Top Agent Ron Abta Reveals His System for a Successful Open House

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Welcome to The Walkthrough! In this first episode of our new podcast, Ron Abta — one of San Francisco’s top real estate agents — stops by the show to share a detailed walkthrough of his strategy for hosting open houses. He shares his pre-open house marketing plan, how he creates an experience during the open house, and the follow-up system he uses to make sure open houses generate new leads for his business. Bonus: Ron also tells the story behind the integral role he played in HomeLight’s founding!

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If you enjoy this episode, please subscribe to get future episodes delivered automatically: Apple Podcasts/iTunes | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

Links and Show Notes

Full Transcript

(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host) I bet you’re not doing as many open houses as you used to. And why would you? Only 6% of buyers find the home they buy from an open house. That’s down from 16% in 2004. That’s NAR data, by the way.

Many agents feel like open houses are dead or useless. In HomeLight’s latest Top Agent Insights survey, we asked agents “How effective are open houses at getting a house sold?” On a scale of 1-10, they scored only a 4 … not very effective at all.

But what if the assumptions are wrong? What if we talk to someone who’s still doing open houses and using them to sell the home AND attract new buyer and seller clients? Let’s talk about the anatomy of a successful open house.

This is The Walkthrough.


Hey everyone, I’m Matt McGee, and on this show you’ll learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents in the country. “The Walkthrough” is part of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center, which we created to help agents like you grow your business from good to great to amazing.

If you’d like to reach me with feedback, ideas or questions about The Walkthrough, just send an email to walkthrough [at] — in fact, we’re going to be reading and sharing some of those incoming emails on future shows. If you have a question that you want to ask other agents, send it in and we’ll share it! If you have a follow-up question for today’s guest, send it in — we’ll get a response and share that! Again, the email address to use is walkthrough [at]

Alright, cards on the table, everyone: How many of you are doing open houses regularly?

As the numbers I mentioned earlier indicate, probably not a lot of you. Open houses have fallen out of favor. Buyers can just go online and see whatever home they want, right?

Today I’m going to introduce you to Ron Abta, a 17-year veteran who’s ranked in the top 1% of agents in San Francisco. Ron and his team do open houses for almost every listing they get. Why? He says they help get his name out in the community and they help grow his business … he also says they can do the same for you, if you take the right approach.

I asked Ron to walk us through how he does an open — the marketing and prep work before, the experience he wants to create for visitors during the open house, and — he says this is the most important piece of all — how he follows up after it’s over. You’ll hear specific advice on

  • What makes a home a good candidate for an open house
  • Specific scripts to soft-sell your way into the hearts of potential clients — believe it or not, Ron doesn’t force visitors to sign-in.
  • You’ll also learn how to customize your follow-up based on where the lead is in their real estate journey

You’re gonna love it, there’s a lot to chew on in the next half-hour.

And how’s this for a twist? Ron is also the real estate agent who inspired the creation of HomeLight back in 2012. You may know some of the background — Drew, our founder, and his wife almost lost their dream home in San Francisco due to mistakes and missed deadlines. It was just a really, really bad experience. And then they found a new real estate agent — none other than Ron Abta — who cleaned it all up and made the deal happen. And it all began with a Facebook ad….


RON: So the crazy story — I put an ad on Facebook and this is back in the day when that was pretty much a kind of a nascent thing, almost…

MATT: Yeah, 2011 for sure. That was pretty new then.

RON: Yeah… and I have an MBA from Stanford, so I went to graduate school, got my MBA there, and Drew — the founder of HomeLight also got an MBA from there. And so he saw, and I had the, you know, the omniscience I should say to put it Stanford MBA in the Facebook ad. And as a result, that resonated with Drew being a fellow Stanford MBA. And so he somehow contacted me and we were often running.

