No More Missed Connections at Open Houses

It’s hard to engage every visitor during a busy marketing event, but these tips can help you carve out a moment to connect with each individual guest.
Agent Showing speaking to Client at House

© Monkey Business -

Many real estate professionals focus their marketing efforts heavily on social media, blogs, and SEO. But even in a world where more relationships begin online, face time with prospects and clients is your ultimate goal—and holding an open house is an effective means to this end. Still, depending on the level of foot traffic, it’s difficult to find time for a meaningful moment with every visitor.

Some attendees at your open house may be nosy neighbors or looky loos with no real interest in buying, while others may be legitimate buyers who don’t consider your listing a good fit or don’t want you breathing down their neck during the tour. Does this mean you should give these people a wide berth? There’s an opportunity to make a connection with every visitor, regardless of their motivations. And even if they aren’t ready to make a move today, the connection could lead to valuable business down the line. Here are a few tips for maximizing your ability to make a connection with open house visitors.

Set up multiple ways for visitors to provide contact information. Not everyone will fill out the standard sign-in sheet at an open house. Peter Harris, broker-owner of RE/MAX Home in Land O’ Lakes, Fla., says he also holds a drawing for a gift card or other small prize for those who have signed in. It tends to encourage more people to fill out the sign-in sheet with their contact info. “Typically, I’ll pick a winner a few days after the event and announce it on social media,” Harris says. Then, the winner must stop by his office to claim their prize—yet another opportunity for Harris to engage the prospect. During the open house, Harris also asks attendees if they have an app to view other property listings in the area. If not, he shows them the RE/MAX Real Estate Search app and offers to share it in an email. “This works pretty well, and then I have the person’s email so I can follow up.”

Create a hub for conversation. Some open house visitors want to tour the property on their own with little distraction. With these folks, it may be more harmful than helpful to the relationship-building process to bombard them with questions or extra information about the home. Instead, make it more natural for them to come to you. Shannon Ensor, GRI, a sales associate with United Real Estate Austin in Austin, Texas, sets up the kitchen as an intentional space for guests to congregate and connect with her. Rather than bake cookies or bring in items from a generic grocery store, Ensor picks up something special from a local hot spot to entice visitors and encourage conversation. “Tying in something local is an instant icebreaker, and it shows the agent knows the area, which is important to a buyer,” she says.

Have something substantial to say to guests. As an agent working in the luxury niche, Gregg Center, a sales associate at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Sarasota, Fla., knows it “isn’t the first rodeo” for most of his open house visitors. “I have to be really knowledgeable up front” in order to capture the attention of seasoned buyers, he says. Small talk is a good way to initiate a conversation with visitors, but you must leave them with something of value to deepen the connection. Your knowledge about the area, including schools, flood zones, and taxes, are important in spinning the conversation forward. “I have to be able to read between the lines when I speak with potential buyers,” Center says. “If the property I’m showing doesn’t quite work for them but I know of another property that might, I can suggest scheduling a showing. If the prospect is really against living in a flood zone, I can point out properties in areas that aren’t considered flood zones.”

Tell a story that resonates with attendees. Many visitors are in and out, touring open houses quickly. In the fast-paced city of New York, Tyler Whitman, a sales associate with Triplemint Real Estate, understands that a flawless presentation is often necessary to make sure guests leave with the info you want them to remember. “When people come to one of my open houses, they don’t have time to have a snack and chat,” he says, adding that scripting a presentation ahead of time is a helpful way to prepare. “A good presentation fosters trust, and then I can gauge whether or not there’s an opportunity.” Whitman believes in the power of storytelling and builds his presentations around a narrative. “I research the features of the building, the floor the apartment is on, and ask the seller what they loved about the property,” he says. “Then I build this information into my presentation.” It brings a human quality to the property and prompts more questions from attendees, he adds.

Read the personalities around you. The ability to quickly gauge the interest level of your open house guests will help you determine how to engage them, Ensor says. “The people that walk through the doors of an open house are instantly able to determine if they trust you based on first impression,” she says. Agents must be able to act just as quickly. By listening intently to her guests while soliciting feedback, Ensor says she can determine their motivation for visiting the property and where they are in the buying process. “If I’m greeting a couple, I determine which of the two has the warmer personality, and I hand my feedback sheet to that person,” she says.

Cold personalities require a little more effort to break through. Usually, there’s a reason someone doesn’t want to open up. “They might have their guard up because they’re afraid of being sold to, or they might not understand the buying process,” says Ensor. “In these cases, it’s important to ask questions without overwhelming the person, and it’s even more important to listen.”