May 14, 2009

Hold More Opens, Close More Deals

Why do Realtors hold open houses?

  • Is it to sell the listing?

  • Is it to meet potential buyers?

  • Is it to get their name out in a local community?

  • Is it because their manager told them to?

  • Is it to get two hours of silence on a weekend away from the spouse and kids?

Whatever your reason is to hold open houses, if you really want to maximize your time and efforts, you need to make sure you get people through the doors. Here are a few tips and/or techniques to increase your chances of success at an Open House.

Choose the Right House - There is nothing worse than being stuck in a listing that people don't come to. You should be selecting your "open houses" based on the same factors buyers do - location, price and condition.

Location - Can people find the house? If it takes nineteen directional signs and a hot air balloon to get to the house, people will not come. Sure, people might want to live in the back of a sub division but they usually don't want to drive back there to find out the house is too small or doesn't have what they want or need. Try to select a house that is on or near a main road or just takes a few directional signs.

Price - How's the supply and demand in your market? Are there lots of homes available under $200K? How about over $500K? With the $8,000 First Time Buyer tax credit, where will the first time buyers in your market place be looking?

What is your level of skill when it comes to real estate? If you're a new agent, you might have more confidence working with first time buyers because you know you know more than they do. If you have good skills working with first time Sellers, look for the ideal move up price point so not only might you connect with a buyer but they'll need your expertise to sell their house as well. Remember, many open house visitors are using that time to "interview" potential agents to list their house with.

Condition - Even though your Mom taught you to never judge a book by it's cover, you still often do, don't you? Well, people will decide whether to visit an open house because of it's curb appeal as well. Would you take the time to look at a house that is hideous from the street? Sure, I know, many people love a challenge and want a fixer-upper but play the odds in your local market. Choose a house that oozes charm or style.

Upon entering, is there anything that would turn a visitor off? Odors such as pets, cigarette smoke or even too much air freshener can lose a guest before they even arrive. Make the house as welcoming as possible by cleaning and de-cluttering. Possibly consider hiring a professional Home Stager to present the house at its finest.

Be There to Help, Not to Sell - Most people are "just looking" so don't scare them off by pouncing on them as they enter. Set up a station in the kitchen where you have your registration sheet, brochures or even additional materials to distribute. A subtle smile, nod of the head or wave will let them know you see them and they'll know where you are. When they make their way to the kitchen, welcome them with a smile and handshake, thank them for coming and introduce yourself.

"Hi folks. My name is _____. Thanks a lot for stopping by today. I'm glad you're stopped in. I just ask two things of you while you're here; please sign my guest registry and let me know what you think of the house when you're done looking around, okay?"

Simple and non-threatening, isn't it? It also opens the door for you to chat when they finish their tour. As Master Trainer David Knox suggests, the three questions you should always try to ask would be:

"How soon do you need to be settled?" - establishes urgency

"How long have you been looking?" - determines motivation

"If you found a home today that met your needs, would you buy it?" - establishes ability

I always liked to pass out a folder of information to try and stand out from the other Realtors who were holding houses open that day. It usually contained similar properties based on size, amenities, price point, etc. I passed it out only after they had ruled out the house I was in.

"Here's a list of some other homes in the area (school district, price range, etc.) that might interest you. Some of them might be open today but others won't be. If you see anything you like, my contact information is in the folder."

By giving them something of value, I increased my exposure to them after they got home. If no one else provided anything other than the typical fact sheet or MLS print out, I would hopefully stand out.

Follow Up - People just aren't going to walk in say "I'll take it." Sure, I have heard of it happening but I certainly wouldn't plan for it. Be prepared to institute a follow up system so you can increase your chances of scheduling an appointment.

Email Thank You - Sent the night of the Open House. A quick note saying "thanks for visiting" and including a link to the listing from your personal or company site would be suggested. What's the worst thing that could happen? They delete it? Big deal. But what else might happen? A reply or request for more info?

Hand written Thank You - I know, I have heard it a lot lately, that "hand written notes are old school and aren't worth the effort. Oh yeah? So you're telling me if you got home today and in your mailbox was twenty envelopes from lenders, vendors and strangers and there was also a hand written note addressed to you in blue ink that you wouldn't open that one first? Sure, it will still end up in the trash but it will have had more of an impact on that potential buyer than nothing at all.

Touch Base Call - This is for the buyers who are ready to move in the next 30-60 days. A quick phone call so ask if they might like to get out and look at a few homes that next weekend would be suggested. If they aren't ready, they'll tell you. But if they are ready (and they have received your emails and personal notes by now), you just might have an appointment.

Add them to your data base - Continue to maintain contact with these visitors. Open Houses are just one phase in a customer's buying cycle. Adding them to your data base for regular mailings, newsletters or market updates is a great chance to increase your business.

In our next post, we explore the best times to hold open houses and a neat way to hold in "invite only" open house for neighbors.

If you have any great Open House tips, add them as a comment. I'd love to share them with others.