How To Not Be Your Grandma’s Open House

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Open House Mayhem

With NAR’s Open House Weekend just around the corner, it seems like a good time to re-visit the marketing of your Open House and maybe up our game.  Many Seller’s ask their agents to do Open Houses, in the attempt to get added exposure and it’s often hit or miss if the Listing Agent will include the Open House as part of their marketing strategy.  In a buyer’s market it important to get as much exposure to as many buyers as possible.  However, this decision is based largely on the viability of a successful Open House.

“The NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports that 45% of buyers used Open Houses as part of their buying process.”

There isn’t compelling data that shows that buyers actually buy homes while at the Open House, but they do show up.  So there are two primary benefits to holding an Open House.  The first is that you ensure you’ve given the home every opportunity for exposure to the buyers and the second is the benefit to the agent in engaging potentially unrepresented buyers.

The industry does not lack from on-going debates on if agents should hold Open Houses and this post is not intended to answer that question, instead we’re going to provide tools for you to use when doing consumer-focused Open Houses.


Before we talk about the tools one should use, it’s important to first talk about the timing of the Open House.  Many agents do Open Houses as a hail-mary when nothing else seems to work, but the reality is that to gain the greatest fruits of one’s efforts, they should consider the Open House while it’s still fresh to the market.  Whereas we understand that 45% of home buyers now visit Open Houses as part of their buying process, 89% of home buyers use the internet.  Many find the Open House online; while visiting the listing they are interested in.

If the home has been in MLS, and other sites for sometime, then buyers have already looked at the listing and may not review it again. Thus the buyer may miss the fact that there is a pending Open House.  Buyers are not scouring the newspaper for Open House information, as they once did.

However, doing the Open House on the first weekend of the listing isn’t wise either.  Marketing and exposure takes some time and to maximize the potential exposure to buyers, you need at least two solid weeks of promotion for your buyer event.

Location and Neighborhood Open Houses

Another aspect to consider is “where”.  Open Houses are most effective in high-traffic neighborhoods and where other Open Houses may be occurring.  It’s often a great idea to call around to some of the other listing agents in a particular region and try to coordinate a Neighborhood Open House, thus building upon the efforts of the collaborative group.

Remote areas where there isn’t a lot of traffic have little to no sign exposure and are not only going to fail to yield any buyers they can be a particular hazard to an agent.  The last thing an agent should do, in this day and age is advertise that they are going to be alone all day at a remote location.

Tools and Considerations

The NAR Open House Field Guide has a lot of great information, particularly in the area of agent safety, tools, resources and why agents should consider Open Houses.  The following is a list of tools and techniques an agent should consider.

Agents who have iPhones should also consider downloading the REal Alert App.

The REal Alert App sports the following features:

– Ward off a potential Attacker with Quick tap “ALARM”
– Save precious moments with Quick tap “CALL 911”
– LOCATE the nearest HOSPITALS using your current GPS location
– Record “CREEP DATA”, details about a suspicious person before they are forgotten
– Speed dial your emergency contact with Quick tap “ALERT A FRIEND”
– Handy flashlight

Another fantastic app for the iPad is the Open House Pro tool.  Having clients “sign in” on your iPad may be a novelty that compels them to actually give accurate and reliable information.  Especially when they can be received information about your listing in their email inbox.

Open House Pro has the following benefits:

• Manage all of your leads from referrals to ones you meet at open houses
• Automatically followup with leads using new contact methods that get opened and read more than 2x the industry average
• Create beautiful listing pages for all of your properties that buyers can leave feedback on or get in touch with you with one click.
• Export any collected data to excel or a CRM like top producer with one click

CalcMooLator is a great little app for your iPhone or iPad.  It’s free and has countless calculators on it, including a mortgage calculator and Rent versus Buy calculator.  These are very helpful for letting the buyer have solid information and overcoming objections right there in real time.

CalcMoolator says they have over 180 financial calculator, so there’s a good chance that what you’re looking for is in there!

