The Worst (and Best) Open House

I’m an Open House freak in my Las Vegas neighborhood. Every time I see a directional, I make the turn and go see the house. Of course I’m curious about the house – the floorplan, the decorating, the upgrade ideas. And I’m always checking the value compared to my own home (and thank goodness values have been skyrocketing in Vegas).

But mostly, I’m checking out the agent.  I want to see if they are skilled at getting my name and contact information, at qualifying me as a potential buyer or seller, at building the kind of rapport that leads to a working relationship.

With one very notable exception, were I the Broker, I would have fired all 20 agents I’ve met this year at open houses.  The infractions?  Let me list them:

Poor signage.  Three directionals do not a successful Open House make!  Let’s talk 10 or better!  Your traffic will improve and you will make a powerful impression on the neighborhood, one that may lead to another listing and another.

Poor preparation.  Usually it seems the agent just rushed in and didn’t have time to straighten up, freshen the air, put the dog out, empty the litter box and so on.

Poor greeting at the door.  That means a warm smile, a business card and, most important, the request for the visitor to sign in.

No attempt to qualify the visitor as a buyer, seller, or a curious neighbor.  The agents don’t seem to understand that they are there to make connections, build their database of potential sellers and buyers.

No credible and valuable information about the area, the house, similar properties and so on.

I probably could go on, but let me just give an example:

This weekend, I went to an Open House a block away from my home.  Of course there were just 3 signs (and one of them had blown down).  I got to the front door which was closed.  I rang the bell and opened the door.  Here came the agent, just off her chair in the back, wearing ripped jeans, and no shoes.  Her toes were nicely painted, however. She introduced herself but offered no card (I couldn’t tell you her name or company if my life depended on it).  And, she never asked who I was!  Much less how to reach me via phone or email!  She assumed I was a potential buyer (I think) but made no attempt to  verify this by asking.  When I got to the living room, here were the sellers, sprawled out on the sofa, looking bored, tired and not at all glad to see me.  Are you getting the picture?

Listen:  here’s how you hold a great open house.

You plan a week ahead of the event

Within 36 hours of the open house (that means a day before or an hour before), you go door to door around it, with flyers, inviting the neighbors (and probably picking up a listing lead or two).

You prepare the sellers to have the place in top shape and to be GONE – unless they are holding the Open House themselves or assisting you.

You arrive early and put out no fewer than 10 open house directional signs  (David Bartels tells me this is the most important thing; so important that he pays someone $50 per open house to do it for him – and he puts out 15 signs).  Yes, this will boost traffic, but the main reason you do it is to overwhelm the neighborhood.  You’ve already gone door-to-door, probably sent out Just Listed cards, and now have your signs all over the place; you will have made a powerful impression.

You greet people at the door with a warm smile, a business card and a clipboard.  You ask them to please sign in before you step aside to allow them entry.  Gene Manners is the absolute master at this. He gets contact information on pretty much everybody who shows up. His method?  Present it like a normal business practice – it’s just the way we do it; be warm, friendly and confident.

You ask: ‘what brings you in today?’ The answer will usually tell you if they are a potential buyer, seller, or just some dude like me who goes to open houses to evaluate agents.  By the way, if I am asked – which I never am – I’d certainly describe myself that way. And I’d take the opportunity to talk about Help-U-Sell, too.

You lead the tour and when they return to the front door you ask a qualifying or closing question:  ‘So what do you think?  Is this something you’d consider?’  No matter what they answer, you have the basis for a conversation here and an opportunity to either present other homes or close to write an offer.

If it’s a neighbor or a potential seller, talk about their home value and close to do a Market Analysis.

In short:  don’t be a schlub! Take control and interact with people. Adopt the kind of playful attitude you might take at a Singles Bar:  see how many names and numbers you can come away with!  And then WORK them.

I mentioned the one notable exception.  I went to an Open House in a nearby neighborhood.  The agent did everything right . . . ok, maybe she was a little skimpy with the signs, but other than that, she hit all of the high points I mentioned above.

She met me with a smile and a card and asked me to sign in; then she asked why I was there.  When I told her I was a nosey neighbor, you could almost see the gears shift.  She asked about my house, it’s location, size, upgrades.  She knew the neighborhood and the floorplan.  She asked if I had some of the options that came with that model. Then she congratulated me for choosing a gated community.

‘In this part of town, that gate adds about $25,000 to your value,’ she said.

‘Really?’ I replied, ‘I had no idea!’

‘It’s true,’ she said, ‘I’ve tracked the values and can document it.  And, if you were gated and guarded it would probably be more like $50,000.’

Needless to say, I was impressed.  And though that was last year, I still have her card.

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