A few weeks ago my Wife, Annah and I visited two open homes in an area we are considering moving to.

Open Home 1

The first house, a character ‘do up’ on a big flat section was well sign posted and we proceeded to stroll inside. We were able to walk through most of the house without meeting the agent which was slightly concerning but this can happen if they are tied up in conversation with another client. When we came across the agent he was welcoming, friendly and polite. We filled in the registration form and carried on.

The agent never asked what we were looking for and whether we needed any help. I don’t mind the ‘soft’ approach of letting people walk around the home without asking them loads of questions, especially on the first visit, but we did ask for a ‘flier / information’ though which I would consider a bit of a buying signal and the open home was by no means packed so they had time to ask a question or two, or at least build a bit of rapport.

Open Home 2

At the second house (a 3 bedroom, single level, 80’s built home) it was a different story. We didn’t find much signage so weren’t sure if the open home was actually on but we decided to proceed anyway. The front gate of the driveway was closed (not very welcoming) and again, no one met us at the front door. When we walked inside we were barked at loudly by a pretty cute dog which likely belonged to the owner or tenant, who was also at home when we visited. We chatted away to this person before carrying on and eventually finding the agent. I went to shake the agents hand and with their arms full they offered me two fingers to ‘hold’ creating a ridiculously awkward moment that I couldn’t wait to escape.

Seriously. Who does that? I feel like only a real estate agent would do something that weird. A real estate agent…. or possibly a prime minister:

This video gets me every time. I’m going to miss you J.K!

Note: Shaking hands is a fantastic way to build rapport quickly with a complete stranger but you have to do it right. Any real estate salesperson worth any sort of commission should be capable of shaking hands. They need to start teaching rapport and etiquette in the salesperson qualification course asap!  

Following the epic handshake fail we filled in the register and asked for a flier. The agent had to dig around for minutes through his pile of junk inside a folder to find one which was surprising since it was already halfway through the open home and we definitely weren’t the first visitors. No lights were on inside the home (another no-no in my books) and it was very cluttered. To be fair we couldn’t wait to get out.

What’s wrong with this picture?

We left a mobile number and email address at both properties and I still haven’t received any sort of communication at all (4 weeks have passed at time of writing). No phone call, no voicemail message, no email of any sort. Not even a text. I find that pretty darn depressing.

While some people don’t want to be contacted and some even go so far as to put down fake contact information on open home registers, I believe most visitors are genuinely looking for professional help, guidance and useful information. Sadly, they are hard pressed to find it at most open homes being run throughout our Country.

I understand this lack of service has been a mainstay of the real estate industry for years but it still surprises me when I see it first hand.

How can we expect the public to take us seriously when we can’t even get the basics right?

I believe there are minimum standards of service which every salesperson should adhere to. Minimum standards that consumers should be able to expect at every open home they visit.

1. Information should be clearly visible and available inside the home.

And I mean more than just a crappy flier. At the very least a visitor should be able to look at an aerial photo of the section, recent comparable sales in the area, a copy of the title and a copy of the offer document to see if there have been any clauses added or removed. Some agents like to hold back on having builders reports and LIM’s on the table at open homes and would rather send these out directly to purchasers following the visit and this is fine – but you should at least make it clear at the open home whether these are available.

Read: Don’t buy a home without speaking to these 5 people first

2. Every visitor should receive some sort of thank you communication.

No one gives up their Sunday to cruise round open homes for fun. Well, some strange folk possibly do but they must be unusual types. A simple ‘thank you for coming along’ by phone or email would be a common courtesy. Most people would expect that in return for giving up what is a decent chunk of their limited time off each week with their family.

As an agent, nothing is more embarrassing than an open home where no one turns up. That phone call to the owner afterwards will always be one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had. I think we owe it to our clients who visit open homes to say thank you for making us look good and saving us from that dreaded phone call:

Owner: “So Andrew, how many did you get through today?”
Me: “Well… sadly… zero today.”
Owner: “Oh…. I see…. hmmmm”
(Owner thinking): “Well I’m glad I spent all morning tidying the friggin house! (NOT)” 

For the owner this conversation is followed by feelings of dejection, loss of hope in the process and thoughts of “why doesn’t anyone like my house?”

Those feelings last for at least another week, if not longer. It’s like getting stood up on a date. By visiting an open home you provide an owner with hope, with a sniff of a chance of a sale, a possibility that their moving dreams may be realised. For providing that hope you should be thanked, even if you didn’t like the house.

It is also worth bearing in mind the salesperson’s obligations to the owner of the property.

If I have hired a salesperson to market my property I would expect the following:

  • Treat every open home visitor as a potential buyer until proven otherwise. 

Even if they don’t show interest at the open home. Don’t be a over-zealous douche and cramp their style, just follow up politely and keep the buyer informed throughout the process unless they specifically tell you not to.

Often someone who shows no interest at an open home will fall in love with the same house 2 weeks later if their situation changes. 2-3 weeks is a lifetime for a buyer. Their budget may have changed in that time. They might have missed out on their dream home. They might have totally changed what they were looking for. Don’t count anyone out until the house is sold.

  • Keep in touch with new information. 

As a minimum, the agent should email every open home visitor when new information comes to light. Eg. a LIM report arrives or a builders report becomes available, or a missing consent issue is sorted.

  • Keep buyers advised of important dates. 

Remind all visitors of the upcoming Auction, Tender or Deadline date at least 24-48 hours before they occur. People look at a lot of houses and it’s hard to keep track of all the dates involved. That email might remind them of the property they had previously ignored and it might be enough to obtain another offer or bidder for your owner.

I still can’t believe how many salespeople don’t go back to all their past visitors when a property doesn’t sell at Auction or Tender. I mean really, isn’t that the first place you should start? Is it that you are scared of looking bad so instead you make the buyers discover for themselves that the property is still for sale?

Real Estate agents are notorious for just dealing with the buyer(s) who show the most interest and forgetting about everyone else. Or at least not providing a decent service to them. To get the best possible result you need to hire someone who leaves no stone un-turned, especially when the market starts to turn.

As a final note…

Salespeople need to let buyers know when a property is sold. Stop that tiny thought that pops into our minds a few weeks after every open home visit, usually when we are clearing up around the house and catch sight of the flyer as it finds it’s way into our rubbish bin:

“I wonder what happened to that house in the end? Is it still for sale? I wonder how much they got for it?”

I don’t know about you but I am interested in the outcome of every single property I have ever visited, whether I liked it or not. Even if it is purely from a ‘nosey kiwi’ point of view. We all love to know about real estate. We love to know what houses are worth. A little email or text advising us when a property has sold and if possible, what price range it sold in (once it is safe to do so) would win hearts and minds of the public so damn fast agents might even creep above lawyers in the ‘trust-worthy’ stakes one day.

The alternative? Every few weeks I ponder the fact that both salespeople never even thanked me for coming. Now that can’t be good for business, can it!

Have you had a forgettable open home experience? I would love to hear your story. Please post it in the comments below.

In the meantime, stay safe out there people!

Andrew Duncan – Real Estate Blogger

Who am I?

After 10 years marketing real estate in Wellington I took most of 2016 off to travel the world with my Wife, Annah. We are currently based in Auckland looking at new opportunities in the real estate world. If you are looking for an agent to sell your home (I still know a few good ones), a speaker to inspire your team or just a friend to talk to, send me an email and get in touch. I would love to hear from you.

I miss the magical sunsets in Ortigia, Sicily – truly stunning!


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