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Open day dilemma

by Julian O'Dell

A number of my rivals are hosting open days to exhibit their stock, to help boost sales volumes. I would like to try to do the same but have no idea where to start, in terms of venue and stock suitability, staffing and cost, or how to devise a targeted marketing campaign. Can you help?

Open house viewings represent a proven house selling process in many parts of the world, including Australia and America, and have become more prevalent among proactive agents in the UK during the past 18 months. They work on all sorts of levels, from being a sales aid to an instruction winner, and can assist with the conundrum of running an estate agency on limited resources.

The adage about one planning to fail if one fails to plan is particularly poignant when it comes to open house viewings. As part of the planning stage, agents need to consider the date and duration of the event, the marketing materials and staffing necessary to make it a success, plus decide which of their properties are most suitable to advertise. A detailed timetable should then be prepared and followed in the run-up to the
big day.

Stock selection
New, sensibly-priced, mid-market listings tend to be most suitable for open days; a crowd of viewers in a small property is impractical and can make the property seem pokey. Agents should not be tempted to use open days to placate existing vendors with overpriced properties that have been on the market for some time; it is merely a waste of time and money.

Vendors with suitable properties should be involved in the whole open house process. Even if their property fails to sell, a vendor will appreciate their agent's efforts and maximise their loyalty, which thus increases the chances of their recommendation.

Marketing is also key to success. A prominent local newspaper advert, possibly funded in part or wholly by the client, attracts interest. One client of mine produces a full-page advert for each open house property. If your company has a good relationship with your local newspaper, push for editorial coverage by way of an attention-grabbing press release - these events are still deemed innovative enough to be considered newsworthy.

Emailed communication to all potential applicants is essential and cheap. Snail mail should be used only for potential buyers without email addresses, and both mediums should be used in addition to window displays and website advertising. Consider property portals' premium advertising services, which allow you to showcase a property. Some agents also invest in bespoke for sale boards or swing boards, promoting details of their forthcoming event.

Employing the services of a home stager has proven helpful for some agents. These firms are skilled at ensuring a property is presentable for viewing, which means that it is tidy and decorated to an acceptable standard for prospective buyers.

Vendors should be advised to store valuables and personal papers, so there are no security issues on the day. It may also be prudent to advise clients' neighbours about the event, which if you're lucky, will result in it being promoted through word of mouth with local residents.

The lead time between agreeing the event with your clients and
the big day should be around three weeks, which will allow you time to generate sufficient interest. It is important not to be tempted to allow viewings any earlier, to maximise a sense of urgency on the day.

Saturdays and Sundays work best for open house days, starting mid-morning for a duration of one or two hours. In the run-up to the day, you need to decide how many staff you require to manage enquiries and viewings, which you can base on the level of interest you have managed to so far generate. You also need to determine your vendors' role. In many cases, it may be best to suggest your clients delegate full responsibility for their sale to their agent. Purchasers are likely to be more honest and open with questions and feedback if they don't have to worry about upsetting a property owner.

Materials necessary on the day include sets of sales particulars, Home Information Packs and a file containing all relevant information relating to advertised properties, including information on the local area, schools, transport links and key amenities.

Feedback sheets should also be available to agents, which they can use to record viewers' comments and then relate these back to their clients. You should check whether clients would prefer these completed by you and your staff, or by viewers in their own words. Blank registration forms should also be available to enable agents to collate details of new applicants.

Whatever the success rate of an open day, you can use it as a value-added service to help justify your fee, which in turn should help you win further instructions.


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