Leveraging Wintertime Open Houses to Generate Buyers, New Buyer Leads, and Future Listings

Winter Open House Ideas

Here at Discover Publications, we are privileged to work with some of the most innovative, creative, and effective agents in the country. The teach us so much! In recent conversation, the issue of scarce inventory over the winter months came up.

Over the course of this call, we learned about a one agent’s “Wintertime Open House” strategy to not just help sell the homes being shown, but to help generate new buyer leads and new listing opportunities. This is a great approach to use any time of year, but during the quiet winter market it makes an extra-special impact. Here’s how it works.

Three Goals of a Winter Open House

Home sellers have become hip to the idea that some agents only hold open houses to get more clients. Be honest with your client that while you hope it presents opportunities for you, your primary goal is to attract buyers and offers for their specific property. Indeed, selling the home should be the primary purpose – but that doesn’t mean you can’t also cultivate new leads in the process.

A good wintertime open house has two more goals, in addition to selling the home: meeting new buyers that aren’t represented, and cultivating new listings by familiarizing yourself with local homeowners. Let your client know that their home is your top priority, but you also hope to make new connections too. Explain that you will be entertaining the neighbors separately not just as a way to meet them, but so that they don’t feel inclined to clutter up the “real” open house.

1. Cultivate Listings with Private Neighborhood Showing

Before the actual open house, create a private showing for just the neighborhood. This will not only present an opportunity to meet future listing prospects, it will help keep the focus of the real open house on selling the home (as well as meeting buyers that aren’t currently represented).

A few days before your private neighborhood showing, introduce yourself by going door-to-door. In the winter, very few agents are out prospecting, so you’re less likely to get the door slammed on you.

You’re not introducing yourself to ask if they’re interested in listing their own house – this isn’t a “door knock” in the traditional sense. If you’ve been actively farming with a custom publication (or any “expertising” form of direct-to-the-homeowner marketing), the introduction won’t be so cold. They will already recognize you as a prominent agent in the community.

Introduce yourself as the agent listing so-and-so’s home down the street, and invite them to the private “sneak-peak” with hot coffee, cocoa, and holiday treats. Distribute flyers with a large photo of your listing and a prominent price, as well as details about the event. Encourage them to bring the kids and their friends, and be sure they know what you’ll be serving – it’s amazing how good food can bring people together. You may even want to tell them you’ll have small gifts for the little ones (like a holiday coloring books, stickers, or balloons).

When the neighbors show up, many may ask what you think their home would sell for and they hope you’ll guess high. Now’s the time to make the appointment to get their address and offer to bring over a CMA rather than just educated guess, which is, after all, still just a guess. You may even notice that some seem anxious to get down to business, as they watch everyone “ooh” and “ahh” over the home you have listed.

Be sure to capture the contact information of all your visitors – let them know about any fun events or giveaways you have coming up, or simply ask if it’s okay if you reach out in the future with news about the local housing market.

2. Conduct an Open House that Embraces the Winter Season

winter open house ideas

Not too many agents host open houses anymore. They’re a lot of work, and private showings can accomplish the same goal according to a serious buyer’s schedule. Well, this is good news for agents who hold them – people are drawn in by the novelty of it. The truth is that a well-planned and heavily marketed open house can generate offers and future clients (you just have to do it right).

  • Plan and schedule your open house very early in the listing process – perhaps before the home is on the market. This will give you plenty of time to produce materials and strategize about marketing it.
  • Create marketing literature to hand out at the event – and make sure it contains professionally photographed images of every room. You want a to hand out a packet that will not only sell the home, but get the buyer (or future seller) thinking about how seriously you take selling. You want them thinking, “my last agent didn’t do something half as nice!”
  • For the event itself, you want to create an atmosphere that embraces – rather than hides from – the winter season. It’s cold outside! Light a fire in the fireplace, light cinnamon scented candles, and serve steamy hot chocolate. Hang a tasteful wreath or place a single, small artificial tree with simple white lights. Do not go over-board on decorations at all – you want it to look like a staged hotel lobby, not like the homeowner’s personal decorations. A giant tree cluttered with a hodgepodge of ornaments with presents all around it will make the buyer feel like an intruder.

If you executed the neighborhood sneak-peek effectively, most of the visitors to the open house should be buyers who saw your marketing online, rather than the folks living nearby. Make it your mission to capture each and every person’s email and phone number. If you find this difficult in your market, consider having a fun winter or holiday themed giveaway, or promote any holiday event you have coming up (like your pie giveaway). Ask for their information to “sign up” or “enter to win.” Giveaway ideas include a gift card in time for the holidays, or home visit from Santa, or the like. You may not have trouble collecting leads; often, a simple authentic conversation about your expertise in the market will give a buyer enough comfort to share their contact information.

3. Follow Up!

winter open house ideas

Agents often assess the success of an open house as they close the blinds and lock the door. That’s because very rarely do agents capture contact information or make any effort to follow up with all the people trekking through the home.

The key to a truly successful open house – both in terms of getting an offer and generating leads – is to follow up afterward. You need to have a strategy for collecting everyone’s email and phone number, and then you need to have a plan to contact them all.

Be sure you are able to distinguish between the buyer and seller leads, and as a bonus, the ones that will be buyers or sellers in the future (versus immediately). Depending on which list they fall onto – perhaps they belong to both – add them to your routine marketing and prospecting efforts. Be sure to include the lead source as “Open House” in whatever CRM you use, so that you can gauge the effectiveness of your efforts.

The Power of Human Connection

In such a techy world, it’s easy to underestimate the power – and importance – of getting to know your prospects on a personal level. With email, texting, and Facebook, why are top agents still knocking on doors, delivering truckfuls of pumpkin pies, and hosting open houses? Because it’s human – and connecting on a human level works.

Don’t underestimate the power of meeting and shaking hands with the folks in your farm. It’s true you can blast thousands at a time online, but meeting just five in person at an open house can be far more valuable.

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