Many real estate agents think that open houses for the public are the best way to meet potential buyers, but not always for the house they’re selling. This cynical but realistic approach suggests that you can find a few more names on your buyer’s list for other homes you might want to show.
Despite the logic, I think it’s the wrong approach, and not just because many of the people who show up already have agents with whom they’re working.
If you have an open house, your sole objective should be to sell it. Get an offer.
I am not talking about an open house for brokers. That spreads the word about your listing and invites other agents to the party.
When you focus exclusively on selling a “public” open house, good things happen, and anything that deviates from that goal is a waste of your energy (and money) and your homeowner’s time.
The first obvious requirement is that your open house must be better than anyone else’s. You can’t just set out a bunch of cookies and candy, and then hope for a sugar overload that leads to a sale.
One Open House, Five Offers
Every open house requires some basics, the first of which is easy access. In gated communities, visitors may require prior admission. Yard signs and direction arrows may not be possible (but if they are, use them wisely, always within view of the next arrow). You always need a good mailing list, electronic flyers, hand out brochures, a convenient time for the event (for the public, weekends beat weekdays), and, most important, excitement.
It is the last item – excitement – where most real estate agents fall short.
Curb appeal can get people to the front door, but it may not get them to a contract.
Staging a home creates enthusiasm, but it can also be expensive (still, get rid of the clutter, and if you painted some walls purple, repaint them with a muted, off-white, please).
If your entire home has 24-inch, black tiles, well, uh, you might want to limit your mailing list to undertakers and employees at the coroner’s office. Even then, it will be a tough sale.
Now here’s a secret: talent creates excitement.
I’m not suggesting you book Taylor Swift for your open house (unless you’re selling a $74 million hideaway in the Hamptons). But there’s a lot of talent out there that can push a “normal” home to a much higher level of enthusiasm:
- painters willing to hang their work on empty walls,
- cartoon caricaturists,
- authors willing to talk about and give away their books,
- magicians (stay away from clowns; their bad rep can kill a deal),
- guitar players,
- string quartets,
- a soft jazz sax.
In most cases, the “talent” will work for peanuts, possibly even for free. They will have a profound effect on the success of your open house.
I am fortunate to be the proud owner of some in-house talent. My husband is an award-winning author of both fiction and non-fiction. His latest book, Poison Heartbeats, just won the top award in Thriller Fiction at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I am his editor. We will go to the ceremony at the Harvard Club in Manhattan at the end of May to pick up his Gold Medal and a cash prize.
Here’s how I took advantage of my husband in March 2017.
“I’m having a public open house next weekend, and maybe you’d like to give away a few copies of your books to some of my guests.”
“What do you mean by a few copies?” he asked.
“I don’t know, maybe a book drawing, where people put their names in a bowl, and one or two get chosen as the winner.”
“Paperback or hardback?” he asked.
“They cost $29.95.”
“It doesn’t matter. It will help sell the home.”
“Can I blab about the books to your guests?”
“Have you ever NOT blabbed about your books?”
“Ok,” he said. “But just one.”
And that’s how the “excitement” began.
At the open house, we had about 20 potential buyers. Everyone had fun. There was a lot of laughter (parts of his books are funny). And everyone relaxed and felt comfortable.
Most important, during the next 24 hours, we had five offers on the home. Two of them were for the full price. One was more than full price. That’s the one we took to a closing.
Open House excitement works.