According to Realtor.com in What is an Open House? A Chance for Sellers to Showcase their Home by Kimberly Dawn Neumann, the classic definition of an open house is “a time when sellers open their home so that numerous potential buyers can swing by and check it out — no appointment necessary.”
When your house is on the market, you will be instructed to keep it picture perfect at all times. This can be difficult when you are still living in the home and/or have children or pets who don’t understand the meaning of “keep it clean.”
An open house is the perfect opportunity to minimize the disruption to the seller’s lives by combining many showings into one. This helps relieve the pressure (a little) on you to keep your house spotless for showings at a moment’s notice and allows interested house hunters the convenience of casually viewing a home without an appointment. This appeals to buyers who are looking for a home but haven’t yet gathered enough information or done enough investigation of the market to be ready to make a decision. They want to “browse” an area on their own before formalizing a relationship with an agent. This relieves them of the pressure that can be imposed by an enthusiastic agent.
On the psychological front, an open house can also increase competition for the home. People tend to take the old phrase “Hurry! It won’t last long” with a grain of salt unless they are jostling for position to see a room with five other people crammed into a doorway. This can be a powerful motivator for an indecisive buyer to get off the fence one way or another. It can also be the starting gun of a bidding war, which can only be good for the seller.
Regardless of the numerous technical innovations that have plunged real estate sales into the world of virtual shopping, the open house remains a vital feature of the sales process. Before scheduling your open house, you should study the activities calendar of your area to avoid conflicts such as annual festivals, holidays, or special events to ensure that there is nothing happening that could conflict with attendance and keep your targeted audience from your open house. Look for a weekend that is typically “dead” in your area.
Open houses in a seller’s market can be very busy, with many people milling around a property, catching bits of each other’s conversations, and infusing potential buyers with a sense of urgency and competition to place an offer before they miss an opportunity to bid. Should more than one party be interested in the home, a bidding war can begin, which is a great advantage to the seller.
PROMOTING YOUR OPEN HOUSE
If you are using a real estate agent, s/he will send out an email announcement to their own private mailing list, as well as to every real estate broker and agent within the area to ensure that your open house event is publicized on all open house websites to maximize overall attendance. S/he will also promote your open house on his existing social media platforms. Social media is extremely important in real estate marketing, as the majority of potential buyers will look at listings and open house ads online before they physically visit the home or property.
If you don’t have a Realtor® and are doing your own marketing, don’t wait until the day of the open house to throw up a couple of signs in the neighborhood or plant a sign in the yard. You have to effectively promote it well before the big day. Buyers are constantly searching the internet for listings, so that is your first marketing stop to ensure you get as many potential buyers to show up as possible.
Update all current marketing of your home to announce your open house date and hours via your website or social media. If you are using an agent, he/she will produce a separate video incorporating an abbreviated virtual tour of the home highlighting its best features. If not, you can produce a similar video yourself. Think of it like a movie trailer, designed to emphasize the best points of the home without revealing everything to draw in prospective buyers to your open house.
ADDING YOUR OPEN HOUSE LISTING ON QUALIFIED REALTY SITES
Listing your open house on qualified realty sites, such as Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com, HomeFinder.com, etc. is a great way to engage your audience, generate leads, optimize response, and cultivate and nurture relationships, because of their popularity with the home buyer’s market.
These websites are accessible only to licensed real estate agents for the purpose of creating and posting a home for sale, but you, as the seller, may have the ability to add an announcement of an open house. Check the policies of each site to learn if they will allow FSBO postings.
Many real estate agents discourage the use of Craigslist for real estate listings in general, but it shouldn’t be entirely disregarded. Craigslist is one of the most established websites and has numerous category listings. It is a very popular and successful marketing tool for announcing open houses.
Craigslist allows its users to customize their listing headlines, which is a great way for real estate agents to “pitch” homes and properties to prospective buyers, as opposed to a generic, boring listing.
Take full advantage of this sales opportunity by creating an attention-grabbing headline such as, “Open house for a 5 bedroom with ZERO DOWN!”
Print Advertising: Part of your home marketing should be four-color fliers or brochures for buyers to take away with them from the open house that include pictures, specifications, and pertinent information, such as price, school district, etc. Typically, a real estate agent will take care of this for you, but as a FSBO, you can create your own fliers with a little creativity, technical skill with graphic software, and money.
