open house tips for realtors

You need to try these out-of-the-box open house ideas

Bethany RamosHomeowners, Industry Professionals, Realtors

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To say the market’s hot right now would be an understatement. The average home is receiving multiple offers and is selling in a matter of weeks. This means the average buyer needs to move fast.

As an agent, this gives you a tight window to grab attention and show prospective buyers a home’s unique features. While putting effort into an online listing is undeniably important — especially amidst a pandemic — offers will start rolling in when you draw traffic to your open house.

The importance of an open house differs for every person involved:

  • The seller. Gets an opportunity to market their home more effectively and have it seen by the widest possible in-person audience.
  • The listing agent. Gets the home sold, while also making connections to new buyers in the area — some of whom might be unrepresented.
  • The buyer. Gets to see the home without the time constraints of a private showing, plus the ability to casually view a property without communicating their interest to the seller.

Create a great first impression, and you’ll benefit everyone taking part in the sale, while helping your sellers close in the shortest amount of time.

7 exciting ways to get buyers in the door & make them feel at home

We asked fellow agents how far they’ve gone to make an open house stand out. Here are their top strategies:

Open house tips for realtors #1: Do it digital wherever possible.

While you still want to entice buyers to visit in person, taking digital shortcuts can help you to gain the most traction:

  • For a traditional weekend open house, try to have your featured property identified by Wednesday.
  • This should allow plenty of time for posting on sites like, Trulia, and Zillow, along with a multiple listing service.
  • Social media and any blogs you might maintain are also excellent online resources for publicizing.

From there, focus on relevant agents and members of the public. For example, you can email local garden clubs or publications to see if they’d be interested in recognizing a home’s distinct features or its gardens.

On the big day, remember to take your laptop with you, and bookmark print shops in the area should you need something fast. Always have blank copies of the buyer’s representation agreement, listing agreement, One to Four Family Residential Contract, Seller’s Disclosure Notice, and a listing presentation.

Action step: Automate your sign-ins. In lieu of making visitors sign in, introduce guests to a home search app that provides them with their own private, password-protected search portal to active MLS listings. A few affordable services that syndicate with your local MLS are the Home Scouting Report and HomeSnap.

Open house tips for realtors #2: Go overboard on your freebies.

Though it sounds counterintuitive:

  • Think about handing out a map of all other open houses in the area as part of any information packets you provide, plus some research on similar listings in the neighborhood.
  • Put it all together in a “show book,” i.e., a three-ring binder containing handouts you can give to a buyer and their agent.
  • This won’t undermine your ability to sell to the right buyer; if your own listing isn’t the right fit, your helpfulness and market knowledge will still leave a lasting impression. 

Action step: Go the extra mile by carrying a measuring tape. You’ll be surprised how many times you need it when buyers are wondering if their furniture will fit or if their curtains are long enough. Not only does it feels good to be prepared, but it helps buyers visualize their life in that property.

Open house tips for realtors #3: Lean on your loan officer.

To make it easy on interested buyers, get your loan officer partner in on the fun:

  • Ask your lender to share your event on their Facebook page (which most will happily do). Partnered social shares and email blasts can greatly increase attendance.
  • See if your lender can come too. Many agents request that their loan officer partner stay on-site — or at least by the phone — to offer instant prequalifications.
  • Divide and conquer. A loan officer isn’t just useful to have on-hand to answer questions about prequalification. They can also act as a co-host, helping you work the crowd and, again, making your job easier.

And speaking of freebies, don’t forget to put out cobranded flyers. Some loan officers provide cobranded marketing materials for all their realtor partners, where the cost of advertising is split between both parties. Educational flyers on topics like the cost of waiting to buy, the total cost of homeownership, and interest rates/payments are especially popular open house picks.

Action step: Get support with lead follow-up, yet another area where your lender can help you do the heavy lifting. Ask the loan officer you partner with to follow up on a portion of the open house leads to increase follow-through and prevent prospective clients from slipping through the cracks.

Open house tips for realtors #4: Rethink your refreshments.