And then, just to continue with the story — so that’s how I helped the founder of HomeLight buy a home. But then during that process, he was like … “You know, this is just a lot of, you know, it’s just not optimized very well. Like this process is just kind of not really, it could be done better.” And so we started chatting and I made an offhanded remark to him about how there’s a referral that is often paid when one agent tells another agent about a client, you know — I have a client moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, whatever, you can, you’d pay a referral fee. It’s customary in the business. I made this offhanded comment to Drew and clearly he’s brilliant because otherwise — just something that I never saw as being that important, he saw a whole huge company and all the potential that is HomeLight today. So he ran with it and here we are today.

MATT: And here we are. That’s quite a story. So here’s the agent that helped inspire Drew to figure out a better way to do real estate. And here we are. Crazy.

Well, it is wonderful to have you here. So if we can, you know, spend the next however amount of time I want to talk about open houses. You’ve probably seen some of the numbers. It’s the National Association of Realtors — every year they do that profile of buyers and sellers. And so the most recent one for 2019, it said 6% of buyers found their house that they bought through an open house. Fifteen years ago, in 2004, that number was 16%, right? So do you have a sense that agents in general are not holding open houses as much as they used to? Is the concept of the open house dying?

RON: I think it’s definitely true, but more so depending on the asset. And let me explain. So if you have a higher-end property priced at several million dollars — you know, there might be things in that property that that owner may not want people to potentially steal at an open house. So there could be security. They may not want their neighbors to kind of, if they’re still living in the house, they might just, they might want to guard their privacy and there might be things in the property that, you know, they would rather not have it be known that the, you know, for the public to see — whether it be artwork or something. And so as a result, you often see the higher-end homes, it is a little bit more guarded and it’s really private show showings only. If you do the like the middle tier of the market or lower end of the market, that market is pretty — it’s still active as far as open houses.

So the answer to your question is kind of a hybrid answer. It just depends on the asset and where it is in the pecking order of, is it like luxury or is it more like first-time home buyer-type product.

MATT: Gotcha. So we, every quarter we at HomeLight do our Top Agents Insight survey. And the one that was just done, Q4 of this year had several questions about open houses. I think it was 52% of respondents do an open house for every listing, which I suppose is probably also down from 10-15 years ago. But then 35% of agents say that they do open houses for only one of every five listings that they get. So I think it’s pretty clear that open houses are not as favored as they were before — overall in general, probably across the country — you know, depending upon which market you’re in. Where do you guys, with the listings you have, what percentage of your listings do you do open houses for them?

RON: We do them on almost all of them, actually, yes, we probably go the other way. And I think the reason is it’s part of my business model in the sense that it’s — for me, I look at an open house as not just an opportunity to sell that home, but the statistics … they don’t lie. But it’s also a way to advertise myself, and to get my name out there at, cause oftentimes who comes into open houses? It’s true, maybe not as many buyers as the next door neighbors and the looky-loos … but you do get other, you get other owners in the neighborhood that will come just cause they want… They’re very conscious and they care about what the value of that home will be because it’ll influence the value of their home. So what the price is going to get for that home — so they care.

So it’s more of a business development tool for me and that’s why I like to do them. But I understand if I’m the minority, maybe I’m old school, I’ve been doing this a long time. Maybe newer agents, they look at the statistics and they see that … Hey, this doesn’t work. I’d rather do an ad on Instagram to try to direct traffic and do private showings that way to get the house sold. But I’m old school and then I still like to be present.

MATT: I think the internet probably has played a huge role in that, right? Because a buyer can go online and get essentially a virtual tour, a 3D tour from pretty much any listing they want. So maybe the buyers are thinking, I don’t really need to see the house.

RON: Well, there’s great technology and tools out. Matterport is a company that’s done — it’s amazing if you’ve seen the camera, it’s got like 15 lenses on it and you can really get a feel from a 3D perspective. So I can understand that, yeah. And you know, with newer agents, they probably are thinking, you know, I’m not gonna get that much business from the open house, so why waste my time? I’d rather have my free time do something else on the weekend.

