14 Essential Things To Keep In Mind When Hosting An Open House

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Expert Panel, Forbes Real Estate Council

Successful executives in the real estate industry from Forbes Real Estate Council share firsthand tips & insights.

An open house is a great way to show off a listed property to multiple buyers at once. Potential homebuyers can ask questions and learn more from either the seller or their real estate agent. 

Planning for an open house involves intense research, not to mention thorough cleaning and preparation to appeal to potential buyers. As this process is so detailed, we asked a panel of Forbes Real Estate Council members to share some important things to remember when hosting an open house. Whether you’re the homeowner or the agent, keep these things in mind to ensure a successful event. 

Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Remember Exposure 

When I host an open house, I am OK if only a couple of people come through. What I am looking for is an uptick in showings just before and immediately after the open house. I gear my overall marketing to exposing the home to buyers through portals and emails that go out to people who have hunted for homes near the open house. - Michelle Ames, HorsePower Team Texas/Independent Realty 

2. Make One Feature Stand Out 

Buyers shop an average of 10 houses, says research from the National Association of Realtors. You need to showcase one feature of the home that makes the home memorable in a good way. Spotlight a new kitchen or deck as the center of your open house. Also, neutralize the home so that one feature isn't something bad. You don't want the home to be remembered as the "house that smelled like cat pee." - Kevin Hawkins, WAV Group, Inc. 

Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?

3. Safeguard The Home 

By hosting an open house, you have to be aware that a lot of strangers are going to be walking into the house. You want to make sure the location is secure, the valuable items on display are safeguarded and that the place is decorated in such a manner that things won’t get destroyed. Make sure you also have the right insurance in place and are taking all necessary security precautions. - Ari Rastegar, Rastegar Property 

4. Be Prepared To Answer Questions 

Most lead generation tactics will require a heavy financial investment and employ a shotgun approach that may not get your message in front of the right audience. Besides your time and maybe a few dollars on food and drinks, hosting open houses doesn't cost you anything and typically gets you in front of buyers and sellers. Some people will use this opportunity to interview agents, so stay sharp! - Brad Le, Compass 

5. Invite The Builders 

Open houses and ribbon-cutting ceremonies allow the community to see the work developers are doing to improve its surroundings. We try to be conscious developers by inviting some of our workers to be present so they can meet the neighbors they’re building for. - Ricky Trinidad, Metronomic, Inc. 

6. Make A Connection With Buyers 

An open house is an opportunity to find out what clients value and use that to forward the conversation. Why are they moving? What neighborhood? Larger or smaller living space? Is it to be closer to family? Focus on what they value and connect the dots to why that property will serve their next steps in life. - Susan Leger Ferraro, Peace, Love, Happiness Real Estate 

7. Offer Private Showings

Prospective homeowners and renters are shifting from open houses to scheduling private showings instead. Consumers live in an on-demand economy where they expect to receive services immediately. Real estate professionals who adopt on-demand showings can provide an improved service level for customers. Those who still only use outdated weekend open houses will increase their vacancy period and costs. - Chuck Hattemer, Onerent 

8. Be Helpful, Not Pushy 

Agents hosting an open house should let buyers have the freedom to look around, but be available to help. Be prepared to answer questions about the property and the sellers without being brash. Buyers, especially first-timers, don't want to feel like they are being sold to. - Beatrice de Jong, Opendoor 

9. Have A Partner Join You 

Open houses are a wonderful opportunity, but they can also be detrimental to an agent's safety. Consider asking a mortgage or title rep to join you at the open house. Depending on your state, they may provide appetizers, door prizes, interest rate info and, most importantly, a deterrent to would-be attackers. - Stephanie Arnett, Tom Ferry 

10. Think Of Yourself As A Stage Director 

You should look at an open house as a stage and yourself as the director. As such, have your stagehands ready. See what your audience will see. Do you like what you see? Can you change it? If you can see it, someone else will, too. They could be the buyer. Maybe a staging company would help. We call them that for a reason. This applies anywhere. Bank, coffee shop, etc. Look, see and adjust. - Michael J. Polk, Polk Properties / Matrix Properties 

11. Promote Your Open House Everywhere 

An open house is a great way to introduce a property! Make sure it's well advertised, not just on MLS or Zillow, but on social media and through your database too. Make sure the property is set-up for a party. After all, you are welcoming guests. Make sure you have a greeter at the door, not just an agent. Safety in numbers and the public will always be greeted warmly. - Nancy Kowalik, Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group 

12. Arrive Early And Stay Late 

Get there early. Too many signs are not enough. Visit the neighbors and tell them about your open. Cold call the neighbors if you can. Even if they show up as lookie-loos, they're additional warm bodies at the open. Keep a paper sign-in sheet and an iPad with a digital sign in. Play music as a grey-noise effect. If it's ending at 5 p.m., stay until 6 p.m. Buyers always show up late. - Ari Afshar, Compass 

13. Set Yourself Up To Work During Downtime 

Sometimes, no matter how much marketing and attention you give it, an open house can be dull and not very busy. In these cases, you should always have an iPad or laptop with you to get the most out of your time and work while you wait for the next party to swing by. - Robert Rahmanian, REAL New York 

14. Be Engaged, Strategic And Intentional 

Open houses help to demonstrate your commitment to your client and overall marketing strategy, and it's a chance to showcase to the public your expertise and passion for what you do. It's not enough to put up your signs and just show up. Be engaged, strategic and intentional with how you plan and execute the open house. It's a reflection of who you are and the services you provide. - Michelle Risi, Royal LePage Connect Realty 

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An open house is a great way to show off a listed property to multiple buyers at once. Potential homebuyers can ask questions and learn more from either the seller or their real estate agent. 