Instead of taking the cookie-cutter approach, plan your menu based on the type of buyers who may be attending:

  • For a family-friendly suburban home. Try a kid’s buffet with take-home packets of crackers or cookies and juice boxes for the children. Include gourmet cookies for the grown-ups.
  • For a sophisticated in-town condo. Put together a well-arranged charcuterie board with white wine to keep people looking for longer.
  • In different seasons. Let the weather be your guide: Offer lemonade freezer pops to cool off guests on scorching summer days and a hot cocoa bar in the winter.

Action step: Set the scene in several different areas of a property. Serve food and drinks outside to showcase the patio or deck. Run a recent movie in the media room and pop popcorn. Dish up freshly baked cookies to call attention to the upgraded kitchen.

That look on your client’s face when they realize getting a mortgage can be easy. Download LoanFly and prequalify from anywhere.

Open house tips for realtors #5: Stage for the senses.

Take standard staging a step further and create a sensory experience:

  • The newer and fresher the external environment, like landscaping, paint, mailbox, garage door, and house numbers, the better.
  • A few small touches, like clean towels and fresh flowers, can make the interior feel much more like home.
  • Add the sound of music, the smell of something baking in the oven, the taste of a delicious snack, and the feel of a comfortable place to sit and discuss the house.

This sensory approach helps buyers make memories as they tour a home. It also helps buyers envision themselves inside a home (while potentially increasing a property’s value). A listing agent’s objective in any open house is to maximize the home’s benefits, while strongly impressing positive memories.

Action step: Burn a high-quality candle in a realtor-approved scent, like fresh citrus, clean linen, garden herb, pine (when in season), or vanilla cupcake. Odors play a major role in establishing memories and can create even more ambiance when you pair them to the season.

Open house tips for realtors #6: Travel back in time.

Going digital is a must — but don’t do it at the expense of overlooking some of the “old-school” basics:

  • Try good old-fashioned door-knocking, a lost art that allows you to speak to individuals face-to-face. Just make sure it’s masked and at a distance.
  • Spend a few hours the day before and day of an event knocking on neighbors’ doors. Let them know about an upcoming open house you’re hosting nearby.
  • If a property is in a neighborhood with parks or sporting fields, check their calendars and schedule your open house at the same time to increase traffic.

Then, call in a favor. Making use of your friends in the biz can help to spread the word and get more people in the door. Reach out to other agents and ask them to bring their clients — and remember to do the same in return.

Action step: Grab foot traffic by putting out yard signs — as long as they’re properly placed. Signs should be bright, clear, visible, and stationed on the route a driver would take to the event. Place a large “OPEN” sign in the front yard, as well as any street corner signs that are permitted, at the beginning of the week.

Open house tips for realtors #7: Woo your looky-loos.

Wondering what to do with your visitors who are “just passing through?”

  • Make eye contact. It’s as powerful as it is easy. And it’s not about selling. It’s about earning trust.
  • Plant seeds. Take a friendly, knowledgeable approach with your guests, allowing them to enjoy touring the house without any pressure.
  • Get their information immediately. Capture lead info upfront when guests sign in (see tip #1) so it’s not awkward to ask later.

No matter the visitor’s level of interest, aim to follow up right away — the next day, if possible. Touch base with leads within 24 hours to let them know you’ve started their customized search. Continue to stay in touch, and offer to show them similar houses with comparable features.

Action step: Market aggressively through a CRM. While it’s not uncommon to have guests wander in who are scouting out decorating ideas or killing time, continue to focus your follow-up campaign on any visitors who aren’t represented by other agents. For the most effective lead capture, always bring IABS and buyer/seller representation forms.

Throwing a stellar open house is just one way to grow your business

Another is to partner with a lender that’s ready and willing to ease your burden. Contact a Cornerstone loan officer near you to find out exactly how we work with our realtor partners to give clients five-star service: Think a wide selection of cobranded marketing materials, in-model kiosks, 15-minute closings, and a whole lot more.

For educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

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