Can Anyone Go to Your Open House? How to Turn A Sea of Strangers into a Competitive Offer

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Open houses are just that… open. To anyone. And everyone. Like your nosy neighbor and their cousin’s coworker’s new girlfriend. Truly, there are no exclusions (except, let’s draw the line at four-legged friends).

Is your skin crawling over the idea of inviting a hoard of strangers into this place you call home? That’s OK. It’s still your property, so you make the calls. What’s more, 63% real estate agents don’t recommend open houses for the purposes of selling a home.

But there’s no denying open houses pack a marketing punch when done right, especially for unique homes in populated neighborhoods.

The key is to show the home like a perfect dollhouse, drum up urgency among guests, and make it impossible for bad apples to do any damage. If you can accomplish that—an open house thrives when you harness the power of sheer volume. It’s a numbers game, and one that can pay dividends if you play along. So let’s explore how to stack the deck in your favor, shall we?

Family in field traveling to an open house.
Source: (Jessica Rockowitz/ Unsplash)

Guess who? The ‘all-inclusive open house guest list’ version

Every open house attracts a medley of guests. When your door opens and the sign is out, your home becomes a free-for-all for anyone who fancies a peek inside.

Here are the guests who might stop by your open house:

  • Lookie-loos and passersby with time on their hands
  • Real estate agents scoping out the local inventory
  • Curious neighbors (“Just wanted to stop by and say hi!”)
  • Previous owners of your home who are suckers for nostalgia
  • Serious, interested buyers (ding, ding, ding!)

There are no rules for who is allowed into an open house. You might know this if you’ve ever stumbled upon a luxurious multi-million dollar open house while wearing sweats.

Your real estate agent can help differentiate who’s a serious buyer or not in the hodgepodge, but you also don’t want to underestimate how the mere sense of competition and word of mouth may generate offers. To get the ball rolling, use these 6 tips to lean into the “all-inclusive” nature of an open house as a seller.

Stage the home to appeal to every guest

When you show your house to interested buyers, staging techniques such as expert furniture arrangements, selective furnishings, and well-chosen decorative accents can make or break how they perceive your home.

77% of buyers’ agents believe home staging makes it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2017 Profile of Home Staging.

During an open house, home staging is your chance to get compliments on your home. A beautifully designed house will attract more traffic and recognition from guests, which ups your chances of nailing an offer.

Imagine: you’re walking down the street and a couple walks out of an open house in front of you. You overhear them saying, “That was beautiful!” and “I absolutely loved it.” Makes you want to check it out, huh?

That, my friend, is how you’ll earn a return on your staging investment. High-quality staging gets people in the door, makes them say “Wow!”, and starts the conversation in their circle. Word of mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing to date. On the other end, a poorly staged home leaves a bad taste in their mouth and could have a negative effect on your home sale.

Here are some staging tips to remember as you get your home ready to sell:

Host the open house on the weekend to bring in more foot traffic

Once you decide to host an open house, you commit to the fact that strangers will walk through. The more, the merrier! Think of it this way: more guests equal more free marketing for your house.

To make sure everyone in the area makes it to your open house, put your home on the market toward the end of the week and plan to hold the open house that weekend. Local buyers will see that the house is available. Andrea Hartmann, a real estate agent on the top-performing Sandy Hartmann & Associates real estate team in Seminole, Florida, says this is the best way to bring buyers through the door.

“That way, buyers who maybe wouldn’t have seen that house on the MLS, or are just beginning their search, or maybe have a difficult schedule during the week that would prevent them from seeing the home right away can get in there,” says Hartmann.

“It’s just a convenience for them and we get the most traffic through the house. And it actually could bring in a buyer that might not have considered the home until they actually set foot in it.”

Leave a sign-in sheet near the front door

Have each guest give their name, phone number, and email address when they enter the house. Your real estate agent can follow up with them later to see if they want to learn more about the property, are interested in a private showing, or want to make an offer.