Yard Signage: The yard sign is the oldest and most recognizable form of real estate marketing. It might seem like an outdated tool, but don’t be fooled! The NAR study previously referenced reported that 51% of home buyers said a yard sign was an important source of information in their home search.
Put your yard signs out ahead of time and place some on nearby cross streets. This not only makes it easy for those who have already researched the home online to find it, but can also catch the curious couple who are out for a Sunday drive around prospective neighborhoods. These folks may not make an offer that day, but if they find the home appealing, they might find themselves unexpectedly accelerating their house hunting process.
In this age of mobile apps and satellite photography, it is hard to believe that a simple “For Sale” yard sign can be viewed as so important by such a large percentage of buyers. There are good reasons, however, to have signs professionally produced (DO NOT DIY your signs on a piece of cardboard with a marker), complete with contact information that makes both the home and the seller easy to find. These signs effortlessly guide online shoppers right up and into the front door of your home. They also attract buyers who weren’t looking for a new home before stumbling across this simple and humble marketing tool.
USE DIRECT MAIL TO ADVERTISE YOUR OPEN HOUSE
While nearly all real estate marketing is done online, traditional direct mail is still a great way to spread the word about listings and open houses. Potential buyers surfing the web may miss your open house listing, but if you send a piece of direct mail to them at their physical mailing address, it serves as an invitation and you’ll increase the chance of seeing them at the open house!
Again, this is something a real estate agent will do as a part of his/her contract with you, but if you are a FSBO seller, do your homework and determine your target audience. Seventy percent of home buyers will purchase within 10 miles of their current location, so you will want to target people living in adjacent neighborhoods, relatives, co-workers, or friends who might be looking for a new home or know of someone who is. You will want to target all of the homes and apartment complexes within a given geographical area. You can do this yourself, or you can hire a business that will send postcards to homeowners featuring your home. You can also buy mailing lists from professional companies to build your target audience and do your own bulk mailing. If you decide to go it alone, you will need to research, interview and select a graphics company that specializes in print marketing for real estate and will collaborate with you to create your own unique design.
According to RedStone Mortgage’s blog, Promote Your Open House with Direct Mail Marketing, by Matt Askland, July 18, 2017, “Creating the perfect direct mail “invitation” to both your listing and your open house is easy to do.”
Here are a few important steps:
· Provide a variety of communication methods, including contact phone number, email address, and Facebook page so that potential buyers can contact you via their preferred method of communication.
· If you’re designing your own fliers, postcards, or brochures, include a Quick Response Code (QR Code) so recipients can scan with their smartphones to receive immediate information on your listing.
· Include any URL to make it easy for potential buyers to find your information.
· Use the larger 5.5” x 8.5” postcard to stand out in a typical pile of mail, catalogs, and newspapers in the mailbox.
· Use eye-appealing colors in the design that will complement your photos.
· Use bold, large, and easy to read text. Abril Fatface and League Gothic are two great font choices. Avoid informal fonts such as Comic Sans or Papyrus.
· Include clever, attention-grabbing graphics.
Ideally, your postcards will arrive in people’s mailboxes a couple of days before your open house. Check with your local mail carrier to see how long bulk mail takes to be delivered once it has been delivered to the post office, so you can calculate what day to put your postcards in the mail.
Keep in mind that there will be a price attached to this type of marketing, including hiring the service, buying the lists, producing the mailings, and the postage. However, failure to properly market your open house will result in a poor result. It’s kind of like throwing a party and nobody comes. It’s expensive, labor-intensive, and very demoralizing to put all of the effort into hosting an open house for only a few shoppers. Research the most economical ways of sending commercial or bulk mail to keep your costs down. First Class mail will be expensive, so investigate a bulk mail campaign. You can investigate the details at your local post office, but just be aware that there are many fine details and rules about bundling and you can be sent away if you have not followed all the rules of bulk mailing. It can be exasperating, so be prepared and learn it and get it right the first time!
If you have several months to plan, send approximately 100 postcards per week to your list. Don’t be shy about sending more than one postcard to each address. Today’s consumers are becoming fairly immune to traditional sales methods because they have become savvy researchers in their own right. These days, it takes 6-8 “touches” to generate a hot sales lead. Don’t stop at one. You’re not even warm yet!