But I don’t think that’s — you know, I’ve gotten a good amount of business out of open houses. Most, however, I could see how some agents say, I don’t want to do open houses because most buyers already have an agent. So how many people are really coming into an open house that don’t already have representation? And so, therefore, I could see why they’d rather maybe utilize that weekend time elsewhere. Maybe taking a buyer out to look at open houses instead of holding open their own listing. I could see that they have to make — agents have to kind of make that call how best to use their time, ’cause that’s all we have is time. That’s our most precious thing.

MATT: That’s true. I like what you said a couple minutes ago about using it sort of as an excuse to connect with the neighborhood, but also to get your name out. You know, my wife’s an agent up in Washington state and I’ve helped her for the past few years before I started at HomeLight with her marketing. And that’s sort of how we always looked at it, too, is that — hold the open house, it gives you a chance to be active on social media and advertise and tell your friends about it. It gives you a chance to, you know, do Craigslist or whatever you might be doing. It’s another thing to say, Hey, we are active in the business. You know, we’re selling homes and all that sort of stuff. I think that’s a really good way for agents to look at it.

RON: Yeah. I think if you’re going to do an open house, you should kind of double down. And what I mean by that is like, try to get the most out of it if you’re going to be there, meaning do that. Like you said, Craigslist, why not advertise the open house on Craigslist? It’s free. It’s easy. And just, you know, maybe somebody who’s not represented, there’s a lot of tech buyers that they look, they go on Craigslist, they go, you know, Zillow, why not advertise the open house to kind of increase the chances that somebody will come in and kinda up those odds you talked about — kind of try to be an outlier of those statistics, instead. That’s what I would suggest.

MATT: Okay. So in your opinion, you said you guys do open houses for almost all of your listings. Let’s say you were being more selective and maybe not doing them all, maybe you were doing 50 or 60%. Generally speaking, what makes a house a good candidate for an open house? Is it the price point? Is it maybe that there’s unique features inside?

RON: I mean, if there’s some sizzle to the house, I agree. If there’s something that might resonate with people. If it has a great view. If it has a, you know, if it’s been updated. If the price … I mean, I think you could have sizzle on any one particular avenue. It could be whether it be like, the view as I mentioned. It could be — it doesn’t necessarily need to be price. As long as there’s something that’s attractive about the property —

MATT: Something that makes it stand out.

RON: — the backyard, landscaped beautifully, is something. And you go, you lead with that, your hero shot, in the advertisements. Like if it has an amazing view, instead of the first picture of being the kitchen, have the first picture be the view. Or if it has an amazing Victorian facade, beautiful art, you know, San Francisco traditional architecture that is just — people go ga-ga for it cause it’s so lovely. It’s beautiful. Then maybe a facade being in the first shot is something that’s going to lead. You got to have, the picture has to try to draw people to it, to that property for that open house. So it has to — you gotta lead with your best hand. And if that is the view, great. If that’s the kitchen, great. If it’s the Victorian facade that’s attractive, whatever it is, great. But just lead with that to try to get people to want to come.

MATT: I mean you only have one chance and seven seconds or something — five seconds — somebody is scrolling through their Facebook feed or wherever they might be. You’ve got to get their attention right away.

RON: Yeah. If they’re looking for a view and you’re leading with that picture with the view — that’s they’re going to, they’re going to go, they’re going to see it. They’re gonna visit for sure.

MATT: So that’s a perfect segue. I kind of want to do a before-during-after thing on your process for open houses. So, before the open house, obviously you have to market it — you want as many people as possible to come in the door. So what do you do? What do you and your team do to get people’s feet in the door? Especially as we said earlier, when people can just go online and see so much of it?

RON: Great question. I think that the thing’s that I call priming the pump. What I mean by that is, you know, hitting the ground running. The worst thing that you can do is, you know, you put it on the MLS and then days on market tick along. And so you need to kind of make sure that your open house is going to be really well-trafficked. And that means trying to stoke the fire within the brokerage community. So putting it, blasting it out — you know, we have, I keep a database of the 6,000 or so agents — you know, the Bay area, San Francisco has around 5,000 agents. I make sure to blast it out even before it goes on the market, just advertising the open house. And the reason is that those agents will — they’re the ones that have the clients and they’ll hopefully direct their buyer to the open house. So doing that, even before we flip the switch on the MLS — the Multiple Listing Service — so like, just trying to, you know, prime the pump to get people to visit, to get as much foot traffic as possible.