Planning for an open house involves intense research, not to mention thorough cleaning and preparation to appeal to potential buyers. As this process is so detailed, we asked a panel of Forbes Real Estate Council members to share some important things to remember when hosting an open house. Whether you’re the homeowner or the agent, keep these things in mind to ensure a successful event. 

Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Remember Exposure 

When I host an open house, I am OK if only a couple of people come through. What I am looking for is an uptick in showings just before and immediately after the open house. I gear my overall marketing to exposing the home to buyers through portals and emails that go out to people who have hunted for homes near the open house. - Michelle Ames, HorsePower Team Texas/Independent Realty 

2. Make One Feature Stand Out 

Buyers shop an average of 10 houses, says research from the National Association of Realtors. You need to showcase one feature of the home that makes the home memorable in a good way. Spotlight a new kitchen or deck as the center of your open house. Also, neutralize the home so that one feature isn't something bad. You don't want the home to be remembered as the "house that smelled like cat pee." - Kevin Hawkins, WAV Group, Inc. 

Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?

3. Safeguard The Home 

By hosting an open house, you have to be aware that a lot of strangers are going to be walking into the house. You want to make sure the location is secure, the valuable items on display are safeguarded and that the place is decorated in such a manner that things won’t get destroyed. Make sure you also have the right insurance in place and are taking all necessary security precautions. - Ari Rastegar, Rastegar Property 

4. Be Prepared To Answer Questions 

Most lead generation tactics will require a heavy financial investment and employ a shotgun approach that may not get your message in front of the right audience. Besides your time and maybe a few dollars on food and drinks, hosting open houses doesn't cost you anything and typically gets you in front of buyers and sellers. Some people will use this opportunity to interview agents, so stay sharp! - Brad Le, Compass 

5. Invite The Builders 

Open houses and ribbon-cutting ceremonies allow the community to see the work developers are doing to improve its surroundings. We try to be conscious developers by inviting some of our workers to be present so they can meet the neighbors they’re building for. - Ricky Trinidad, Metronomic, Inc. 

6. Make A Connection With Buyers 

An open house is an opportunity to find out what clients value and use that to forward the conversation. Why are they moving? What neighborhood? Larger or smaller living space? Is it to be closer to family? Focus on what they value and connect the dots to why that property will serve their next steps in life. - Susan Leger Ferraro, Peace, Love, Happiness Real Estate 

7. Offer Private Showings

Prospective homeowners and renters are shifting from open houses to scheduling private showings instead. Consumers live in an on-demand economy where they expect to receive services immediately. Real estate professionals who adopt on-demand showings can provide an improved service level for customers. Those who still only use outdated weekend open houses will increase their vacancy period and costs. - Chuck Hattemer, Onerent 

8. Be Helpful, Not Pushy 

Agents hosting an open house should let buyers have the freedom to look around, but be available to help. Be prepared to answer questions about the property and the sellers without being brash. Buyers, especially first-timers, don't want to feel like they are being sold to. - Beatrice de Jong, Opendoor 

9. Have A Partner Join You 

Open houses are a wonderful opportunity, but they can also be detrimental to an agent's safety. Consider asking a mortgage or title rep to join you at the open house. Depending on your state, they may provide appetizers, door prizes, interest rate info and, most importantly, a deterrent to would-be attackers. - Stephanie Arnett, Tom Ferry 

10. Think Of Yourself As A Stage Director 

You should look at an open house as a stage and yourself as the director. As such, have your stagehands ready. See what your audience will see. Do you like what you see? Can you change it? If you can see it, someone else will, too. They could be the buyer. Maybe a staging company would help. We call them that for a reason. This applies anywhere. Bank, coffee shop, etc. Look, see and adjust. - Michael J. Polk, Polk Properties / Matrix Properties 

11. Promote Your Open House Everywhere 

An open house is a great way to introduce a property! Make sure it's well advertised, not just on MLS or Zillow, but on social media and through your database too. Make sure the property is set-up for a party. After all, you are welcoming guests. Make sure you have a greeter at the door, not just an agent. Safety in numbers and the public will always be greeted warmly. - Nancy Kowalik, Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group 

12. Arrive Early And Stay Late 

Get there early. Too many signs are not enough. Visit the neighbors and tell them about your open. Cold call the neighbors if you can. Even if they show up as lookie-loos, they're additional warm bodies at the open. Keep a paper sign-in sheet and an iPad with a digital sign in. Play music as a grey-noise effect. If it's ending at 5 p.m., stay until 6 p.m. Buyers always show up late. - Ari Afshar, Compass 

13. Set Yourself Up To Work During Downtime 

Sometimes, no matter how much marketing and attention you give it, an open house can be dull and not very busy. In these cases, you should always have an iPad or laptop with you to get the most out of your time and work while you wait for the next party to swing by. - Robert Rahmanian, REAL New York 

14. Be Engaged, Strategic And Intentional 

Open houses help to demonstrate your commitment to your client and overall marketing strategy, and it's a chance to showcase to the public your expertise and passion for what you do. It's not enough to put up your signs and just show up. Be engaged, strategic and intentional with how you plan and execute the open house. It's a reflection of who you are and the services you provide. - Michelle Risi, Royal LePage Connect Realty 

Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization for senior-level executives in the real estate industry.