5 Ways to Scare Real Estate Clients Away at Your Next Open House

Home Stager with Staging Diva / Six Elements Inc.

Real Estate AgentThe post by Pacita Dimacali on Active Rain Still Holding Open Houses? That's Old Fashioned makes great points about why this real estate marketing tactic still works and why agents should do open houses.

Unfortunately, sometimes real estate agents make mistakes that scare away potential clients!

As a home buyer who has lived in 4 different cities, I've added many a real estate agent to my "Don't Deal With Them" list based on their open house behavior. This means:

  • I won't hire them when I'm ready to buy or sell my next property.
  • I'm less likely to go to any of their open houses in the future.
  • I won't recommend them when a home staging client asks me who they should list with.

Hosting an open house can be tedious (especially on a sunny weekend) and expensive when you consider the value of your time, advertising, signage, feature sheets or other materials you give away, etc. So it's important to get the maximum marketing/sales value out of your investment of time and money.

If open houses aren't working for you, it may be because you're doing it wrong! I'm not a real estate agent, I'm sharing my views based on visiting thousands of homes over the years and the really unprofessional behaviors I've personally experienced that put someone on my own "Don't Deal With This Real Estate Agent" list.

5 Ways to Scare Real Estate Clients Away At Your Next Open House:

  1. You're too busy reading the paper or talking on your cell phone to show interest in anyone else.

  2. You've thrown your coat over the furniture, left your shoes in the middle of the hall, and haven't bothered to turn on the lights. This communicates that you don't really care about this listing or doing right by your client.

  3. When a visitor comments on the lower-than-expected asking price you immediately list all the problems with the property, it's location and/or the neighborhood. (I know, hard to believe, but it's shockingly common!)

  4. When asked about the comparable listing that's down the street or around the corner, all you can say is, "I haven't seen it." This sends a pretty clear message that you're unknowledgeable, lazy, or you simply don't care. It might also suggest that the other house is better/better value and that's why you don't want to comment. If you haven't seen the other listing (which you should have!), at least be willing/able to look it up online and comment on how it compares to this property. If the open house is particularly crowded and you can't do it on the spot, be prepared to suggest getting back to them that evening with answers. After all, wouldn't you like to become their trusted real estate advisor?

  5. You jump to immediate conclusions about a person's ability to buy this, or any, property based on race and/or sex and then condescend to them accordingly. Enough said.

I've hired several real estate agents over the years based on how they handled their open houses. I also bought my last property the day after discovering it at an open house, even though I had to outbid 8 other potential buyers. I have also met many agents during their open houses who I've subsequently recommended as a home stager. These were very hot leads because they were serious sellers who had already gone to the time and expense of decorating their homes to sell quickly and for more money.

So my list of warning signs is based on my personal experience as a house buyer, seller and home stager.

By the way, if you're a real estate agent who lets others host an open house at one of your listings, make sure they aren't raising these red flags, after all it's your name on the For Sale sign!

Are there any warning signs that you would add to this list? If you're a real estate agent and you have an explanation for why any of my 5 observations shouldn't be seen as red flags, let me know!

Debra Gould, The Staging Diva®
President, Six Elements Home Staging and Voice of Possibility Group Inc.

Debra Gould's mission is helping people realize the many possibilities that lie around the next corner when they build a business around their passions. Frequently profiled in the media and author of the popular blog, Home Staging Business Report, Debra has trained 7,000 home stagers in 21 countries and has published 5 guides for home stagers.





Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Melissa Marro 09/12/2012 11:02 AM
  2. Deb Harshman 09/12/2012 08:36 PM
  3. Lori Kim Polk 09/15/2012 02:13 PM
  4. Stephen Turner 09/17/2012 12:58 AM
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Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

It's good to see the perspective of someone who is not a real estate agent.  Doing open houses takes up a good portion of the day - why waste it by sitting around doing nothing and putting off potetial buyers? 