And what that does is two things: One, it gives you the … it makes for obviously a successful open house. But also, if you have a lot of people that are at an open house, if you’re a buyer, it’s like, Oh my gosh! Look at all the — oh wow, this is a popular —

MATT: The desire level goes way up.

RON: Exactly. And that’s why as far as open houses, there’s a lot of ways to game it. You can do 1 to 5 PM, but I’m kind of of the school of — where if you can kind of create a sense of, Wow, this is a popular property, look at all the people are here — like shortening it, maybe just doing the 2-4, you know what I mean? And therefore, because you know, you might get all these people and they see it and they then you raised the value of the home in their eyes. Subconsciously.

MATT: I’ve heard of agents doing like 30-minute and one hour open houses and like … No, we’re not going to do it again tomorrow. You’ve got this one chance to get in and see this house —

RON: I haven’t heard of the 30-minute one, but —

MATT: That’s crazy!

RON: Same logic, right. Exactly. To a bigger degree. Wow. Yeah. I like — maybe I’ll try that. [LAUGHS]

MATT: I mean like if you want to create, if you … I guess that works if you know you have a house that there’s going to be demand for it, right? Cause that’d be embarrassing if you do a 30-minute open house and nobody shows! [LAUGHS]

RON: Well imagine trying to explain that to seller, right? Uh, excuse me Ron, why did you only do 30 minutes? Are you lazy? Like, what’s going on here? Then you know, you have to explain yourself.

MATT: You have to get seller approval for that for something like that. Okay. So you’re pre-marketing for the open house online and offline?

RON: Oh yeah. And also trying to get — oftentimes you’d be surprised — neighbors might have friends that they want to have moved to the neighborhood. So I do a mailer to them as well, an invitation to them for them to come to the open house. And you can game it also — instead of it being from two to four — so you only want to have buyers during that time. Maybe you invite them to come from 1-2 —

MATT: Just for the neighborhood.

RON: — in the mailing that you send out, that invitation you send out to the neighborhood. So that way you try to bifurcate the audience. So that way you can focus on just the sellers from 1-2 and then from 2-4 you have buyers that are coming in. And it just kind of helps you, you know, left brain, right brain — it kind of, you just focus on one type of audience talking about, you know, what a great person you are when it comes to representing sellers. But then from 2-4 you’re just trying to sell the home to the actual people that might be a buyer, versus the neighbor who might just be curious. So that’s how you — there’s a couple of different ways. That’s how I’ve done it in the past. It’s worked pretty well.

MATT: And you advertise it to the neighborhood as, Here’s an exclusive opportunity for you to come and see the house before the open house, that kind of thing?

RON: And you can also do twilight’s before the open house, as well. Like wine and cheeses, I’ve done from 5:30 to 7 on a Thursday before the Saturday, Sunday open house. So you can just — it doesn’t have to be from 1-2. You can play with the timing.

MATT: Okay. Speaking of that, and again another perfect segue. In a lot of real estate markets, this concept of the mega open house has caught on — you know, trying to turn it into an event kind of thing. So do you ever do anything like bringing a chef in or bringing live music in that sort of thing?

RON: Oh God, yeah. We’ve done the parties that you often see on Million Dollar Listing LA and New York. Yeah, we’ve done — we do that when it makes sense to. So if we have some amazing property and the developer has done a really good job, and we’re really proud of the work that was done there and we really want to showcase it, show it off, and the price point warrants it, we will do a private party. And you know, you bring the caterer and you bring the — you rent the stemware, you do all that stuff to try to — if you’re trying to give the property that allure that it needs to try to hit the price point that might be a little bit of a stretch. If it’s, you know, a nice property — you wouldn’t necessarily do it for the cookie-cutter condo, or you know, if the price point doesn’t warrant it.