USE FACEBOOK TO MARKET YOUR OPEN HOUSE
Facebook is probably the most cost effective option and offers very precise demographic and behavioral targeting so that you can get your message in front of the right people at the right time. If you’re not using an agent, this is a good time to use a little money from the budget to place a targeted ad on Facebook. Facebook offers an amazing number of audience-targeting filters, such as ages 25-65 and specific geographical regions to reach a wider, more diverse audience for minimal investment. The social media giant actually knows who their consumers are from the behavioral data sets they collect. The most relevant sets to real estate sales is two specific targeting options: interests and behaviors. To dig even further down to micro-level, Facebook has a behavioral category entitled “people likely to move.” Learn how to navigate this platform, and you’ll be swimming in leads!
Once you have mastered the Facebook learning curve, set up a specific Facebook page dedicated to your open house. Add pictures of the exterior, including the front of the house, the backyard, gardens, etc. Interior shots should include full pictures of each room, staircases, front hall, etc. You can take the pictures yourself, but hiring a photographer for this event is worth the investment since they know exactly what it takes to create great pictures that are artful, elegant, and persuasive. Create a Facebook photo album using only the best photos.
Ensure that the description is easy to read. Separate paragraphs and use clear, concise words. Be absolutely certain there are no errors in grammar or spelling in describing every detail of the house. Nothing will tarnish your credibility faster than “sloppy copy.” Have a couple of people review your post for eye appeal, content, and errors before it goes live on your page.
Add a map and directions to your page. Point out any nearby points of interest. Create a “virtual open house” with a short “teaser” video to take your viewer on a quick tour of your home in advance of the open house. This shouldn’t be a lengthy video. It should only be long enough to catch a potential buyer’s eye and create interest in attending the open house to see more.
For the cover and profile photos, choose great, never-before-posted shots of the front of your home that are crystal clear, well lit, and capture the beauty of your house, complete with a manicured lawn and colorful plants or flowers. These pictures are your first impression on the buyer as the Facebook page loads.
HOW TO THROW A GREAT OPEN HOUSE
In order for your open house to be effective and hit the mark with prospective buyers, you must fully prepare for the big day. If you have engaged a Realtor®, s/he can host a broker preview for other agents to tour your home and give feedback about how your home shows and if your home is appropriately priced. If your home isn’t priced right, people won’t show up to the open house.
You want your house hunter informed, interested, and, most of all, in the house. One out of every two homebuyers will spend time visiting open houses, so you want to throw the best open house party possible.
Your house must be as sterile as an operating room, as uncluttered as a five-star hotel room, and as homey as grandma’s kitchen. This is all about creating a fantasy. Your open house should not say, “I live here,” but instead, it should seem very accessible and whisper to the potential buyers “You could live here. Can’t you see yourself in that sunny kitchen, smiling at your angelic children as they do their homework quietly and neatly at the kitchen table while you whip up a gourmet meal for the whole family to enjoy?”
Preparing your home will take some work. It’s important to create an illusion for the prospective buyers in which they imagine themselves living there. Remove as many personal items as possible, especially things that are not included in the sale. Clear off the kitchen counters, remove extra furniture to create space, and give the house a deep cleaning. Shampoo the carpets, steam clean the tile, and scrub the bathrooms. Touch up scuffs on the walls and sweep out the garage. Prune the bushes, weed-whack the walkways, and deadhead the flowers. You want your home to look like a model in the local “Parade of Homes.”
Appeal to the buyer’s sense of smell. An unpleasant odor coming from a trash can or litter box can kill a sale. Make sure your home smells good! Open the windows, place fresh flowers throughout the house, bake some cookies, or light a scented candle.
Make the beds. Wipe out the sinks. Pick up the towels. Put the kids and their school backpacks in the car (along with Fido) with family or friends for a nice long drive in the country. Having pets in the home during an open house is at the very least a distraction, and could even be a liability. You want buyers to concentrate on the home without worrying about letting a cat out or being bit by a dog who is out of sorts and confused by the presence of strangers in his home and his instinct to protect his territory.
Remember that the exterior of the house must be clean and welcoming if you want people to come inside. Either hire a professional to power wash your home and walkways, or rent a power washer and do the job yourself.
Your end-goal is to create a pleasant, memorable experience for house hunters that will make potential buyers feel right at home. Better yet, making them feel like it could be their home. In addition to glistening floors and streak-free windows, there’s an important factor that very few sellers consider: the neighbors.
