Help Agents Make Their Open Houses Stand Out

Open houses are still an important way to help agents market a home and get people through the door. Help them plan and execute them well with these tips.
Illustration of a modern home with an "open house" sign in front of it

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During her first open house years ago, Carol Bradley partnered with a lender, who was there to answer questions about mortgages.

“He supplied half of the snacks. We had candles going and offered fresh-baked sugar cookies. It was a whole ambience with nice soft music playing,” says Bradley, broker/owner of Bradley Real Estate and Development in Monroe, N.C.

The open house resulted in several leads and overall proved a positive experience. Open houses are still an important part of the real estate industry, and it’s in an agent’s best interest to learn how to do them well. Open houses offer an opportunity for an agent to make an impression. Likewise, agents need to get the most out of open houses to help market the home.

Make open houses a training topic at your next educational session or one-on-one meeting to help your agents stand out with these tips.

Focus on Weekdays Rather Than Weekends

Though weekends might seem like the obvious choice for an open house, the reality is that clients might not want to see a home on their day off. Oftentimes, people make plans on weekends as well.

“I’ve found the traditional Sunday or weekend open houses are not always the best time to see properties, which is why I host twilight weekday opens,” states Kim Tarbox, president and broker at Maine Life Real Estate, brokered by eXp Realty in Scarborough, Maine. “A Tuesday from 4-7 p.m. may be easier for buyers than a Sunday from 12-2 p.m.” 

Get the Word Out

Jennifer Shemwell emphasizes that agents should be advertising the open house at least two days before the event. “Use social media, MLS listings, showing scheduling websites and major real estate websites,” says the CEO of Phyllis Browning Company in San Antonio, Texas. Email blasts can also be effective along with the use of strategic signage, especially at busy intersections.

She also suggests creating a Facebook Live video immediately before opening the house the day of the open house. “It triggers more people to watch than a regular video.”

Think About the Kids

Oftentimes, people who attend open houses bring the family along. Many are coming straight from school pickups or work. Others want their children to see the home, especially if they’re serious about buying soon. Making children feel comfortable goes a long way with parents.

“Let’s face it, it’s the last place they want to be typically,” comments Tarbox. If there is a family room, she often puts on a Disney movie and sets it up like a little theater. “That way the parents can feel comfortable with letting them hang in there while they look around.”  

“Add a few snack bowls, and voila.” Shemwell will even invite kids to play outside in the backyard if the parents are comfortable with it. “Having a plate of candies or cookies—nothing too messy or crumbly—can have kids feel secure and comfortable,” she adds.

Make Things Inviting

Shemwell likes to place a vase of fresh flowers appropriate for the season or use themed decorations. Balloons can also grab attention, and colorful, wavy banners outside can also catch someone’s eye, especially if they’re already on the hunt for open houses. “Make sure the front porch is clean and swept free of debris and flanked with fresh potted plants on either side of the front door,” she says. “If the front door has been recently painted, that helps, too.”  

Tarbox says she’s learned in her 14 years planning and executing open houses that, “a home that is deep cleaned and freshened up is one that will get the most ‘oohs and aahs.’”

Bradley explains that a home should look like it’s loved and prioritized. “When people drive up to the open house, you want them to see that the home has been cared for. Affect their senses. Does it look good and smell good?” She says that clutter should be stowed away so that the space looks as bright and open as possible.

Showcase the Neighborhood/Community

Preparing the home itself is only part of the process. Potential buyers want to know about the community as well. Tarbox creates and prints out comprehensive guides that includes information on the immediate area like local amenities, restaurants and shops and “everything you need to know about living in the community,” including phone numbers for municipalities and their locations.

Bradley says that agents should “not assume that everyone knows about a neighborhood.” She offers a detailed information sheet and provides a QR code to potential buyers that include pertinent details like the distance the home is from the local hospital, shopping areas, dog parks and airports.

Entice With Out-of-the-Box Strategies

There are several ways to add a little out-of-the-box pazazz to an open house, which is a terrific way to help it stand out.

Working with other agents is a great way to get more traffic to an open house, Shemwell says. “You can collaborate with neighboring agents for a neighborhood-wide open house event,” she says. Additionally, if agents want to host mini seminars on homebuying or local market trends during the open house, that can also be memorable.

Bradley doesn’t want any treats given at the open house to end up on the seller’s carpet or furniture. So, as part of upcoming holidays, she gives out goodie bags and treats on their way out. Tarbox loves balloons. “But they’re not a sustainable material, and lately helium is hard to come by. So, I invested in flags, banners, and directional signs,” she adds.

Remember to Follow Up, Show Gratitude

Feedback is important for the agent and the seller, says Tarbox. Encourage agents to follow up and ask for feedback before it’s offered, and show gratitude for that feedback, as it helps inform the process going forward.

Shemwell encourages her agents to remember every contact they meet could be a future buyer or seller. Gratitude goes a long way, and it’s an important part of the open house process. She suggests agents keep a detailed account of who shows up to the open houses. When possible collect names, emails, phone numbers and addresses so that further communication after the open house ends is possible.

“Take time to hand write them a personal note thanking them for attending the open house and add them to your list to invite them to future open houses.”