But for the, what I call — like not the trophy properties but you know, the special properties — it might make sense to do that to A) please your seller, ’cause they’ll be excited, too, you know. And also, during that party you can invite the architect who might — if it’s a full remodel, invite the architect and it’s a way to showcase that architect, and maybe they’ll also help pay a little bit, too, because if they’re able to, you know, sell to potential clients. So it’s a win-win.

MATT: So somebody shows up at the door, they come in — what experience do you want the visitor have to have when they tour the house?

RON: So that is a great question. You have a couple different objectives in your head. One, you want to qualify who they are. They’re somebody — who are they? There’s so much wealth in this town. Somebody can be in shorts and a t-shirt and be a billionaire. You want so … so you need to qualify who they are. But at the same time, you don’t want to be so in-their-face asking qualifying questions, like trying to flush them out. Like are they worth — should they even be there or are they really just a tire kicker? But you have to be gentle about it because you don’t want to preclude anybody from … ’cause you don’t know who they are. They could be Mark Zuckerberg’s cousin, right? You know, you don’t know.

But at the same time, you also don’t want to — you want them to have a good experience and not feel pestered. And so you need to feel the situation and your qualification of them and ask them some quick questions. The first question I ask somebody who comes in is: “Oh, thank you so much for coming today. How’d you hear about it?” And then how they answer it tells me where I’m going to go in that decision tree.

MATT: And that’s not a scary — scary is not the word — but that’s not a question that’s going to turn them off. Like, if you hit them immediately with “how soon are you planning to buy?”

RON: Or please sign in. Like give me your email and cell phone number, please sign in before I let you see the house. That’s not really nice, either, because it’s like you’re a gatekeeper. So I don’t do that. A lot of agents do because they want to grab that information.

MATT: You don’t do sign-ins at all?

RON: I do sign ins — I have that, I have it there and if they want to, they see it’s a visual prompt. But I don’t actually —

MATT: But you don’t say “go here first and sign in.”

RON: And instead what I do is I try to flip it as I’m like, I have something of value. I have an MBA from Stanford or I’m an expert in that neighborhood. Or here’s what’s — you know, I have the list of sales. I send out a monthly data sheet on what is sold in the neighborhood in case you’re interested. I try to provide a value to that person who’s walking in, seller or buyer. And so — there’s a little sign that says, you know, I have a newsletter. If you’re interested, please give your name, happy to add you to my —

MATT: It’s all optional.

RON: It’s all optional. But I make sure to mention it, but I don’t lead with it. So instead, what I lead is as I mentioned — I try to qualify them and then I see how they answer. How they answer will tell me if they’re willing to engage with me in the sense of like, you know, willing to have a dialogue or if they want — if it’s a “just leave me alone” type of person. If it’s “just leave me alone” type of person, I don’t want to ruin their experience. Nor do I want them to have — I don’t want them to associate me with that bad experience. I’ll let them free, I’ll let them be. And I’ll just like, maybe what I’ll do is I’ll just try to sprinkle information as they’re walking different rooms. “Oh, hey, just make sure you notice that … oh, by the way, just in case you didn’t notice, there’s this, you know, built-in closets … or something about the, Hey, just in case you didn’t notice, the floors in the bathroom are heated — electric, radiant heat. Some stat, some information —

MATT: Something to give them to go look for.

RON: Yes. And just like more trying to offer them … trying to help them. And if you do it that way versus like, Hey, you know, are you looking to like when you yeah. Are you ready to sell? Are you ready to buy?

MATT: Here’s my card, I’m a real estate agent, write your name down here.

RON: Please sign in. Like, giving me information instead of me providing information to you.

MATT: There’s an art form, I guess, to soft selling — you’re selling, but you’re not really selling. You’re just making yourself available.

RON: I lead with a soft sale, but then very quickly, depending on who they are, how I qualify them, I quickly can move to the — not the hard sell, but just through that qualification process.