Although it is probably not the first thing a house hunter considers in selecting a new home, eventually, they will be interested in learning something about the neighbors. Neighbors can be both you and your buyer’s best friends. Alternately, they can also turn out to be your biggest nightmare. Taking the surprise element out of the equation helps put buyers to ease, so it’s often a good idea to invite the neighbors to participate in the open house. It goes without saying that you should make sure that the neighbors you invite are indeed people who will make buyers feel comfortable and at home.
MAKE YOUR OPEN HOUSE THE EVENT OF THE SEASON
We cannot overstate the importance of hiring a professional photographer or videographer to make your open house into an “event.” They can create a short, videotaped virtual tour to tease potential buyers into wanting to see more, and will capture and edit the perfect photographs of both the interior and the exterior of your home.
They are experts on achieving the proper lighting to best display the highlights and focal points of each room. They can make suggestions about the arrangement of existing furniture or ideas on bringing in a professional stager. It does take a village to sell a house, and this professionals can only benefit you by showing your property at its best.
A few days before your open house event, mow the lawn, weed and freshen up your flower beds and garden with new mulch or groundcover, and splurge on a new doormat.
On the day of the open house, you or your real estate agent should post directional signs around your neighborhood and at the entry point where your street, circle, block, etc. begins to ensure that potential buyers can easily find your home. You should also place a sign on your front lawn adorned in an attention-catching way, such as brightly colored balloons.
Should the weather call for rain, or if it rained prior to your open house event, post a request at or beside the front door asking potential buyers to remove their shoes. Provide “footies,” a wrap made out of non-slip material that covers stocking feet for guests to put on.
To make your house smell inviting, an hour or two before the event is to begin, boil some lemon slices on the stove, or bake a spoonful of vanilla extract in the oven for about half an hour. Open all of the vents in your home to circulate the aroma.
At the same time you are making sure the house smells wonderful, or just smells clean, ensure that it is clean.
Potential buyers will be turned off if they walk into an open house that has not been sufficiently prepared and cleaned and most likely will turn around and walk right back out.
During the cleaning process, remember to remove all personal items from view. This includes children’s drawings and paintings, family portraits, wedding photographs, etc. You should also remove pets and any litter boxes or house training pads.
KICK YOUR OPEN HOUSE UP A NOTCH
If traditional open houses are not bringing in the crowds in your area, or your first open house fell flat, there is a way to up your game. This is known as an “extreme open house.” This is an open house with a party theme in which live music, catered refreshments, prizes, entertainment, and even onsite babysitting are included in the showing.
Holding your open house in a party like atmosphere gives potential buyers a different, lively perspective of the home in which they can envision themselves as the hosts in a home that is brimming with life and energy.
It’s easy to show off your home’s best features in this relaxed environment. If your house has a gourmet kitchen, hire a chef to cook for the attendees. If you have a spectacular outdoor living space, plan an outdoor barbecue with all the fixings of a fun summer day. Just the prospect of free food can bring a crowd. Don’t be too concerned if you get a lot of “looky-loos” who aren’t really interested in buying. People talk and there is honestly no better advertising than word-of-mouth.
OPEN HOUSE SAFETY AND PRECAUTIONS
Not everyone who shows up to tour the home has home hunting on their mind. Making buyers feel at home is one thing. Openly inviting them to help themselves to your valuables is another. Pack up the jewelry, silver, computers, and other valuables and put them in the trunk of your car to stay safe with you as you drive away. There have been incidents over the years in which sellers and/or real estate agents have been harmed during open houses. It is extremely important to take all safety precautions seriously and to remain vigilant throughout the event.
There is a certain amount of inherent risk when opening your home to strangers for tours. A professional real estate agent has been trained in security, and will handle security issues in your absence, since you will not likely be present for the open house if you are working with a Realtor®. However, if you’re going it alone, it’s important to recognize the risks and take precautions.
As each potential buyer arrives, introduce yourself and ask them to sign in on a sign-in sheet. This gives you time to assess their appearance and determine whether or not they are a legitimate potential buyer or pose a threat to you.
Inform your neighbors of the open house and ask them to drop by and invite any buyers who they think might be interested. Not only is this an added layer of protection, but also a marketing strategy. Having the neighbors present gives potential buyers a chance to check out the neighborhood vibe.