. Try opening shades and curtains, turning on different sources of light.

13. Advertise in small local newspapers as not every buyer is internet savvy. Many retirees read local papers and you’ll get a lot of mileage for your investment.

14. Consider a themed open house. If the home is Mediterranean design, consider presenting tapas. If it is a Spanish style, nachos may be perfect. Give your potential buyers a unique experience to remember the home.

15. Have handouts with your contact info ready for buyers to take. Mortgage Loan Breakdown and a glossary are two great handouts. Neighborhood information like local schools, grocers, restaurants and the “walk score” are great information. And attach your business card to every handout. Have a sign in sheet for visitors and capture their name, phone number, email and any other pertinent information. Follow up a few days later.

16. Email prospective buyers and invite them to your open house. Showcase the home in the email and include a professionally branded email signature. And offer to preshow the home. Why wait? Give prospects the ability to schedule time with you to tour the home early. Add an online scheduling link so buyers can set a time without fussing with the phone, call backs and waiting. After all, in this competitive market, the home could be pending by the time the open house arrives!

Operation Security: Safeguarding Your Home During An Open House

While an open house is a great way to actually meet the perfect buyer for your property, it is also a great opportunity for people with bad motives to do their rude moves. More than allowing your house to actually accommodate good buyers, you might also be accommodating bad people. So how are you are exactly going to do the open house while securing your home? Here are some tips.

Keep away important documents containing pertinent information such as Social Security numbers and bank accounts. These digits of numbers can actually be the key towards investigating crimes using your identity.

Remove jewelries, antiques, and other items of high values. These are eye candies and can easily attract robbers and thieves. Electronic gadgets like tablets, laptops, and smartphones should also be secured. Your personal and some confidential information can be leaked once these gadgets are taken away from your possession.

Photos of family members are advised to be hidden. You don't know how criminal minds think. Your family members, even with just their photos can be easy targets of crimes, especially children.

Never leave keys of your house, car, or rooms – even if they are just duplicates. These things are small and can be easily grabbed. When possessed by bad persons, these keys can be used to enter your property.

Never hide anything of value in your rooms and other likely places. Rooms within your house especially those that are locked up during the open house can imply that there are valuable things in there. Though they are locked up, it is still advised never to leave things of high value in those rooms. Some curious and naughty persons might be unnoticed sneaking in those rooms to peep on those things and plan something bad afterwards.

Have a logbook of guests joining the open house. This is a helpful record to see who came to visit the house. Make sure that the arrival and departure times are recorded too.

Take photos or videos of the rooms and other parts of the house before the open house in its staged state. After the open house, review the photos or videos to see if there are some alterations on how things are placed and ordered.

Remember that an open house should be an opportunity to meet buyers, or even meet new connections and friends. It should not be an opportunity or an invitation to persons with bad intentions. However, we won't know bad people until they have done wrong. So better stay safe and secured than be sorry later on!