MATT: So what does that look like?

RON: Well, if they are ready to go — “Oh man, you know, we’re getting evicted. There’s somebody and they’re doing an owner move and eviction. I got 30 days, I’ve got to find something.” Okay, well that immediately — they want the hard sell, right? They want — versus the extreme, the other side of the spectrum is “I’m just starting off on my search, you know, I’m not sure if I’m wanting to, you know, if I’m going to continue, if I want to just continue to rent versus buy.” Like that’s the other end of the extreme versus somebody who’s like, “I got 30 days, I’ve been wanting to buy, this is the kick in the pants I needed. I got 30 days, I’m being evicted, I need to buy something in 30 days.” That, you know, well, let’s go. And you quickly move to fifth gear from first gear, versus like one, two, three, four. You know what I mean?

MATT: So in response to that person, you say, do you have an agent? That sort of stuff?

RON: Yeah, exactly. I quickly go to execution mode. Like, okay, “Are you prequalified for a loan? Do you need to get a loan?” You never know. Again, these people might be in a t-shirt and be all cash on a $5 million home. You never know. Right? So you quickly go through the questions to flush them out, see who they are and when they want to make a move.

MATT: Do you feel obligated to have a face-to-face conversation with everybody that walks in?

RON: I try, because there’s no like — email, texting — you need to have that one-on-one. You need to have that connection, especially they’re going to hire you to represent them. How can you do that over the phone or on text or on Instagram or on Snapchat — whatever. You need to have — again, I’m old school. I’ve been doing this 17 years. I still feel this is a contact business, right? It’s not social media. This is a contact business and somebody is going to let you represent them on the biggest purchase of their life. If I were in their shoes, I’d want to talk to that person. So I always try to put myself in the other party’s shoes and try to act according to — how would I like to be treated? And that’s been a good way to go.

MATT: Do you ever do giveaways or gifts or anything like that to get —

RON: Yeah, but it’s just tchotchkes. I mean, I don’t think that’s the real value. I’m not sure if somebody’s going to buy $1 million home because they got a free tape measure or a pen or something from me or a candy bar or whatever it might be. But yeah, I’ve done that. And what I’d rather do is instead of giving like these little things, these throwaways, I call them, these tchotchkes — I’d rather like have a report ready like at the property about the neighborhood. So more informational, more data driven, more value. Like I think that’s more valuable than a tape measure. Like, you have my analysis on the market and for that neighborhood where that open house is taking place — I think that is more valuable than, you know, some giveaway. That’s how I view it.

MATT: That makes sense. And especially here in San Francisco where it’s, you know, to a large degree, high-level properties and all that sort of stuff, it could be seen as sort of —

RON: It could be different in, you know, in the other lower price point neighborhoods, you know, parts of the country — but at least in San Francisco where one bedroom is going to sell for close to a million bucks, the cost of entry is so high that I just feel like you’re going to be dealing with very sophisticated buyers. That’s my assumption, which may not always be the case, but —

MATT: I think the takeaway there is know your audience, right? Like who’s coming to your open house? Who are you trying to attract? And decide that way if some sort of gift or giveaway is even appropriate.

RON: If it’ll resonate with them or not. Or they just, you know, some PhD comes in or some executive and you’ve got some cheap, tchotchke giveaway. I mean, it kind of dilutes your brand as an agent. Instead of trying to — there’s a disconnect between what you’re trying to sell. If it’s $1 million property or $2 million property and then the gift and the type of clientele that are coming in. It’s just like that doesn’t — it’s a disconnect to me.

MATT: So you mentioned providing them with information. What does that look like? Sales in the neighborhood over say the past 90 days, something like that?

RON: I do it over the past six months because I think that’s how appraisers, when they look at — to value a home, when they go to do an appraisal of a property that you might be in contract on, they look at sales in the past six months as indicative of the market. So I do the same. I just follow what appraisers do and I just give six months of data. Anything older than six months — the market can change in six months. So anything beyond that doesn’t make sense to me.

