Over the years, I have held hundreds of open houses. I held them for the same reason realtors should today: they still remain a great way for agents to introduce their product to prospective buyers. They also provide a venue to educate those who visit the property. Simply, there is no better place to meet buyers than at an Open House!
First of all, they arrive with an invitation from you! They come with their expectations, their questions and yes their money.
Secondly, they are now on your turf, and they know it. So you have them for the duration of their "looking" time. It's up to you to turn them from "lookers" into "buyer clients". In order to have a successful Open House you need people to attend. I have found these steps work very well in almost any market:
Step 1: You need to advertise. Agents that put out an Open House sign and expect droves of people are courting disappointment (bring a good book to read!) You need to advertise everywhere you can think off. In your local papers, in the MLS system, to the neighborhood, to your ski club, online advertising, anywhere that people look for real estate. I even put up signs on telephone poles if the local town ordinance lets me!
Step 2: Send a written invitation to the neighbors. This is not a mass mailing! This is a hand-written (yes, written by your own hand even if your handwriting is attrocious!) note inviting some of the abutting neighbors. I send out about 6-8 of these. To the rest of the neighborhood the signs should do it. Trust me, these work, and they only take about 20-30 minutes and some postage.
Step 3: Lots and lots of signs. You need as many signs for an Open House as there are intersections to get from a main road to your Open House...I've done as many as 8 signs which can include directional arrows as well as A-fold Open House signs which are light weight and fold down for easy carrying. If your office doesn't have enough signs, invest in your own private stock. I promise you, it won't go to waste and the first sale you cash in from an open house will pay for this initial investment.
Step 4: Have information handy that details the property and also the general area. I creater a "Property Highlights" 3-ring binder that features copies of the listing spec sheet (of course), tax information, deed, seller information, local schools, parks, movie theatres, etc. This binder is placed on the kitchen table of the property- after the Open House, I leave this binder behind for any agents that show the home so they have this information at their fingertips.
Step 5: Give them something to take with them. This can be the spec sheets, but I usually include something that gives information on the local market, area businesses, or simply "free". I've given ice cream cone coupons, bakery gift certificates, and bags of M&M's with my name and contact info embossed on them (for more on this marketing idea refer to my blog: "Melts in your mouth, not in your hands!". Make sure you attach your business card to any giveaways!
Step 6: Should I feed them? I don't as a rule. I do hand out bottled water and "nibbles" that don't make a mess (either at your clients home or on the visitors) such as peanuts or red seedless grapes. Remember they aren't there for lunch but to see the property and you want to connect with them long enough to have them sign into the visitors book or to leave a number.
Step 7: Have a Visitors Log Book. I find this is the best way to get them to leave a name and number...that way you are not singling them out. I have never had anyone refuse to sign into this log book, especially if you preface asking them to sign in, by stating that the owners feel better "knowing" who was in their home. You can buy these "Guest Books" at any Walmart.