Any form of communication by a license holder designed to attract the public to use real estate brokerage services is considered an advertisement. All advertisements—including those about open houses—on MLS, social media, or other communications must comply with advertising rules as outlined in TREC Rule 535.155, the Real Estate Licensing Act Section 1101.652(b)(23), and Article 12 of the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics.

Open houses have been a staple of the real estate industry for decades. They are an opportunity for lots of buyers to venture into a seller’s home and check out the property for themselves; open houses can even lead to multiple offers. In recent years, many open houses moved to virtual showcases or appointment-only tours for potential buyers. As open houses become more prevalent once again, here are some items to consider to make your next open house a success.

Setting the table

Before hosting an open house, planning and preparation are key to maximizing your results. No two open houses are ever the same, says Jodi Sherretts, a Texas REALTORS® instructor and broker for First Market Realty in Houston. Sherretts teaches the 3-hour course “Open Houses, Open Doors” for the Houston Association of REALTORS®, where she walks agents through an open house from beginning to end. She finds open houses to be an excellent lead source and a way to gain name recognition more quickly.

I advertise on social media, including local neighborhood Facebook pages, notify my network of REALTORS®, and post the open house in various MLSs.”
–Lynda Escalante

She advises REALTORS® to plan an open house and then begin inviting people in person and through social channels. “Invite the neighborhood—at least 20 neighbors—five on each side and 10 across the street,” Sherretts says. “Create some buzz about it—not just in the neighborhood but also on social media. The more you announce it and invite people, the better the odds of people showing up.”

Lynda Escalante, an associate broker for Real Estate Haus in the New Braunfels area, hosts about half a dozen open houses a year and has created a tried-and-true formula for making her open houses a success.

Escalante, who has been in the real estate industry for nearly 40 years, finds the best days for open houses are on the weekends. She creates the listing during the week leading up to the open house. “Once a listing is made active, it is accessible to prospective buyers through a multitude of internet platforms,” Escalante says. “The interested parties can then plan to attend the open house, with or without their agents. I advertise on social media, including local neighborhood Facebook pages, notify my network of REALTORS®, and post the open house in various MLSs. The day before, I put out signage that states the address and time, usually a four-hour window from late morning to early afternoon.”

To have a successful open house, it is important to spread the word to the neighborhood, on social media, and reach the largest number of buyers possible to attend. You also need to prepare the sellers and communicate to them what an open house can do for their home sale.

I encourage the open house and set the stage for that at my first listing appointment with the seller so we can confirm a date.”
–Brandy Johnson

Brandy Johnson, a real estate agent and certified mentor for eXp Realty in Fort Worth, works to be on the same page with her clients from the beginning. “I start the conversation right at the listing appointment,” Johnson says. “Not only are we going over the house, the specs, the disclosures, and price, but I tell them my process to get the house sold. An open house allows you to bring in buyers who may be interested in your home. I encourage the open house and set the stage for that at my first listing appointment with the seller so we can confirm a date.”

Once the seller and agent have agreed upon a date and time for the open house, it is time to get the house ready for presentation.

Damage Control

Brokers may be worried about who is responsible in the event the property is damaged during an open house or if someone happens to be injured while accessing the property, but the Residential Real Estate Listing Agreement Exclusive Right To Sell (TXR 1101) provides answers for these questions.

There is a limitation of liability and indemnification provision in Paragraph 14 covering responsibility for activities undertaken during the broker’s engagement with the client in relation to personal injury, property damage, and other losses. This language is echoed in Paragraph 7D with respect to accessing to the property.

Sherretts advises sellers to get the house in the best possible condition, ready for anybody to walk through. “First, the sellers need to be gone during the open house because it makes the buyers feel awkward if they are still there,” Sherretts says. “They need to remove their pets and all their pet accessories. They should clean up, and when they’re done cleaning, clean again. You want to have it spotless for the open house. The sellers should put away all their valuables, their sensitive documents, and lock up or take away any medications, firearms, or weapons.”

In addition to preparing the house for visitors, Johnson gets her paperwork in order, ready to present to potential buyers who attend the open house. She finds it’s important to have certain documents ready to hand out. “Have copies of the seller’s disclosure, the survey, and an all-in-one inclusive flier with basic home details and agent information on the front. On the back, you reference schools, local shopping, etc. I also pay for floor plans. I find most people want to look at a floor plan to tell them the dimensions of the rooms, and it allows them to visualize their own belongings in the house. Having all these materials for potential buyers shows you’re professional and that you went the extra step.”

