This is an encore and revised post that I wrote a few years ago. Since it is a new year it is a good time to prepare for successful open houses. In Manhattan open houses work. I realize in some markets they don't work. This post is about working an open house not whether they work or not.
How to Work
an Open House
Treat it like a business meeting. Dress like you’re making a presentation…because you are. It’s irrelevant what the list price is on the property; all sellers—of mansions or of studios—deserve to have a professional represent their home.
You look great…but how does the property look? Did you check it out prior to 15 minutes before the Open House? Have you had a heart-to-heart with the seller about children’s toys, etc? Does the place need staging? Have these conversations early in your relationship with your seller — they’re hiring you to get the highest price possible for their home and that may very well mean conversation about clutter. Display fresh flowers and perhaps aroma therapy if needed. An ipad is a great tool to use at open houses too.
Do you have all the information you need? Do you have the answers to all the anticipated questions...and then some? Of course you know about the property and the usuals but how about comps, the closest bus stop, the nearest dry cleaners and other relevant info that sets you apart? You may be used to seeing a Purchase/Mortgage Cost Analysis but it may be new and valuable information to the buyers visiting your open house. It will also position you as a resource who can assist them in all of the aspects of purchasing a property—which is good “branding” of you, the agent, against the competition.
Then, can you take the information just one step farther? What else can you provide that will educate your visitors: maps of the neighborhood, articles about the area or the building’s historic significance, a list of the closest restaurants, buy vs rent analysis, a hand-out of websites that provide information useful to a buyer?
Potential purchasers will remember you as the broker with all of the answers. However, potential sellers will be impressed as well—and one never knows when a visitor is NOT a purchaser but a potential seller who is “auditioning” brokers for the sale of their home!
Use marketing materials, but make sure they’re perfect.
Was the copy proofed? Is the floorplan photocopied upside down on the back of your handout?
Remember, this is the information a potential buyer takes away from the open house for reference, so it is a continual reminder of the property and must be perfect.
Try to sign the person in personally. In extremely busy circumstances, this is not always possible but when time allows, it’s a great way to begin a conversation as well as to get complete and (more) accurate information
Ask why they chose to visit your open house specifically. The visitor had a choice of dozens of open houses to visit on that particular day and they chose yours. If you get the answer to this question, you usually get about 80% of what they’re looking for in their new home. You can then tailor your presentation of your exclusive to their response.
In most cases, talk less and listen more. Most people can determine it’s the kitchen without having that pointed out to them, yet you hear that type of thing over and over again.
If you hear “view,” you might stand by the window, subtly directing their attention to the lovely panorama outside. You don’t necessarily have to actually point at things to get people to notice them—and if you’re not talking but are listening, you’ll hear what they want to see.
If you have to say something, try putting even that in the form of a question: “I see you’re heading directly to the kitchen—do you like to cook?” It’s more personable to get them to say something about themselves rather than about “their search.” After all, they’re buying a place to live, not just four walls, and how they see themselves using a space will determine whether or not this is the home for them.
Follow up. Contact them. If they provided you with an email address, you can follow up unobtrusively. It doesn’t have to be a “so what did you think?” follow up. If it’s your exclusive (dependent upon what you found out in your conversation with them), send them some information on the neighborhood, some information on the history of the building or other non-threatening, non-hard sell material, along with an offer to answer any questions they might have about the apartment, the market, etc.
If you’ve determined that they’re not interested in the home you’re representing, (based on comments they’ve made or other qualifying factors, since obviously your first duty is to the property you are representing), send them other listings with a cover note. “At the open house today you said you realized you really need that third bedroom so my two bedroom isn’t going to work for you. However, here are some other homes in the neighborhood that have that same great view, and three bedrooms. I’d be happy to arrange for you to see any of these that catch your eye. Are you available in the evening or do weekends work best for you?” End the inquiry with a question that CANNOT be answered yes or no.
Timing is Everything. Try different times, have shorter open houses, try evening open houses. Two hour maximum.
Remember to report. Naturally, your sellers want information on attendance and feedback on their home, but can you take it one step further? Perhaps you can share anecdotal information with them and then show how you’ve incorporated that information into points made on future marketing materials.
"You and your listing have to stand out from the crowd" Barbara Corcoran (Founder of The Corcoran Group)