I'm on the board of directors at our broker's office and we recently had a meeting about open houses. Our office usually has between 60 and 70 open houses sat each month. However, last month we only had 37 sat. There were a couple of reasons for this.

The first reason is that our broker decided to start cutting down on newspaper ads and promote everything at our company website. Now instead of advertising open houses 4 times per month in the local paper, we only advertise 2 (and eventually none). This has a lot of the "old timer" agents upset and they refuse to sit at an open house that isn't advertised in the paper. On one hand I can see their point, but on the other hand, based on my experience, only about 1 out of every 50 people that come to open houses say they found out about it through the newspaper. Most say they saw an ad online or they simply saw the directional signs I put up.

Now, as one of the board of directors, I'm in charge of boosting moral and try to get agents to sit at open houses with or without local paper ads. This is what prompted me to writing this article.

I've talked to a lot of agents in our office and there isn't one that actually likes to sit an open house. Sure, they'll do it, but they don't like it. The main reasoning is because they feel that nobody will show up and it's a complete waste of time. Although it may be true that nobody will show up, it doesn't have to be a waste of time.

For instance, I'm sitting at an open house right now as I'm writing this article. So for me, this isn't a "waste" of time. I'm actually using the time in a productive manner. And that's what I think everyone needs to realize. Think of it as 3 or 4 hours where you can do something productive for your business instead of agonizing over having to just sit there.

Here's a list of some of the things I've done while waiting for a customer to show up at an open house.

Write my blog articles

Fold and label mailers

Practice taking listing photos

Research listings for current customers

Update my website

Enhance my listing photos in Photoshop

Write thank you notes

Design upcoming postcards
These are just the few that I can think of right now. I'm sure there are other things I did (or can do) in that timeframe.

Ok. But what happens when you do get the customer to arrive. How can you latch on to them (if they don't already have an agent) instead of the other open house sitter? I have a couple of weapons in my arsenal that seem to work well and have gotten me clients.

First I have my Homebuyers Kit. This kit consists of brochures, flyers, and my Home Buyers Survival Guide. I give it to any customer that I feel could become a client. When speaking to them, I watch their body language and I also ask them questions to get a feel if they are true buyers or just shopping around. If they seem like true buyers, then I'll give them my kit. They are usually surprised with it mainly because none of the agents at the last 5 or 6 open houses gave them anything but their business cards.

My second weapon is my laptop and my cell phone. These two things allow me to access the internet and the MLS. Sometimes I'm lucky and the home has wireless internet access which I can hook in to. If not, my Treo cell phone gives me access since I have the broadband data plan. I just plug it into my laptop and I'm ready to go. It's similar to the air-cards that you can purchase, but saves me money since I can just use my phone instead.

So a typical scenario would be a customer comes through the home. Kinda likes it but it doesn't fit their needs. So I tell them, no problem. Let me look up some others for you right now. I jump on the MLS and put in their search criteria. We look at what comes up and if something is nearby, I'll either set up the appointment to see it after the open house, or set it up to see it at the client's convenience. I'll then hand them my homebuyers kit and away they go. Happy and confident that they just found an agent that cares about them.

So basically, yes, open houses can be a pain, especially when it's gorgeous outside and you're stuck inside. But with the right attitude and the right tools, you can make them productive and possibly get new clients....which is why you're there in the first place.


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