People who aren’t serious buyers often avoid giving their real phone number or email address. Even so, the sign-in sheet is your chance to gather as much information about your guests as you can. Along with contact information, throw in some “yes” or “no” questions that are easy to answer quickly, such as:

  • Do you live in the area?
  • Are you or someone you know looking to buy a home?
  • Would you like more information on this property?

New technology can help you and your real estate agent increase participation in guest feedback. Instead of the standard pen and paper, ask your real estate agent to bring an iPad to the open house. Download one of these free open house apps beforehand so guests can sign in faster and easier:

  • Sign In Pad allows you to create custom forms and sign-in sheets for free
  • Open House App allows agents to gather and organize guest information for free
  • Open House Expert helps you organize your entire open house event for free
Source: (SpeedKingz/ Shutterstock)

Lay out information about the property, local real estate market, and neighborhood hot spots

Work with your real estate agent and put together information packets about the home for visitors. On the first page, place the open house flyer. Include the best listing photos, list price, square footage, HOA fees, and other important information.

Next, attach a comparative market analysis of homes in the area to show how you came to your list price. Show a graph of what the house would be worth over the next 10-20 years if the market trends stay consistent. This will show buyers that it’d be a positive investment and could motivative them to take the plunge.

Then, write up a neighborhood information sheet including a list of schools, nearby attractions, public transportation, crime statistics, etc. Think about what made you want to move into the house—maybe you envisioned your kids playing on the 100-year-old oak tree in the backyard. These details are priceless to buyers and can easily go unnoticed otherwise.

Here are some other examples of home details buyers love:

  • Lots of neighborhood kids
  • Walkable to the annual town carnival
  • Proximity to the school bus stop
  • Cable/internet service provider
  • Fruit trees/backyard benefits
  • Quiet cul de sac and ticket-free street parking
  • Trustworthy babysitter network

Any open house guest that reads through the information packet is probably not a tire kicker, so your agent might take notice and strike up a conversation.

Treat everyone like a serious buyer

We’ve all been a culprit of poking into open houses for homes way outside of our budget. But you also don’t want to judge a book by its cover.

The worst feeling is when a real estate agent ignores you because they assume you aren’t serious.   

Well, I might have been but not anymore, pal!

Sure, many of the people who walk through your house are just looking, but you never know!

Each “lookie-loo” has a network of friends, family, and colleagues––one of whom might actually be a serious buyer. They can relay your home’s amazing qualities through their network and word of mouth. Encourage your real estate agent to talk to every person that steps into your house.

Create a sense of urgency among guests

As soon as your house hits the market, you need to keep buyer interest high. If an interested buyer suspects that other people are also interested, they are more inclined to make a competitive offer faster.

Here’s how to maintain a sense of urgency with potential buyers:

  • Host your open house the weekend after it hits the market. During this week of peak interest, buyers will jump at the opportunity to see the house first.
  • Set an offer date. You can choose various offer dates, such as a 24-hour deadline or a selected date on which offers will be considered. Interested buyers will bring their A-game offers to the table, with an intent to beat the competition.
  • Boost attendance with digital and traditional marketing tactics. A crowded open house will show buyers that they aren’t the only ones interested and will motivate them to prepare an offer.

Protect your privacy and personal belongings

With unfamiliar faces peeking into closets, you need to make sure your personal items are safe.

Houses for sale are targets for theft, so take these precautions to keep your privacy and belongings safe:

  • Remove valuables from the house.
  • Bring medicine with you when you leave.
  • Remove or lock up paperwork, bills, and devices.
  • Password protect computers and TVs.
  • Work with a trustworthy real estate agent.
Female real estate agent opening door to open house.
Source: (Matthew Addington/ Death to the Stock Photo)

Let your real estate agent work their magic

Your real estate agent wears a lot of hats––negotiator, organizer, analyst, salesperson, and more. During the open house, it’s their time to shine. As you get your house ready to sell, listen to their advice to attract the most buyers in your area. Trust their ability to identify and reel in the big fish—an experienced agent knows how to win over serious buyers the moment they walk through the door.