  •  Tent Cards are a favorite marketing tool for once you have buyers in the house.  An agent can use them to point out features that aren’t readily apparent.  They act as great cue cards for agents showing the property as well.  Avery makes a variety or printable tent cards and almost all word processing software has templates to make them look hot.  They can be picked up at any office supply store.


  • Area Information  is a critical item to have prepared for the buyers who are visiting your Open House.  Because of the limitations of agency regulations and fair housing regulations, there is very limited information that we can provide to the buyers (who are typically customers).  A favorite tool for gathering this information from an independent resource and thus being the source or the source, but not the source is NAR’s Realtor Property Resource.  The example below is a brief information packet, which is just one of several report types that you can get from RPR.  If you aren’t familiar with this tool, you should catch up quick!  It’s a VERY powerful system and you can generate these awesome reports (all branded for you) in just minutes. (For more information visit
  • A copy of Property Owner’s Association Docs should be in a nice binder on your presentation table as well.  Today’s buyers love information.  You should have everything you can available to them as they walk through the house and be available to answer questions about the community.  (This isn’t a bad thing to live chained to the table in your listing, even when it’s not an Open House).
  • One page Home Flyers can be a great marketing tool as well.  These fliers can have bullet points of the house and should have the web address and a QR code to where the buyer can go and find more information.  Your listing website should be up and running well before your Open House in order to make sure the potential buyers can have a landing page for more information to consider when they get home.
  • Homebooks and CD’s with all the media for the home are also an important tool.  CD’s can contain your listing video, countless photos, scanned POA docs, disclosure docs, listing packets, etc…
  • Coloring books, crayons and other things to keep kids busy are very useful.  Ballons with the company logo are great for keeping kids busy and happy.  If  you don’t keep the kids preoccupied than they are trying to get mom and dad to leave the won’t spend longer in the home
  • MiFi is a must have for any Realtor.  Having portable internet with you is essential in this hyper-connected world.  In between Open House visitors you can get some work done and stay connected.  You could also hook up your webcam and stream your open house to Qik or Ustream so that your family could check on you from time to time, in real time.  This is a great safety feature for you.  You can also ask your sellers for the ability to login to their wifi connection in the home, if you’re so inclined.  Having internet connected will also allow you to get real time information for buyers should they request it.  For example, if they asked about the schools in the area, you could show them Again, being the source of the source, is a much better liability shield than providing your opinion.
  • A Partner is another very necessary consideration.  In a risky world, being alone in a house with a stranger is not very appealing and having another licensed professional in the home is a great way to stay safe.  Additionally the Realtor Code of Ethics requires that a Realtor stay with clients as they go through the house.  (COE Standard of Practice 3-9).  If you are going to do an Open House and the potential for buyers to wonder through the house unsupervised exists, you should have your Seller sign something acknowledging that fact.  Even if you have a partner at the home to help show it, it still is a good idea to have a family member call you every hour or so and check on you.
  • Directional Signs are a valuable tool to ensure that your potential buyers can find exactly what they are looking for.  Just make sure that they are placed in accordance with the state and local regulations.

Let’s Get Them There!

So here’s the deal – we’ve talked about the various tools that you should consider having and as you can see, it can be a lot of work to get this Open House all together.  Don’t you want to get as many people there as you can?  Countless Open Houses are done every weekend and most of the time the agent simply relies on signs to get people in.  As with everything in Real Estate, they more work you put into it, the greater the results.  Signs may  have worked a decade ago, but today’s buyers are online and they are making plans and scouting out how to approach our Open Houses.  Here are a few ideas and tools to help you get people to show up.  Your Open House is an event, make it feel like one!

