The Trick to Treats: How to Win Over Open House Guests

By Tips & Strategies

On the agent forums I’m in I see posts similar to this quite often: “What kind of treats do you (other agents) put out at your open houses?” Answers range from “A catered lunch” to “Nothing!” While I firmly believe you should adopt whatever style fits you best, and I don’t want to insinuate to any anti-treaters that they are doing things all wrong, I want to present my case about why it is so important for you to take special care when it comes to your open house spread – from your treats to your marketing material.

When you host an open house you have two objectives. You are representing the home for sale and you are representing yourself as a real estate professional. That second objective is key – not everyone who walks into the home will want to purchase it, but almost everyone who walks through your open house doors will need a REALTOR® at some point. Your impression on your guests is make-or-break when it comes to their decision to work with you. And, like the saying goes, “You never get a second chance at a first impression.”

The moment your open house guests arrive through the door they are not only sizing up the home, they are sizing you up as well. In a blink of an eye (Observer Vol.19, No.7 July, 2006), they will make a judgment call on whether or not you are someone they want to work with.

And what happens when they reach the dining table or other area you have set up your open house material? Are they overwhelmed by stacks upon stacks of title company flyers? Or are they underwhelmed by a simple sign-in ledger? You may have gotten their attention at the door with your warm smile and eye contact, but their impression of you is extended to the way you present yourself professionally.

Why is something as simple as your open house spread so impactful on their opinion of you? Because most guests are sizing you up against your competition, wondering if you are the right agent to represent them. And, while a buyer may be less concerned about your treats, a prospective seller scouting for listing agents will certainly take note.

That’s right. You know that “nosey neighbor” who wasn’t in the market to buy? He was sizing up his competition (his neighbor’s home being held open), getting comparable sales data and scouting for the perfect listing agent to hire to sell his home.

Compare two open houses he could’ve walked into. Both agents have access to the same neighborhood data, sales data and have similar marketing plans. One agent has cluttered the gorgeous kitchen counters with his display of flyers about the city and schools and a sign-in ledger void of signatures yet is accompanied by a sign that reads, “Our sellers request that all guests sign in.” The second agent has a neat stack of branded folders to pass out to guests, clipboards for guests to carry while on tour of the home and a beautiful display of wine, cheeses and gourmet brownies. Who would you choose to represent your home for sale? Who do you think will go the extra mile to market your most precious asset? Without question, I’d choose the agent who made his open house feel more like an event than a flyer-pushing duty.

Increase your odds of landing seller clients with these open house tips:

  • Keep your handouts to a minimum and make sure they are presented neatly. You don’t want to distract from the home’s features. Also, if you save those non-branded info sheets on the school system, golf courses, and other pieces I consider “fluff” to email to your guests later, you create a reason to contact them after the open house and can continue to build upon your relationship with them.
  • Your handouts should be pieces of value, professional, and visually appealing. Black and white copies don’t cut it. Everything you pass out should contain your professional branding. Not only does this make you look better, but will have a larger impact on your audience. Follow this rule: if it doesn’t have your branding and it’s not in color, don’t bring it to the open house. Pieces of value include neighborhood market data, map of other active listings and your personal advertising material, such as a brochure about you and a flyer listing your services. Place these materials neatly into a branded folder, making sure your brand is consistent across everything you pass out. You can also do two stacks of folders: one geared toward buyers, the other toward sellers.
  • Ditch the sign-in ledger. Instead, have a neat stack of clipboards that guests are handed and take along with them on their tour of the home. The top half should be a feedback form for the home (make it a simple rating system of 1-10 or 1-5) and the bottom half asks for their contact information. Entice them to fill this portion out with a gift card drawing, and ensure them their answers from the top portion will be kept anonymous from the seller.
  • Offer treats to your guests! I hear the excuses, “Treats make messes.” “No one ever eats them anyway.” “I’m always stuck with the leftovers.” Remember, the more you create an event-vibe with your open house, the more listings you will attract. Showing up and offering mints is not impressive. You can get creative with treats: maybe you’re known in your community for your custom cookies with the home address in icing – that gets people talking about you which means you will be memorable. I opt for more gourmet treats than the stale-looking chocolate cookies from the grocery store – it doesn’t surprise me when people say their treats never get eaten, their treats probably didn’t look good enough to eat! And, if you do have leftovers, grab some co-branded lender flyers on special loan programs for community workers and drop them off with the goodies at your local fire station, police station or school!

If you prepare for your open house the day before you won’t be in a mad race to get everything together on the event day. When you feel prepared, you will feel more confident and the more confident you feel , the better of a first impression you’ll make with your open house guests!

To learn more tips and strategies for your open houses, including a day-by-day marketing plan, check out my book: Your Key to Open House Success.

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