Here’s a hard truth to swallow: No one comes to an open house to meet the agent. They come to see an appealing home, and your role as the hosting agent is to make that house shine. Your reward is the list of prospects you amass, and, one out of 20 times, a home sale to boot.
So as you prepare for an open house, think of the home you’re featuring as the headliner of the show. Choose a home with star power by following these points:
Select a home in a high-demand, low-inventory area. Scarcity is a well-proven marketing strategy. People line up to get into crowded restaurants. They respond enthusiastically when told they are limited to "one-per-customer." And they will show up at your open house in greater numbers if the home you’re showing is one of only a few for sale in a well-regarded neighborhood.
Do your homework before making your selection final. Study the inventory levels in the neighborhood you’re considering for your open house. Obtain the prices of recent sales to be sure that your home is within the acceptable range. Research the number of days that recent sales and current listings have been on the market. Then compare your findings with research on nearby neighborhoods to be sure that the home you’re considering competes well.
The statistics you compile provide you with information you should be tracking anyway, so even if you rule out the home you’re studying the time you spend on the effort will be worthwhile.
Open house selection isn’t a time for guesswork. Use your market knowledge to choose a home with high appeal and demand. Rely on gut instinct only when you’re deciding between two homes with equal market appeal.
Leveraging the power of curb appeal
We’ve all seen it. A prospect pulls up alongside an open house, touches the brakes, takes a careful look, and then drives off without ever going inside. Nine times out of ten, the house lost the drive-by test. It lacked curb appeal.
It’s your job as an agent to counsel the home sellers to turn the house exterior into a "10."
In preparation for an open house, minimally you will want to work with the owners on the two areas that most significantly affect the home shopper’s first impression. These include landscaping and paint color and quality.
Typical landscaping reaches maturity after about six to eight years, and after that it needs to be thinned and reshaped.
If the home you’re showing is in a mature neighborhood and the landscaping is overgrown, convince the owner to enhance curb appeal by following these steps:
Spend a day trimming and removing overgrown and excessive plants. Hosting an open house in a home blocked from the street by a "jungle" is a formula for disappointment. Your drive-by prospect will see only untended bushes and trees - hardly a great first impression.
Plant or place seasonal flowers that add color, warmth, and an inviting first glance. A few hundred dollars of seasonal flowers can dramatically change the appearance of a "plain Jane" track house.
Exterior paint color and condition is often the first thing about a home that a prospective buyer notices. To make the first impression a good one, urge the homeowner to consider this advice:
Installing shutters in a complimentary accent color can transform even the most boring 50s ranch house.
Adding an alternate type of siding in a small, strategic area in the front can improve the look of the home. By adding fish scale siding or a shake siding accent on a wood exterior face or over the garage gable, you can transform the home’s first impression from ordinary to extraordinary.
Painting the home in a widely acceptable color scheme helps it appeal to the greatest number of prospective buyers. Face it, while there are a few people who will fall in love with a home painted robin’s egg blue with pink trim, most buyers will have a hard time imagining it in any other color and so they’ll drive right on past after the first glance. (Don’t laugh. I once sold a home with exactly those paint colors.)
Creating a neighborhood event
Many agents achieve greater open house results from neighborhood marketing efforts than from general public exposure. As you plan your open house announcement strategy, pay special attention to your nearest prospects by marketing to those who live right around the house you’re showing. Follow these steps:
Consider a neighborhood "sneak preview." Invite neighbors into the house an hour before the home opens to the general public.
Send at least 25 invitations in order to generate an adequate neighborhood response. Better yet, hand-deliver the invitations. Before you allow yourself to assume that door-to-door delivery is too time-consuming, realize that this simple touch will increase your invitation response rate dramatically.
Use neighborhood events to gain access to prospects in restricted-access neighborhoods. Restricted-access neighborhoods include gated communities or condo complexes that require the public - including real estate agents - to gain permission before entering. This entry barrier makes prospecting in these areas difficult at best. So whenever you achieve a listing in a restricted-access neighborhood, leverage the opportunity to stage an open house neighborhood preview that allows you to meet and establish relationships with surrounding homeowners.
Featuring a home with an upper-middle price point
Every marketplace can be broken down into the following real estate price categories: Lower-end, lower-middle, middle, upper-middle, and upper-end.
Build your real estate practice around the upper-middle price point position to allow yourself the greatest sales flexibility and business success. The upper-middle price point provides the following:
Risk-reward benefit. All prospects require similar amounts of time and energy, yet those that result in the sale or purchase of an upper-middle or upper-end property deliver far higher commission revenue.
Positioning flexibility. By positioning yourself to serve the upper-middle price range, you won’t get pigeonholed. You won’t get painted as that snobby agent who sells only the upper-end and you won’t get tagged as the agent who works only the low-end. You can easily move within all five price segments, migrating to wherever the market is most robust at the moment.
Quality clientele. By specializing in upper-middle properties you’ll attract quality middle-range prospects who aspire to own more exclusive properties even if they can’t quite afford them. Plus you also attract buyers with the financial ability to migrate to the upper-end.
Quality lead generation. By working the upper-middle price bracket and by holding open houses that serve the upper-middle price category, you set yourself up to collect buyer and seller leads and grow your business within that lucrative price range.
Leading prospects to the open house
Open house advertising is important, but it pales in comparison to the importance of a well-selected open house site and a signage strategy that leads prospects to your open house front door.
In choosing your open house site, make sure you do the following:
Select a home near a well-traveled street in order to gain exposure from the traffic volume.
However, be careful that the home isn’t too close to the traffic or you’ll get traffic by the home but not to the home. Remember that buyers are reluctant to live too close to a thoroughfare or busy street.
Hold your open house in a home that is no more than three directional signs away from a well-traveled street. Otherwise you’ll lose prospects as they try to navigate what will feel like a maze.
When running ads, announce the open house using on-the-hour start times. For instance, say that the open house runs from noon to 3:00 or from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., rather than from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. or from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
This makes it easier for prospects to remember the time of the open house, and it enables them to fit your home into the schedule of open houses they are visiting in a single day.