  • Invitations are awesome.  Yes, it seems old school, but consider printing up some invitations and delivering them to the neighbors.  About 20 or so should do.  They don’t have to be elaborate or expensive.  Just get some quality paper, a good theme from Word or Pages and print them out.  Then hand deliver them to the neighbors.  Make sure all your information is on the invitation so that they can reach you.  Neighbors are a great source of referrals.  The neighbors may have friends or family that they know who are considering buying and they may want them near-by.  Additionally this process of hand delivering invitations will set you apart and give those neighbors, who may also be considering selling their home, something to notice! Just make sure to include a web address for the listing.
  • Email and/or mail your Sphere of Influence and all your current buyers.  This seems to also be another consideration that falls through the cracks!  Tell people where you’re going to be!  It’s a great way to show you’re working hard to sell a home and an opportunity to engage some past clients, friends and prospects.
  • is a free (so long as your event if free) event promotion and registration tool.  It helps get the word out on events and if people actually register for the Open House, than you can make sure to call them or email them the day before and remind them to show up.  The best part is that you can embed a registration widget on your listing’s website to let people who are looking at the house that they can register for this “exclusive” Open House!
  • Your Company may also be a great place to spread the word.  Make sure that you email your company and recommend that they let their buyers know about the Open House.  Assure your company agents that their agency relationships will be respected and that you are only going to demonstrate this house.  This will help that agent in your company who has more than one buyer to show properties to that weekend.
  • MLS Descriptions should also have information about your Open House.   Most MLS, such as MRIS will have fields where you can promote your Open House.  Make sure that you use it!  This information will be promulgated to the aggregators like Zillow and Trulia.   MRIS users, can log into Keystone and add it, as shown below


  • is another obvious choice for marketing your Open Houses.  It takes just a moment to setup and has a great layout.  This is a service provided by HGTV and you can will hear them reference it in their commercials from time to time


  • is the most visited Real Estate Search site and offers a very easy way to promote your Open House.  Assuming you have an upgraded account, as our agents do, you can login to the Realtor Control Panel and add the Open House.

  • Let’s not forget Craigslist!  Regardless if you use or go direct to you should make sure it’s in there.  Typically Craigslist listings are only good for 7 days, so this should be on your marketing checklist for about a week prior to the Open House.  Lots of homebuyers do visit this site and it’s just one more great place to get the word out.
  • The Newspaper is still a viable source of buyers and getting information out there.  Make sure that you get a solid adin the newspaper for a weekend or two prior to your event.  Ask them to register on your webpage and provide a QR code and/or web address where they can find more information, get directions and see your contact information.   We run routine free and low cost newspaper ads for agents, so make sure that you’re taking advantage of those ad tools and pimping your Open House a few weeks to a month in advance!

Setting The Mood

After all the marketing is done and tools are setup, there is still nothing more important than making sure the house is brightly lit, all the lights are on and all the windows open.  Make sure there is some pleasant music on your iPod and iTunes to set the mood for the buyers walking in.  Lit candles, lack of clutter and an airy feeling will complete the setup.   Oh and make sure you bring a can of air spray and let that baby fly when you walk in!  You and your clients may not smell that stale air, but the buyers certainly will.

Don’t Forget the Feedback

Don’t ever let that buyer leave the Open House without asking for feedback.  Feedback can be an invaluable tool for helping the Seller make decisions on home presentation and price adjustments.  It’s great evidence to the Seller’s that not only did you demonstrate the house, but that you solicited the buyers for an opinion.  Make sure you have a stack of feedback forms around.  Here’s an example of what I use for buyers:

The Followup

Yep, this is a lot of work, but the Open House day isn’t the end of it.  Make sure that within a few days after the end of Open House you call each of those buyers who gave you information and see where they are and if they are represented yet.  Also, don’t forget to provide feedback to your Sellers.  Let them know that you were working on selling their home, even after the weekend event.

The Best Result

The best possible result is one or more offer on the home.  Make sure that you “assume the sale” and bring a complete buyer packet or two just in case.  It’s a great idea to have another agent on stand-by who can come draft the offer of an unrepresented buyer, so that you are stuck in the conflict that is Dual Agency.

  • Debbie Irwin

    Timely post with great info. Good tip about the DOM of the listing. Thanks for sharing!

  • Danna Middleton

    Good Stuff – Thanks Matthew!

  • Veronica Hunter

    Great article! I am downloading the safety app right now. Thanks!