There is a controversy in Real Estate as to whose interest is best served with an Open House. Seller’s often believe the purpose of an Open House is to showcase their home, finding a buyer for it. Realtors, on the other hand, typically market Open Houses for the primary purpose of finding fresh “Buyer’s Leads.”
The whole idea behind an Open House is rather straightforward. The realtor and seller agree on a date or dates – both Saturday and Sunday are common and even a mid-week afternoon can be beneficial – to make the home available for the general public to view the home and generate interest for a sale.
Types of open houses
An open house is typically focused on one of three different audiences. The first, and most beneficial for the homeowner is the “Broker Open,” or Caravan. This is when an announcement is made to all of the agents in the local marketplace that the home is for sale and available for the agents to preview the home, in hopes that agents will have a buyer whose criteria is met with this home.
A Broker Open does not have to last more than two hours as agents will come in and out rather quickly as they are on their caravan, or tour of new listings in the marketplace. Literature should be available that is focused on the agent, and not the public. Like all open houses, it should be hosted by the listing agent and the homeowner and their pets should not be anywhere around.
A Neighborhood Open House is equally beneficial for both the agent and the homeowner. In this style of open house, a special invitation is prepared and distributed only to the other homes in the neighborhood. At least 100 invitations should be distributed as either a postcard or a flyer dropped on the neighborhood doorsteps.
The idea is not to get your neighbors to move into your home (although stranger things have happened), rather it is to solicit the neighborhood for leads of friends and family who would love to live nearby for any number of reasons.
Neighbors feel special when they have the opportunity to get the inside information on a new neighborhood listing and can create some urgency when they share the information with their friends and family who may want to move to this neighborhood.
Please keep in mind it’s critical for the homeowner to NOT be present. This is not the time to socialize with your neighbors, telling every one of your future plans. Neighborhood Open Houses also benefit the realtor by showcasing his skills and personality to the neighbors and hopes to attract a new neighborhood listing.
Finally, there is the traditional open house that the agent will market online and with lots of signs and balloons. These open houses will typically run from noon until about 4:00 p.m. – give or take an hour or two on either side.
Most will run on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and some will run both days. Aggressive realtors will even schedule a mid-week open house hoping to attract the attention of local commuters on their way home who don’t have the time to visit on the weekend. Most visits are spontaneous in nature so signs matter a lot more than any print or internet advertising.
A skilled agent will be able to determine how to best help this new buyer who has raised their hand and identified themselves as someone who wants to buy a home. To make a long story short, open houses are one of the very best buyer lead sources in an agent’s arsenal.
How to prepare for an open house
Regardless of what type of open house you have scheduled, here are a few basic tips to prepare. They may seem common sense and should be taken for granted, but just visit a few open houses in your city and see for yourself how unprepared some home sellers are.
Clean and up to date: Make sure every room in the house is clean – no bathtub rings or mold growing on the shower tile. Clean your floors and windows. The deeper the clean the better, but at least cover all of the basics. Eliminate clutter and start packing. Remember: You are moving so the more you do now, the easier the move will be. If you are undergoing any renovations, make sure they are complete before the open house. Your home should scream easy maintenance to any potential buyer.
De-personalize: This is often the hardest single step for sellers. It’s time to remove all of your family photos as well as religious and ethnic artifacts. Anything in your home that identifies what type of person you are can be a negative to some. Sure, some will respect the pictures of a loved one in uniform, but the goal here is to make it easy for the buyer to visualize themselves living there.
Clean out your closets: You only have to watch a few episodes of almost any house hunting TV series to hear the advice given to always check out the closets. If you’re selling in the summer time, pack up your winter clothes (vice versa in winter time) so that the closets are not packed tight. The goal is to have 50 percent open space in each closet. Don’t store boxes and totes in the closet; add open space. It’s OK to neatly fill the garage. Remember you’re moving and buyers expect you to leave with all of your possessions.
Move your cars: If at all possible, move all of your vehicles around the corner or elsewhere. Make the space appear larger, as there’s nothing less appealing than two cars in the garage with barely enough room to squeeze into one.
Landscape: Please, make sure the lawn is freshly mowed and the front planters are weed free. Eliminate weeds growing out of cracks in the concrete. Use some common sense and let the landscape shine and sell the home not give the impression that a potential homeowner will have to rip out your jungle to start with a fresh landscape design.
Protect Yourself: Unfortunately, open houses are invitations for anyone to preview your home and there are those who are more interested in your possessions than the structure itself. Today, it is very inexpensive to purchase a CCTV system and record everyone who comes in your home. Place signs about to let people know they are being recorded. Secure all of your personal paperwork and protect yourself from identity theft. And all of your valuables should be secured or taken with you.
Even if you don’t buy a CCTV system, get some signs and place them around the property warning visitors that they are being recorded as a preemptive strike. With today’s micro-cameras, no one knows where the camera is or when they are being recorded.
A final thought is perhaps you’ll want to avoid the open house all together and have a professional virtual tour filmed that can be placed on the Internet – after all, that is where 95 percent of all homebuyers start their search these days