Your focus should be on cultivating future business with visitors rather than finding a buyer for the property you’re hosting.
couple looking at sell sheet at open house

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Many real estate professionals mistakenly believe that holding an open house is about finding the one person who will walk through the door and put down an offer on the spot. If that’s your goal, you won’t be successful at open houses.

The true purpose of an open house is neither to sell the home nor  to pick up a ripe buyer. Rather, the purpose is to generate consultations with visitors—especially other homeowners in the area—and build listing dominance in the neighborhood. You’ll also snag potential buyers while using this method.

Take stock for a moment: How many open houses did you hold last year? How many CMA appointments did you have? How many listings did you take? The number of listings you take is limited to the number of CMAs you present, and more CMAs mean more listings. If you execute them properly, your open houses can generate more CMAs.

Select the right community. If you work in an area with reasonably priced new construction, you might want to consider focusing on holding open houses in new developments. Because those homes are either brand-new or young in age, there likely have been few or no resales—and that means no agent or brokerage has established listing dominance yet. Become an expert on the floor plans, square footage, builder features, and amenities of these homes, and know the nearby communities with market values slightly lower and slightly higher than your target area. Choose a neighborhood that you can be enthusiastic about. Your intention is to focus your listing activity in this community, so you had better like it. The open house is how you get your toehold in the community and reinforce your marketing.

No plan can prevent a stupid person from doing the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time, but a good plan should keep a concentration from forming.” —Charles E. Wilson, former CEO of General Electric

Select the right home. While luck and signage will bring buyers to the home, your real goal of obtaining future listings requires you to send the right message to prospective sellers. This is your showcase. You want it to look, feel, and smell great. Fresh paint, spruced-up landscaping, clean windows, and no clutter provide evidence of what kind of advice you give sellers. Look for a home that is located near well-traveled streets.

Gin up neighborhood interest. Think of it as a low-key block party: You want the neighbors to stop in, so invite them. I take a three-pronged approach to open house invitations: 1) tell neighbors you will be inviting them; 2) send them the invitation; and 3) remind them of the open house. Run a title search and make a street-by-street list of owners. If the mailing address is different from the property address, it may be a rental. You’re just looking for information. The residents of the community are people that you need to meet eventually, and a proper open house provides an opportunity.

Make the invitation professional. The invitation doesn’t need to be anything fancy. It should state where, when, what, and why. Put the family name and property address on your invitations and hit the neighborhood to go door-knocking and personally announce the open house to neighbors. If no one is home, either leave the invitation at the door or come back the next day and try again. Then, on the morning of the event, make one more round of the area to try to contact those you missed and to remind those you were able to speak to previously.

Sign psychology. An open house is a legal excuse to plaster your name all over the neighborhood. Sign restrictions in many communities limit signage except for open houses. Some communities also prohibit those, and others have tried, so if you can place them, don’t be shy. Put your signs where they will be seen. You’ll want to have them up on a Saturday, for example, because that’s the day most families run their errands. People travel back and forth from home more times on Saturday than during the week. Experiment with both Saturday and Sunday, and see which day has the busiest traffic.

With each subsequent open house in your target neighborhood, you have an opportunity to try to meet other neighbors and reinforce the impact of your signs. Remember, the success of your open house shouldn’t be measured by how many possible buyers you pick up but how many CMA appointments you set.