Sep 12, 2012 11:54 PM #14
Andrew Martin
REMAX Accord - San Ramon, CA

I get a ton of business from doing open houses and I think I have gotten very good at them. I am still shocked when I see people reading the paper or watching tv or doing their computer e-mail etc. At an open house, it's all about the house and the people that walk in to see it.

I had an open this past sat/sun and handed out over 65 flyers. Picked up 3 good buyers from it. (although in my HOT sellers market, buyers are hard right now).

Sep 13, 2012 01:07 AM #15
Brian Kuhns
Coldwell Banker Roth Wehrly Graber - Fort Wayne, IN
Fort Wayne Real Estate by Brian Kuhns

great advice. How many times have we heard or seen the agent at the Open House who just doens't have their heart in it. Can they be frustrating...yes...but it only takes getting one good client out of that Open to make it worthwhile.....now which one is it is the question. 

Sep 13, 2012 01:50 AM #16
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Great points!  Several years ago, I had a listing in a classic upper end neighborhood.  While holding the home Open one Saturday, I heard gunshots about halfway through.  A few minutes later there were sirens.  When I peered out the front window, I could see at the corner, a mere 3 houses away, were police and an ambulance.  There had been a drive-by shooting.  A bullet had struck a woman in the leg.  I closed the Open House early, and I actually asked a police officer to hand me my Open House sign, which was on the opposite side of the yellow crime scene tape.  Did I think all the activity would create a deterrent to potential home buyers?  YOU BETCHA!

Sep 13, 2012 02:09 AM #17
Pacita Dimacali
Alain Pinel - Oakland, CA
Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA

Debra -- thanks for the mention. And you're absolutely right -- I've also seen some agents who do such a horrible job holding open house. One in particular was an agent in Dallas. When I was asking questions about the property, he seemed annoyed. He then said "Perhaps you should rent for a while." Really? Very insulting and off-putting.

Sep 13, 2012 03:38 AM #18
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Hi Debra. Ouch. I find it a bit surprising that there are so many doing poorly at open houses. The sole reasons to be there are to a) sell the home and b) pick-up some potential clients. Doing less than your best and showing no interest in the home will help get neither done.


Sep 13, 2012 05:14 AM #19
Joy Daniels
Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd. - Harrisburg, PA

Great list - I've bookmarked this and will share with my Open House Team! :)

Sep 13, 2012 05:33 AM #20
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


If I was a buyer and I came upon an agent who behaved the way you mention, I would never want to see them again.  I hope that most agents do not behave that way.  Thank heaven most agents are professional in their dealings with the public.

Sep 13, 2012 07:31 AM #21
Michelle Dema

Great article!!

Sep 13, 2012 11:39 PM #22

If this is considered news worthy I feel very sorry for the Real Estate business.  This list is something I would advise a high school teenager not to do.  If professionals are doing this, it says something sad about the state of your industry and all of you should be ashamed of yourself.  My real estate agent was blatantly ignorant of economic conditions, convinced herself that 20% return YoY was normal, and that prices would go up forever.  These examples of ignorance and lies and why this industry is overdue for some major housecleaning and disruption.

Sep 13, 2012 11:47 PM #23

Open homes DON'T sell properties.  They are a marketing/listing tool for real estate agents.  They attract Neighbours, sticky beaks and sometimes thiefs.  As far as Ethics goes it us certainly not something you can learn.  Ethics is something that grows with your good character, not something a bad character can have.  All the ethics training in the world won't make you honest or ethical if you are unethical.  It's not a learnt skill.


Stagging homes from feedback from buyers they don't really like it and in my 16 years in the industry I would never recommend the expense to any client.  In my opinion it does not give a return that exceeds the cost.  It's like placing ads in the newspaper it's a waist of money and promotes the agency not the property.



Sep 14, 2012 06:00 PM #24
Debra Gould
Staging Diva / Six Elements Inc. - Toronto, ON
The Staging Diva

Wow thanks everyone for your comments and additions to the list.

