What is a Real Estate Open House?

open house

For some, the real estate market is a completely new country with its own language and culture. People are not quite sure what a Real Estate Open House is. Certainly, if you have been invited to a holiday Open House, you remember a gigantic cocktail party at a neighbor’s house or a homey buffet where friends and family are all trying to talk and hold plastic plates piled with a concoction of edibles, at the same time.

Well, Real Estate Open Houses are quite different. They are held for the purpose of showing a house for sale to potential buyers. Sometimes there is food on hand but the purpose of this outing is not social conviviality, but business. Here are some types.


Category 1. The Open House for Realtors


Let’s say, you have selected a particular real estate agent and you want her to handle the sale of your house. If the agency belongs to a multiple listing organization (and most of them do) they will thereupon hold an open house for the other agents in the area. These may include agents from their own broker’s office and agents from other offices.


Your agent will ask you to get your house in ship-shape. That means she wants you to have everything cleaned (windows, carpets, etc.) and have all the clutter put out of the way. She will probably ask you to leave the house, and to take your dog, cat, and children with you. She may choose to provide some finger food and coffee for the prospective agents (and ask you to foot part of the bill) or not, according to the customs of the area.


She will show agents around your house, and point out all the virtues. She will also have brochures or flyers on hand to give out to the prospective agents. These flyers will be based on the information you have provided as well as her own research of the area. Of course, she will have looked around your home and decided what the most salable features are. Does the house have an updated kitchen? Does it sport a fantastic view? Maybe you never made much of your outside deck, but once it is fitted out with pots of geraniums and some crisp new lounge chairs it will look like it came out of a magazine. And that’s the photo that will land up in the flyer or the online house tour.


The house will also be written up in the large multi-listing book where it will get a picture and a short write-up (about the size of 1/8 of a page or smaller.) This information will also go onto the database on the Internet usually under the name of the realty company and the general listing under www.Realtor.com (assuming the agency is a member of the National Association of Realtors.) All the pictures and brochures will go up online also. This makes it easy for agents in other parts of the country to send clients who are moving from their area to associated agencies in your town.


This Open House for local agents takes about an hour or two and the other agents leave with the promise that they will show your home to clients who they think it might interest. Some of course, come for the free lunch and the chance to network. But the main feature of the Realtor Open House is to give the local agents a chance to see the house first hand and to be able to talk about it to their clients in a knowledgeable way.


Category 2. The Public Open House


Here, the listing realtor sets up a time-usually a two or three hour period-for prospective buyers to look at the house. These are not clients brought in by other realtors; they are strangers who are attracted by an ad in the newspaper or a sign in the yard. (Potential customers brought in by other real estate agents usually make an appointment with your listing agent and have a chance to give the house a full look-see.)


Your agent will tell you to make the house spic and span, put personal items and jewelry away and then get the heck out of there. She will bring a stack of flyers to hand out and a guest book for house-seekers to sign. That way, even if she doesn’t sell your house, she has the names of potential clients for other houses she has in inventory.


Category 3: Your own Open House.


This is much the same, only this time you have to handle everything yourself. Of course the cleaning, and uncluttering was your job anyway. Since you don’t have an agent to help you, you might ask a friend to come in and decide how to re-align your furniture, and maybe remove a chair or two to the garage to increase the spaciousness of your rooms. Some people go so far as to hire interior decorators to “dress” the house for sale. There is a television program on House and Garden Channel which actually does “room makeovers” with the precise idea in mind of selling the home, not making the family more comfortable. There is also a book or two out on this subject.


However, for the average homeowner, it is simply a matter of getting the newspapers off the coffee table, re-arranging and neatening your kitchen pantry shelves (this is the time to throw out all those moldy oldies) wash the windows, clean the draperies (or even buy new cheap curtains to brighten up the place), add flowers and all that stuff. You will have already done major fix-ups such as painting, wallpapering and repairing the roof in the months before the Open House (unless you have decided to sell the house “as is”).


You should then print up about 30 Open House Flyers. Attached to each flyer put a spec sheet with all the exact room measurements, size of acreage, and other relevant data. Keep one of these flyers by the telephone so that when people call and ask questions about taxes, the square footage of your kitchen, the nearest public school and so forth, you have a ready answer. This flyer should have you name, address and telephone number (and/or e-mail address) on it so that potential buyers can contact you if and when they decide this might be the house for them.