Are you organizing an open house so prospective buyers can view your home or a home that you’re selling as a realtor? This can dramatically speed up the process of getting an offer, so you can make a quick sale.
Get it wrong, though, and your open house could become a disaster. You might think that the worst-case scenario is no one showing up – but what about the possibility of strangers coming into the home and stealing valuables?
It’s important to plan and organize your open house carefully – whether you’re selling privately or you’re a realtor selling a customer’s house. Plus, if you’re in an area where Covid is still prevalent, you’ll likely need to run a virtual open house as well as (or instead of) an in-person event.
These tips will help you get the most from your open house and avoid common pitfalls:
Step 1. Pick the Right Time for Your Open House
Running your open house during a major sporting event or even during the series finale of a popular TV show is likely to mean that few people turn up. When planning a date and time for your open house, whether that’s in person or virtual, check for any potential conflicts.
Weekends normally work best for an open house, with a huge 75% of agents recommending Sundays and 22% recommending Saturdays. This may not be the perfect fit for your property, though. For instance, if you have a cozy house that would make a lovely retirement property, it might work well to have a viewing during the daytime on a weekday, when there aren’t so many competing open houses happening.
You might also want to ask around. If you’re an individual selling your own home, consult experienced agents or brokers in your area to find out what days of the week and times of day have worked best for them. Or, talk to neighbors who’ve held open houses. They may have some great insights to offer.
Step 2. Let Potential Buyers Know About Your Open House
To bring people to your open house, you need to let them know about it! There are lots of ways to do this, including:
- Posting information about the open house on social media (e.g. creating an event on Facebook) and encouraging others to share it.
- Paying for a classified ad in a section of your local paper that covers open houses.
- Asking local websites or email newsletters to spread the word about your open house (you may need to pay an advertisement fee).
- Putting up posters around your neighborhood, if this is legal in your area.
- Delivering flyers to your neighbors and encouraging them to invite friends who might be looking to buy in your area.
- Put up an “open house” sign with a custom QR code outside your house well in advance, with the date, time of the open house, and the walk through schedule.
- Think about how you can continue to promote your virtual open house during and after the event, such as on a dedicated webpage or through social media. You may even want to come up with a specific hashtag, like the number and street name of your house.
If you’re a realtor, you’ll want to also reach out to potential buyers who you’re already in touch with. Experts at Paperless Pipeline, who provide transaction management software, suggest organizing open houses as part of the managing and advertising efforts of your team.
Step 3. Make Your House Look as Attractive as Possible
Before showing your house in person or in an online live video, you want to be sure it will make the best possible impression on visitors. Make sure everything is clean and tidy and that it’s easy for people to get around the different rooms. If you need to make any repairs or touch-ups (like a fresh coat of paint), now’s a great time to do it.
When you’re cleaning, pay particular attention to your kitchen and bathroom(s): not only do these tend to need the most work, they’re also the rooms that can easily make or break a sale. You might want to hire professional cleaners if you’re short on time.
Don’t forget about the exterior of your home. You might not spend much time there – but it’s crucial that it makes a good first impression (sometimes known as “curb appeal”). Make sure everything is clean and tidy: for instance, you might need to pull up weeds or tidy up any cluttered outdoor areas. If you’re going to be showing your home virtually, think about the best place to stand when you start the video.
If you’re a realtor arranging an open house for an empty property, it’s a good idea to “stage” the home to make it look as good as possible. This could include things like renting furniture, adding decorative touches, bringing in pot plants or flowers, improving the lighting, and even repainting rooms.
Step 4. Prepare a Leaflet for Attendees to Download or Take Away
Make sure you have materials on hand for attendees to download or take with them, such as a glossy color leaflet with details about your house. This helps make sure they don’t forget the details of your property.
You’ll want to include good quality color photos, a floor plan, descriptions of each room, and potentially information like utility costs, local schools, and so on.
Remember that many of your potential buyers will also be looking at lots of other properties. You want to make sure it’s easy for them to remember yours.
As well as giving potential buyers information to download or take away, make sure you get contact details from them – ideally an email address. As a homeowner, you can follow up, tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them, and offer them the opportunity to visit again or to ask questions about the house. As a realtor, you might add them to an email list and get in touch about the property or about other suitable properties if they don’t buy this one.
Step 5. Keep Yourself and Your Property Safe
With a virtual open house, it’s important to make sure you’re not showing any details that could put you at risk. For instance, you’ll want to avoid having lots of valuables on open display. You may also need to carefully consider camera angles and a virtual tour dress rehearsal so that you don’t end up showing things like a neighboring property by accident: this could cause conflict with your neighbors.
If you’re hosting an in-person open house, it could get chaotic, with lots of people coming and going. This can unfortunately be an opportunity for thieves. While it’s unlikely that someone’s going to try walking off with your 40” TV, small valuables like jewelry or even cash could go missing. Make sure that all your valuables are secured (e.g. in a safe or at a friend’s house) before the open house begins. It’s a good idea to lock up any prescription medications, too.
You’ll also want to check your home insurance policy to see what’s covered in terms of liability. For instance, if a potential buyer suffers a nasty fall and decides to sue, you want to be sure that you’re protected. Similarly, if something is accidentally broken by a visitor, you’ll want that to be covered on your insurance too.
If you have pets, they should be removed from your property before the open house – both for their sake and for your buyers’ sake. You don’t want your pets to be scared or even hurt by someone visiting, and you also don’t want your pets to alarm potential buyers or cause them an allergic reaction.
Step 6. Practice Ahead of Time
Technological glitches can strike at the worst moments. If you’re going to be showing the house live, make sure you rehearse ahead of time. Don’t rush things: viewers will need plenty of time to take in the details of your house.
If you’re nervous about running a live tour or if you’re not sure you’ll be able to show the property to best effect, consider using a static video that you film ahead of time. This is also useful if you don’t want to have a specific time slot for the open house, but instead want to make it available on demand.
If you’re hosting an in-person open house and your house isn’t the easiest to find, make sure you supply clear directions (e.g. a map plus written instructions) when promoting it. If possible, you should also put up signs around your neighborhood to lead buyers to your open house – make sure you remember to take these down once the open house is over.
Step 7. Be Friendly and Welcoming … but Not TOO Friendly
You’ll want to be a warm, welcoming presence to everyone who visits during your open house – so make sure you’re as relaxed and well-rested as possible! If you’re hosting virtually, try to give people the opportunity to interact with you. For instance, you could let them talk to you on video or (if you’re running a Facebook live) leave comments below your video while it’s taking place. That way, you can easily respond to questions, show more details about a particular part of the house, or simply chat with people.
However, you don’t want to go too far in being friendly. Don’t get so caught up in chatting that you share personal information that it would be better for your potential buyers not to know. For instance, if you mention that you need a quick sale because you’re under financial pressure, they might use that as leverage to pay less than the market rate.
Running an open house can be a lot of work … but it can also reap huge rewards. It’s a particularly useful technique for properties that are in a high-demand area, and for properties that are unique or different in some way. An open house could even start a bidding war, seeing your property sell for well over the listed price.
Use the tips above to plan and organize the perfect open house – and enjoy the day.