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Running a Successful Open House

Are you organizing an open house this weekend? Hopefully you'll have pleasant weather that will encourage house hunters to drive around the neighborhood, see your sign on the lawn of the Lee home, walk in to view, and fall in love with the property. But don't leave it all to chance. With advance planning and a little creative thinking, you can turn an ordinary open house into a rip-roaring success.

Be Neighborly

Yes, you should invite the neighbors. Let's be honest, a few of them are liable to turn up anyway, out of curiosity if nothing else. So be proactive, invite the neighbors to your event and put them to work for you. Neighbors can be a great resource at open houses, talking to house hunters about their great neighborhood. And even if the Johnsons from down the block aren't likely to make an offer, they have friends, relative and co-workers who might—turn the neighbors into a network of potential referrals. Ideally you'll have time to hand-deliver the Johnsons' invitation to the open house by hand about a week before the event. If not, take a minute to add a personal touch by handwriting the Johnsons' address on the envelope and a message like “Hope you can make it!” on the card before you put the invite in the mail. And of course you should promote the open house via social media and your usual channels.

Be Hospitable—Get Out the Snack Tray

Anyone who's ever hosted any event, from a book club to a neighborhood committee meeting, knows that things go better with snacks. To give your open house that little extra touch, think beyond a box of supermarket cookies and a flat pack of bottled water. Has the Lee family recently remodeled the kitchen? Set up a food station with plates, napkins, cups and flatware on the island. Your potential homebuyers will stay longer while they nibble, and will be able to imagine themselves preparing and eating delicious meals in that well-appointed kitchen. Or if the home has a deck or patio and the weather forecast is good, set up the snack bar there, so house hunters can picture themselves entertaining guests outside while admiring the view. Depending on the season, lemonade or cider are always popular beverages. Food could include finger sandwiches, spring rolls, mini pizzas, mozzarella sticks, cupcakes, or whatever your own favorite delicious treat may be. Avoid anything containing seafood or nuts, which are common triggers for allergies. And make sure to make a place for garbage in strategic spots.

Be Absent (If You're the Owners)

Some experienced real estate agents advise trying to persuade the owners to stay away from the open house and take the kids to a museum or the movies. Your owners may feel that they're being helpful, but their presence may embarrass potential buyers. Visitors to the open house want to be able walk through the rooms, look inside closets and imagine out loud how they would redecorate the living room without worrying about offending the feelings of the present owners—the ones who chose that daring turquoise-and-pink wallpaper. And there won't be any danger of your clients letting slip in casual conversation that they really need to sell their home in a hurry because Mrs. Lee's been offered a great job across the country—tempting a potential buyer into making a lowball offer.

Be Security-Conscious

Regardless of whether you have persuaded the sellers to be absent during the open house, you and your clients need to coordinate taking some security precautions. For maximum security, consider having visitors to the open house show ID as well as signing in. All small, portable valuables should be out of sight and preferably locked up. That includes the kids' iPods, jewelry, cash, credit card statement and other documents that might contain information that could be used for identity theft. And one other thing to make sure of: during the open house, remove prescription medications from the bathroom medicine cabinet, the bedrooms and anywhere else in the home. Prescription painkillers and other drugs can sell for large sums on the black market, and it's not unknown for open houses to attract Rx sneak-thieves. As you're conducting tours of the house, keep visitors under your eye at all times.

Have you hosted a successful open house recently? Or do you have one coming up? Share your open house experiences in a BizPals status update!

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