First, allow me to pontificate for a moment that I believe the first priority of any open-house-giver is to attempt to sell that house. After all, someone owns that house and has hired you, or an associate of yours to care enough about his listing to try to sell it. And no matter what you tell a seller ahead of time, he really does expect the offers to start pouring in at 4:05.
So, just remember that your primary obligation is to the seller, not yourself. Lecture over.
(For a discussion on whether or not to even hold open houses, click here for my series on the topic).
All that said, most of us do look at an open house as an opportunity to pick up buyers. Maybe even sellers. So, how can you do that without resorting to Old School Cheese? (That sound kinda gross, doesn't it?)
My best advice for figuring out what NOT to do is to spend a sunny Sunday visiting other agents' open houses. Egads, some of us are cheesy. Or, if not cheesy, just plain dumb, aka, unprepared. I visited an open house last winter and eavesdropped in as a visitor asked the agent how old the furnace was. The agent smiled brightly and said those magic words: "I don't know, but I'd be happy to find out for you!" This piqued my curiosity, so I actually went into the basement and, get this - LOOKED at the furnace. It was obviously brand new. I'd think that anyone who had ever seen a furnace could tell that. Of course, that would have meant that the agent would have had to have made that long journey down the stairs to see for herself - but clearly that was too much to ask.
I've also heard rumors of agents requiring ID before allowing visitors into the property. Okay, maybe in a multi-gazillion dollar home, but your run-of-the-mill listing? Puh-leeeeeaze.
Do I require sign-in? No, I don't. I just don't feel comfy doing it, but it's not something I advise against. When I hold an open house, I'm looking for quality over quantity. I'm hoping to connect with one or two visitors; someone I have a natural rapport with. When I find that rapport with a visitor, it's easy for me to draw them into a conversation about real estate and most of the time; they ask ME for my card. I like that. If I had people sign-in, I know I wouldn't follow-up unless I felt that rapport, so I just don't bother.
When you hold an open house, pretend that there's a hidden camera watching your every move (who knows?). Don't do anything the seller wouldn't approve of. Don't criticize the house (that guest you're talking to might know the seller and report back, or he might be a seller prospect himself and be less than impressed with your professionalism!), or aggressively direct visitors toward your fancy list of "other properties they might consider instead." It's far less cheesy (and effective) to be able to simply discuss the market conversationally, rather than push a pre-prepared package on guests.
(If you're enrolled in the SWS Winter of Soul, we'll be doing a thorough discussion of Open House Strategies on January 23!)
Next up... non-cheesy greeting cards...