Marti, a "Featured Sharp Cookie," I love that thanks!

Melissa, Deborah, Lori and Steve, I appreciate you reblogging and spreading the word with home stagers and real estate agents alike. Home stagers are so often in the position of recommending a listing agent to our clients so it's good to know who to watch out for.

Debbie, love your story of the agent who fell asleep during her open house! Good thing the place wasn't cleaned out when she woke up!

The Christiansen Team, yes glued to the TV watching a football game sends the wrong message about an agent's priorities when he's "on the job." Thanks for sharing that example!

Myri, that's an awful and scary situation. Having your open house sign behind police tape at a crime scene, absolutely not a marketing opportunity!

Pacita, rent indeed. I see you've run into the same sexist assumptions I have when house hunting!

Thanks everyone else who I haven't mentioned personally!





Sep 17, 2012 01:55 AM #25
Lisa Gruver

Phew, so glad I am not guilt of this article. I always take listings of the neighborhood with me so that I can be knowledgeable of what is pending, available and recently sold. I disagree with Paul who said staging is not important, it can make or break a home getting sold. Great article but the picture makes me laugh, the cell phone has an antennae on it and the clothes are from 1986. I have problems finding good pictures when I am writing a blog!! I struggle with finding a good medium on being helpful and stalking the buyers at open houses. Any suggestions?

Sep 17, 2012 01:59 AM #26
Steven Marshall

Really?  This is what residential real estate has come to?  Don't agents receive training or coaching anymore?

Debra, I was only in residential real estate for four years in the `70's before moving over to investment real estate (30 years) where open houses don't exist, so maybe I don't understand what's going on these days.  However, these tips are so "common sense" that they must be aimed at the grossly stupid.  Real estate brokerage is a very Darwinian industry and the agent behavior that you've described is a sure sign of agents about to exit the industry due to a lack of income (addition by subtraction).

How about an article on open house "best practices" for newer, smarter agents?

Sep 17, 2012 05:40 AM #27
Amy Bly
Great Impressions Home Staging/Interiors - Montville, NJ
Styling Homes for Selling and Staying

I wrote about my negative experience at an open house in a NJ shore town a couple of months ago as well, Debra, and I'm now working with the agent who actually expressed interest in our needs, instead of the one who was completely un-interested in talking to us! It's too bad there are agents like Paul who have not had their eyes opened to the benefits of staging and the ROI it usually brings to owners who have their homes staged. To not at least mention it to sellers as one effective way to market homes does them a disservice! 

Sep 18, 2012 12:36 AM #28
Peg Barcelo
Fluff My House! Home Staging Inc. 250.486.6369 - Summerland, BC
The FlufftasticStager from Summerland, BC

Great article Debra! The only negative experience I've had at an open house was; too many people there so I couldn't chat with the Realtor, lol. I didn't want to distract her from potential clients so I just left my card. There were some things I would have suggested to her (like turning off the tv) and some furniture rearranging, but just as well, she wasn't interested enough in Staging to call me.

Paul, you are entitled to your opinion, but I'm sure there are Realtors in your area that are using Stagers and selling faster than you are. You might want to take a look at that. :)

Sep 18, 2012 10:28 PM #29
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Open houses are rare in my area for MANY reasons but great article Debra.  Thanks for sharing here and on linked-in!


Sep 18, 2012 10:45 PM #30
Debra Gould
Staging Diva / Six Elements Inc. - Toronto, ON
The Staging Diva

Thanks everyone for sharing your comments and points of view!

Sep 24, 2012 02:43 AM #31
Carmella Hustoft
Keller Williams Western Realty - Ferndale, WA
Washington Realtor

Excellent feedback!  

Sep 24, 2012 09:51 AM #32
Melissa Snyder
Keller Williams - Ellicott City, MD

It amazes me that these types of things would actually happen!

Jun 04, 2014 10:58 AM #33
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