MATT: Now, when you’re putting this together, are you like dressing it up with the logo and the branding and everything? Or is it just really, you know, here’s a photocopy of the data? How fancy are we getting here?

RON: You know, it depends on the collateral, the piece of collateral. If it’s just data, then it’s just a PDF file. It has my name and my address and phone number and all that. But if it’s like it — but then I also have what I call a beauty piece, like the business portfolio, where it’s like a nice brochure. I brought one if you want to see it. You know, you leave that out — here’s how great I am, like the very immodest piece, you know? But like … why I’m the best in the business, why hire me? ‘Cause they’re over 4,000 agents in San Francisco alone. Like, you know … you gotta make your case. And lead with your best hand. For me, if it’s a Stanford MBA, if somebody comes in and we have a dialogue and I find out that they’re — this happened many times — they also went to Stanford. “I went to Berkeley” — maybe they went to Berkeley undergrad. And we have a fun conversation, “So who do you root for in the big game?” You know, if you have that dialogue, then you can lead with that, you can work it.

MATT: Okay. Let’s talk about after the open house. Tell me about your followup with the visitors, the ones that do fill out the form, which — maybe it’s not a high percentage. What do you do after the open house?

RON: This is the most important actually to me. I mean, of course you grabbed them, but if you grab them and you do nothing with it, it’s wasted. It’s worse than had you done nothing at all, in my opinion, ’cause you expended that energy, you got them and then you just let it, you didn’t do anything with it. So that’s why I feel like what you do post open house is even more important than the open house itself when it comes to prospecting.

So let me explain. If you, you know — the problem, the challenge is that you don’t know when that person’s going to buy. Could be a year, it could be two years. I’ve had people come in to an open house and contact me five years later. And they remembered me and they kept my information or whatever. And like, “You may not remember me, but I came into your open house in the Marina in San Francisco back in 2012 and blah, blah blah.”

And so my point is that if you drip on them, and I think I might’ve put them on my, my monthly newsletter — if you drip on them, what I mean by drip is like just marketing to them periodically, then what’s great about that is even if they might be two, three years away from buying, at least you’ve captured them and you’re going to stay in front of them for three years down the road when they are ready to buy. But if you don’t do that, then you’ve lost. Then you’ve spent all that time and energy to capture their contact information. You do nothing with it. It’s a complete waste. And so you have to have a campaign, an organized campaign — a database, a marketing calendar internally to yourself. Like, what am I going to market to these people? And you need to have — and you want to be careful. You don’t want to just like send them like fluff piece, like you know emails like “make sure you turn your clock back an hour.” You know, like —

MATT: You want to provide them value.

RON: Exactly. That’s my MO. I want to make sure that they are going to read that email. They’re going to open the name and go, “Wow. You know what? That guy, Ron, he knows this stuff. He seems to really be — he’s got his finger on the pulse. I’m not ready to buy in a year or two. I’m saving up for my down payment. But I’m going to reach out to that guy.” And it’s all automated. It’s an email I send to my marketing manager. She inputs it in the database and it’s done. It’s easy and just by an email.

But if you don’t at least do that or let’s say, let’s take it a step further. Let’s say they are ready. Let’s say that … “You know what, I’m really, it’s time. My wife and I just got married. We’re, you know — she’s two months pregnant. I’d love to get a home in six months.” Then it changes to not just being in the database. And then if they’re not already represented, then I’ll try to get their search parameters or what neighborhoods do you like? What’s your budget? How many bedrooms do you need? Do you need parking? What kind of parking? Side by side okay? Or tandem parking, et cetera. At least start going through the list of questions and then you put them on an automated search agent, and then they get automated results when a property hits the market. And that’s — so what you do with the information depends on who they are.

MATT: And timing — open house is Saturday, you’re doing this by Monday at the latest?

