Illinois REALTOR® Magazine  | April 2013
By Stephanie Sievers | Associate Editor
Don’t tell REALTOR® John Lawrence that open houses don’t sell homes. On any given Sunday, Weichert REALTORS®, Nickel Group in Oak Park, of which he is the broker-owner, is likely to hold 10 or more open houses.
“We’re getting great traffic and on average we’re probably getting 12-13 people per open house for our sellers,” he said. “The house is getting seen, which is nice.”
The key, Lawrence says, is to look at open houses as a long-range investment. A sale may not directly result from an open house but it gets the property – and the agent – out in front of the community. That can lead to sales down the road.
“Agents who are actively holding open houses are meeting people and talking and selling the particular benefits of that house and the benefits of working with them,” he said. “When they engage with the public, the consumer is going to feel this person is more active in the business.”
And while today’s consumers often start their search online, many still go to open houses. In fact, 45 percent of all buyers use open houses as a source in their home search, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
On April 20-21, REALTORS® throughout the country will hold open houses as part of the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2013 Nationwide Open House Weekend. The event is a great opportunity for REALTORS® to promote the value of homeownership, for buyers to see what their local market has to offer and for sellers to take advantage of a high-traffic, high-visibility weekend.
If you are planning on participating in this year’s Nationwide Open House Weekend, here are some ideas to help you get the most out of your event.
Many sellers still like open houses and holding one can give their home, and you, greater visibility. Promote it heavily, online, in print and with signage. Pick the right properties to showcase and be mindful of what is going on that day that could impact walk-in traffic, from sports to community events.
And if you are holding open houses, be sure to track the results. That will give you a better idea of what buyers are looking for and you can adjust what you showcase accordingly, says Lawrence, whose office tracks and analyzes every open house and attendee. His office’s open house traffic was up 15 percent in 2011 but jumped 43 percent in 2012.
Open houses can be starting points for both buyers and prospective sellers, says REALTOR® Melissa Dowson Vorreyer, a broker associate with RE/MAX Professionals in Springfield.
Buyers are touring properties but they are also looking for agents they might be interested in working with. Prospective sellers, in turn, may use open houses to vet future listing agents and see firsthand how the agents handle themselves and the listing.
“I think a lot of the time you are being interviewed and you don’t know it,” said Vorreyer. Her seven-member team averages about two to three open houses a weekend.
“I think it’s an excellent place for any agent, whether you are just beginning or are an agent who has been in the real estate market for 20 years, to pick up new buyers or sellers,” she said.
Open houses can generate new business, but it can take time to see the return. Vorreyer has gotten calls five or six years later from people who met her at an open house and are now ready to sell.
Is your listing a historic home? Hold an open house and host special events with the local historical society. When REALTOR® Jacqueline Kaufmann, an independent broker and now Director of Business Development with Heritage Title Co. in McHenry County, had a historic listing a few years ago, she hosted a wine and cheese networking event for the local historic society and promoted the home on blogs dedicated to the architect who had built the house.
“There is a specific mentality to buyers who purchase historical homes. They are fascinated by the history of the home, the way the home is built. It’s a tight-knit group that networks with blogs and social media,” she said.
Tapping into the historical community generated activity and interest in the listing. The buyer was walking in the neighborhood, saw all the activity from the networking event and made a full-price offer on the home, Kaufmann said.
REALTOR® Tara Riley, a broker associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Barrington, holds pre-open houses for the neighbors. She sends out 20-30 handwritten invitations inviting them to come an hour before the open house for refreshments.
Talking with the neighbors helps her become an expert on the locale and it’s a great prospecting exercise because the neighbors will often promote their own properties, she said.
“When you have an open house, neighbors want to come anyway. They’re all curious,” she said. “By asking them to come early you are not taking time away from the real home shoppers.”
REALTOR® Casey Meyers, managing broker of Prudential First Realty in Woodstock, says there is power in numbers. Twice a year the office hosts a parade of homes showcasing multiple open houses in one weekend. For this spring’s event, Meyers expects to showcase 30-40 homes.
“Open houses are especially effective when there is a group of them, not when there is one here and one there,” she said. “You generate more energy.”
Some people stop by open houses just by chance. If there is only one, they might just drive on by. But if there are several and they are in a geographically compact area, they might be more likely to stop and take a look, Meyers said.
“I believe in them because agents will pick up buyers, it promotes our brand and our name and it gets the community excited,” she said. “It’s the best kind of marketing.”
45% the number of all buyers using open houses as a source in their home search process. And 46 percent of buyers who went to open houses found them during internet searches. Source: National Association of REALTORS® 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
On April 20-21, the spotlight will be on open houses as REALTORS® from around the country hold the events as part of the National Association of REALTORS®’ annual effort. Take advantage of this high-visibility event aimed at bringing buyers and sellers together by holding an open house this weekend. Find information, promotional tips, marketing logos and more.
The right smells can help your listing sell. Set the stage for your open house with the right scents. Researchers at Washington State University, found simple scents are more appealing to potential buyers than complex ones. Making the appealing list: Lemon, green tea, cedar, pine, basil and vanilla. Least appealing: Potpourri, gourmet foods, chocolate chip cookies and baked goods. Source: The Wall Street Journal
Use social media to spread the word. Think beyond your website, print advertising and other traditional methods to promote your open house. Post information on third-party sites such as Trulia and Zillow. Push it out on Twitter. Create a Facebook event. Read more tips. 
Holding open houses is part of being a REALTOR®. You can increase the service you bring to your customers by being more familiar with the area, neighbors, and features of the house. Don’t let your focus on a potential sale, or a hurried schedule, distract you from being safe. Always be aware of your surroundings and develop a plan, just in case something goes wrong. Read more.