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Ask Dr. Real Estate
Are Open Houses A Waste Of My Valuable Time?
by Dr. Kenneth W. Edwards GRI

 

QUESTION:

As a rookie, I am getting mixed signals from the old heads in the office. Some tell me not to waste my time with open houses. Others say it's a great way to market your listings, get exposure, and satisfy your clients. I want to put my time where it's likely to get the best return. Who is right?

ANSWER:

I would be the first to admit that many REALTORS® do, in fact, waste their time when they conduct open houses. That does not mean they cannot be an outstanding marketing and promotional tool. But first, a mini sermonette regarding the purpose of open houses.

Your Mission - Client Satisfaction: It's critical to keep in mind your objective in all of your marketing activities. It's to put your client's interests first and satisfy their needs. In every residential listing I've ever had the client has expressed an interest in holding an open house for their property. While open houses can be an effective prospecting tool for you, that's not your main goal. That being the case, your approach should be to do the most professional job you can of conducting that activity. Having cleared the air, let's take a look at some of the most common objections to holding open houses.

1. Nobody came: To ensure you do not spend a lonely afternoon watching old Star Trek reruns on the tube, you need to let people know ahead of time that you are having an open house. Of course, newspaper, radio and TV ads help, but they are not the only methods of attracting attention. Several strategically placed "open house" signs on the day of the event should pull in some traffic. Also let the neighbors know what is going on. I am assuming that when you originally got the listing you knocked on every door in the immediate neighborhood, introduced yourself, and passed out a property information sheet along with your card. A note in the mail or a flyer at their door inviting them to an open house will typically get excellent results. A few light refreshments adds a nice touch. Now what is the absolute worst that could happen? No one shows up. You could still profitably spend your time making phone calls, listening to self-improvement tapes, or reading professional literature.

2. The people who came were just lookers or nosey neighbors: I never could understand this objection. First, how do you know when someone is just a looker? They say, "I'm just looking." Right. Even if they are, in fact, just curious neighbors or browsers, many lookers eventually turn into buyers or sellers. As a minimum, if they are impressed with your professionalism they may mention you favorably when they are talking to other people.

3. You never sell the house your are holding open: Now don't say never. It has happened. What also happens is that you are in a position to meet people who might be interested in buying a different home. They may even have to sell their current place first. One of the secrets to success in selling real estate is to put yourself in situations where you are in eye ball to eye ball contact with people who are potential buyers or sellers. Whether they buy the product you're pushing on a particular day is not really that important.

Are You Folks From Around Here? I don't wish to be critical, but I have to mention a few problems I've noticed when I attend open houses incognito.

First, some REALTORS® seem reluctant to meet people. I'll give you an example. I went to an open house recently and noticed parked outside a luxury automobile with out of state plates. Inside there were two very affluent senior citizens wandering around on their own while the host was busy watching a football game on TV. I struck up a conversation with the couple and found they were relocating to the area to be near their children and were previewing the local housing options. They were not in the market for a home that day, but trust me, they were great prospects. I don't think our big sports fan ever found that out.

Second, I've been to many open houses where there was absolutely no information available about the property for visitors to take away with them. People often look at a lot of homes and it's easy to lose track. A flyer is a valuable marketing tool. Don't forget to include financing information. That's always a critical item.

Hey, What's Not To Like? When I was actively selling real estate I liked open houses so much I occasionally volunteered to take them for other REALTOR®'s listings. Here's why. At the end of each year I analyzed where my business was coming from. Invariably, I had three or four sales and several listings as a direct result of contacts I made at open houses I held. As my friends from New York say: "hey, what's not to like about that?"