RON: Oh God, yeah. I try to do it, you know — we’re so programmed now with this hyperfast, you know, social media and information being disseminated so quickly. I try to do it same day. I try to that night. I try to send an email if they’re really qualified and we’ve had a dialogue and we had a connection in some way, I’ll send him an email that day, that night. “Hey, thank you for coming to the open house today. As discussed, I wanted to send you some other properties. Since this property didn’t sound like it’s the right fit because of this problem that you mentioned about — it didn’t have enough bedrooms or whatever, but there’s some other ones that might be of interest to you. Here’s a link to them.” I’ll actually — it won’t be some automated CRM. It’ll be more customized because again, if there’s a seven-figure purchase — at least in San Francisco, that’s almost everything — I think to me it warrants that kind of attention.

MATT: Gotcha. One last question about after the open house, what kind of report or summary do you give to the seller?

RON: I ask. It depends on the seller because some of them just want an email. And some of them say, “I don’t need it after Saturday’s open house, just send me a summary at the end of — you know, on Sunday evenings.” Fine. And if they are really — if it’s a seller and it’s their developer and they are, you know, really more a high … more handholding to them, have more data, they really want more communication than most — I’ll do a phone call. It just depends on … I ask the seller what they want, what’s their style. Do they like texting? Are they electronic? Do they — are they more old school with the phone call? Like what works with them? And they’ll tell you, ’cause most of us know by now what we like — if we like the phone, the email, the text.

MATT: So this has been fantastic. I think — if there were takeaways from the whole conversation: open houses aren’t dead.

RON: No.

MATT: You’re still doing them.

RON: Oh, yeah.

MATT: And a lot of agents are — maybe not as many as before, but there’s still a purpose to them.

RON: I think that’s a mistake that they don’t do them. I think it’s a mistake. I think they’ll get more business if they do them.

MATT: Be intentional about it. Have a plan, and then be ready —

RON: Be organized about it.

MATT: And create an experience. And follow up immediately with the folks that you connect with.

RON: Crucial. Probably the most important thing you just said,

MATT: Ron, thank you so much for being here.

RON: It was a pleasure.

(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host) Thanks so much, Ron – a lot of great stuff in there.

So let me ask: are you reconsidering your approach to open houses? Did you get some ideas from Ron about how you can make them better, and make them actually work for you?

I know Ron and I kinda did some takeaways there at the end, but I wanna tag on to that right now with a few things that stood out for me.

The best candidates for an Open House are homes with sizzle — something that stands out, makes it different or unique. Maybe it’s a great view or incredible backyard, or a man cave inside the home. Use that as the lead in your marketing to get people to show up. Don’t just share the generic photo of the home’s facade — do something different to capture attention.

I love how Ron talked about giving value to visitors, not taking from them. I was seriously shocked when he said he doesn’t require sign-ins, and I guarantee he could see it in my face. But go back if you need and re-listen to everything he said about the soft-sell approach and leading with value to the visitor.

And third, did you catch this near the end? “What you do post-open house is even more important than the open house itself.” Let me say that again … “What you do post-open house is even more important than the open house itself.” It’s all in the follow-up. And Ron laid out a great plan for talking to each visitor to find out where they are in their real estate journey, and then customizing your follow-up accordingly — put them on a drip and newsletter campaign if they’re in the early stages, or send them property listings if they’re closer to buying. …… “What you do post-open house is even more important than the open house itself.” Love that, great stuff.

Okay — questions for Ron? Questions for me or HomeLight? Feedback? Ideas? Email us — walkthrough [at] And we do check that email all the time. In fact, I have an offer: send me an email with your biggest win of the week or month. We’re going to have a podcast segment called HomeLight Home Run, and we’d love to include your success stories — it could be as simple as something you posted on Facebook that got a ton of engagement, or as complicated as a difficult transaction that you went above and beyond to serve your client and get it closed. We’d love to share your success stories as a future HomeLight Home Run. Again, the email is walkthrough [at]

That’s all for this week. Thanks to Ron Abta for joining us to talk about the anatomy of a successful open house. Thank YOU for listening — now go out and sell some homes! We’ll talk to you again next week, bye!

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