It’s showtime

On the day of the open house, your main goal is to sell the property, but it can be difficult at times to separate the casual viewer and the serious buyer. Escalante takes a formal approach to handling potential buyers during an open house, asking upfront questions and following up with people later. She checks in with open house visitors about who their agent is and what they are looking for in a future home.

It’s easy to follow up because you can always refer to where you met, keep in touch, and let them know what’s going on for that particular property or others in the area.”
–Jodi Sherretts

Sherretts discusses this potential new network of buyers in her class and how REALTORS® can take advantage of selling their clients’ property while also gaining future leads. “If the house isn’t for them, be the neighborhood expert and know what other houses are available or what has recently sold so that you can tell them about it,” Sherretts says. “It is about connecting—people like to work with people they like.”

Besides networking with buyers, it is vital to make visitors to your open house feel welcomed and appreciated for attending. On the day of the open house, Johnson prepares for anything she can think of that might enhance the experience for the potential buyers. “I have a little spiff bucket I take with me with wipes for door handles or to get rid of dust on any counters and a light scented Febreze bottle so that it smells fresh,” Johnson says. “I bring snacks and waters as well. I also set out charcuterie boards, snacks for kids, and everybody loves a cake or cookie. Don’t go crazy, though, because most of it isn’t going to get taken, but it’s nice to offer it. I greet people at the door as soon as they come in and have short feedback sheets on clipboards for anyone who wants to fill them out.”

Stay safe

Open houses present many of the same safety concerns as other showings but also some unique ones. For example, there may be many people touring the property at once. That leads to more distractions, making it harder to notice when a security risk arises. Some agents restrict the number of people in an open house at any one time.

Other safety strategies include:

Closing the deal

After an open house concludes, double check all the rooms for any left-behind items and lock the doors and gates. Sherretts teaches to follow up with potential buyers who attended the event. “It’s easy to follow up because you can always refer to where you met, keep in touch, and let them know what’s going on for that particular property or others in the area,” Sherretts says.

It is important to follow up with potential buyers or, if they are represented, their agents in the days after an open house, but don’t forget the sellers. After all, the point of the open house was to get more traffic from buyers and hopefully obtain offers for the property. Escalante recommends providing feedback to the sellers on how the open house went and how they can proceed. “I let them know how many people came, who seemed interested, and if people objected to something that we can fix,” Escalante says.

Other points to consider

While the mechanics of an open house can become second nature in preparation with the sellers, interactions with buyers, and working to close a deal afterwards, there are other elements to consider. Sherretts discusses safety as a major factor for REALTORS® during an open house. Her class includes discussions about how you should be prepared for any endangering situation.

“For safety issues, I don’t leave the kitchen, because that’s where everybody comes in and I have all the information,” Sherretts says. “Just be alert and aware of who’s coming. Don’t put your phone down. Don’t leave your purse where everybody can see it. Just don’t assume that because you’re in a neighborhood with high-valued properties that nothing bad happens there. Part of the reason for inviting the neighborhood and neighbors is because there’s safety in numbers.”

Despite COVID becoming less of an obstacle for open houses than during the early days of the pandemic, you may want to take precautions and have personal-protection materials ready if the sellers or buyers request it. During COVID surges, Johnson factored in safety for herself and visitors to her open houses. “I had a bucket with sanitizers, Purell wipes, and masks that were individually packaged,” Johnson says. “I met people at the door and offered them those items in case they forgot their own, and I always tried to be the person touching the door so I could open it for them whether they were coming in or out.” Johnson also recommends bringing shoe covers to any open house, especially if it is a carpeted home.

What tools should you use?

Some agents use paper to ask visitors for contact information and feedback; others rely on tablets or laptops with specialty apps or spreadsheets. Whatever you choose, your goal is to gather information so you can follow up with people who came to the open house and provide feedback to the sellers.

Find what works for you

Open houses can be a great way to help your clients reach a larger audience of buyers and potentially receive multiple bids. They also can be an opportunity for you to network with prospects. Remember that no two open houses are the same, and there may be some properties or sellers that aren’t suited to an open house. In addition to what works for others, find what works best for you, the property, the sellers, and the market—and how you can make your next open house a successful one.

Escalante sums up the appeal of open houses by pointing out how efficient they can be: “The convenience to a seller cannot be overstated. An open house is a way to get 30 people in to see a home all at once instead of 30 separate showing appointments.”