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Do Open Houses Even Work?

Holding a Successful Open House

Most real estate agents that take home listings will suggest a number of ways to market your home for sale. One of many effective ways of getting people talking about your home is through an open house. Infrequently an open house attendee is the party to actually buy the home, but there are still some other really good reasons to hold open houses. Oftentimes, the buyer ends up being someone who heard about the open house on the Internet, through the marketing done for the open house, or most often through someone who actually did attend the open house. Word of mouth advertising has always been highly effective in the marketing of homes. One of those "nosey neighbours" may actually know of someone they could recommend that might be interested in your home - if only they were asked.
There are four basic steps to follow for a successful open house. The first three are planning, promotion, and presentation. Once you've done all that, the fourth step is to cross your fingers and pray for great weather!
As with most things in real estate, planning is critical to your success. Choose a date that won't conflict with other events that could divert your potential visitors. You may get a few browsers on Super Bowl Sunday, Mother's Day, day of the Stanley Cup final, or either weekend of The Calgary Stampede, those that do may only be filing time. While you can't effectively forecast the weather, it's a good idea to check the long-term forecast. You won't get much traffic when the weather is -30° or there is a torrential rainstorm.
Ask your real estate professional for advice on how to showcase your home to its best advantage. Remember, when it comes to showing - less is more. You need to create an atmosphere of spaciousness. Similar to when you listed your home for sale, you need to ensure that all the clutter is gone in order to maximize the actual space. Then, you need to recreate the illusion of space: organize your garage, cupboards, pantry and clothes closets. Nice neat rows of things always looks as though it takes up less room (and therefore appears to free up space) than a space of random chaos. Organize your clothes closet from the shortest clothes at the front to longest at the back. You'd be amazed at how much speace this appears to create. If you haven't had a garage sale recently, then now might be the time to consider one. Getting rid of anything that you don't need will not only free up some space, but it will make your moving day much easier. Then, also box up some of the items you won't need for this season. There's no use keeping the winter boots and coats out for a summer listing. This too will free up space and make your preparation for moving day a little easier.
Also remember, a home that looks well kept will create a much more favourable impression. Make sure you cut the grass, rake the leaves, or clear the sidewalks, driveway and deck of snow (depending on the season) on the day before or in the morning of the open house. Plan on a few "fold, flush and polish" tasks before the open house too. Lubricate any door hinges that may be squeaking, polish the mirrors, water faucets and sinks. Clean any fingerprints off of your appliances - especially stainless steel ones that look great when new, but easily look tarnished when used frequently. Have the kids make their beds and check them to make sure they look like a show home's or a hotel's beds. Just like everyday that your home is on the market, replace any burnt out lightbulbs. All those little things can show your home is well cared for instead of heavily "lived in."
Then it's time for you and your real estate agent to start some promotion. The public comments of the MLS® System is most effective in driving traffic. Make sure your agent also sets the open house flag in the listing so that other agents know they're welcome to send their unaccompanied clients too. Those flags also show up on many agents' VOW websites (like this one). Those things should be updated at least 5 days before your open house. While the open house flag turns off automatically, make sure your agent removes the open house comments in the public comments of the MLS® System right after the open house. Failure to do this makes your home's listing look really dated and uncared for.
While newspaper advertising is not effective for real estate sales, you might have some luck with it. Your real estate agent is an expert in promoting homes for sale (or should be). Ask them for what marketing techniques they feel would be best used to promote your event. Just knocking on all your neighbours doors and publicizing your open house a few days before the event may just be the most effective way to get traffic generated. Post notices on bulletin boards at work, in supermarkets, libraries and community centres. Contact your friends and work colleagues by email with a link to your agent's virtual tour and ask for their help in generating some more open house traffic. This too can be quite effective. Your agent is usually prohibited from doing these things because they are a commercial venture, but you shouldn't be. Any way that you and your friends can spread the word, the better.
For the day of the open house, your real estate agent will again counsel you on how to present the home to its best advantage. Moving pillows, rearranging towels or even moving some lamps are some of the things we end up doing. I'm sure other agents do similar things. Insist that it is the listing agent (your agent) is the one that actually hosts the open house and not just another agent from their office. Rarely does the listing agent pay another agent to host an open house for them, so those agents tend to concentrate on finding buyers for other homes instead of promoting your home to all open house attendees and having them spread the news for you.
Other pieces of counsel that you should always receive are: Turn on all the lights, playing soft background music and even a freshly brewed coffee can add to the ambience and make a welcoming first impression. But the most important piece of counsel they should give is to leave the house in your agent's capable hands. Pack up the kids and pets and enjoy your day away from the home. Initially it may seem odd that the person that knows the home the best shouldn't be at the open house, but it is really true. Open house guests and potential buyers must feel free to poke about, linger and be able to ask some often very direct question of your real estate agent. If the owner is present, they may feel reserved and even intruding upon your space and may not even ask their most burning questions. Your agent should be quite skilled probing for concerns, be experienced at getting to the root of their questions and should have the opportunity of solving the problems or providing solutions.
Also, confer with your agent on where they should put up their open house directional signs. You most likely know the intersections that will have the most amount of slower speed traffic that may see and follow the signs much better than your agent. Your agent will know the prohibited intersections for signs and how far from the intersections and crosswalks that they are permitted. Your first-hand, local knowledge of the area's traffic patterns will complement your agent's training, knowledge and skill.
Results from open houses are varying. Rarely will an open house attendee write up an offer with the agent hosting the open house, but if encouraged they may call their own agent to write up an offer. Attendees often take home open house pamphlets and reflect on the home and its many attributes for the next several hours, days or weeks. Then they may either decide to buy it themselves or have a conversation with someone in their circle of friends that may wish to buy your home. You may never know that the buyer was influenced by an open house or the marketing activity surrounding it, but getting your home sold is your goal so wherever they come from really doesn't matter.
Use your professional real estate agent as a resource. After all, isn't that why you contracted with them in the first place?
Good luck with your open house event.


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