Tips for Hosting a Creative Open House

By Suzanne De Vita

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall.

Open houses are hit or miss for most agents. Some even forgo them altogether. Why? Hosting the traditional open house may be a lost art, but never a lost cause. With some imagination (and a little bit of luck), open houses can actually be quite successful.

But how do you entice people to stroll through that door? I’ve rounded up some clever ideas that’ll have even the quietest neighbors singing your praises. Let’s give ‘em something to talk about, shall we?

Atten-tion! For goodness’ sake, don’t holler at visitors like a drill sergeant. Mimic that behavior by commanding attention. Turn predictable open house strategies upside down and inside out. Case in point: food. There are ways to serve refreshments beyond the typical fruit basket or cheese platter. Park a cart in the driveway – a hot dog stand, an ice cream cart, even a latte truck will draw in hungry crowds. If time permits, you can also reach out to local restaurants to provide samples of their dishes. A taste of the town? Sign me up!

To really make your open house the center of attention, try spotlighting other local businesses in a mutually beneficial way. Invite an art gallery to lend you artwork (great for staging!) and have a rep on hand for purchases. Or, be ahead of the game and have a lender on hand to pre-qualify buyers. You could even work with your local book store to showcase some of their newest releases, and invite community book clubs!

Game Day Plays – Winning coaches strategize – and winning agents do, too. At your next open house, play up a theme strategically geared toward your listing. You might serve up Tex-Mex if the home has an adobe exterior, for example, or play classical music when showing a Victorian.

The go-big-or-go-home agent might tie everything into that theme, creating the ultimate game day experience for guests. One rather brilliant idea for green home listings is to highlight how the home might be healthy for its next owner. Offer nutritious snacks, info on the home’s natural materials – you can even hire a nurse to do blood pressure screenings!

Themes can carry over to broker opens, too. Luaus, fiestas – everyone (including this girl) loves a party!

Razzle-Dazzle ’Em – Raffles are a “been there, done that” method for luring in potential buyers, but there are ways to reinvent the wheel on this one. Instead of offering gift certificates or lottery tix, partner with a charity (bonus if it’s one close to the heart of your seller) and donate all proceeds from the raffle. Who doesn’t like helping out a worthy cause? You might also offer incentives, like small gifts to the first 10 visitors, to reel guests in early.

The Guest Connection – No police drama here. Connect with visitors by making your open house interactive. Instead of the usual walkthrough, give each guest a clipboard questionnaire to solicit their feedback. Keep it simple; ask them to rate individual rooms, rate the overall feel of the home, rate the home’s curb appeal – whatever you want! It’ll motivate visitors to view the entire home and notice any features they may have glossed over otherwise. Plus, it will provide valuable info for you and your sellers.

Bonus Round – A few other ideas that don’t quite fit into the above categories. Ready? Go!

  • On the day of the open house, place signs at every highway exit en route to your listing.
  • Replace those personal photos (every stager’s pet peeve) with framed images of local landmarks and landscapes.
  • If the TV is a focal point, consider looping a DVD that showcases all the area has to offer.
  • Outfit your guests with swag, such as CDs containing a virtual tour of the home or tumblers with a customized logo.

Next time you’re in the market for an open house (awful joke), get inspired with some of these unconventional ideas. But please, don’t go the HGTV route and give buyers the option to “test run” the home by having them sleep over. Just don’t.

For more chat about the necessity of open houses for your business, check out this discussion in our LinkedIn group.

Stay on top of industry happenings on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

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