A tale of two open homes…

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My wife and I recently 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!

Other articles you might like:

Should you be using a mortgage broker?

How to make unconditional offers

5 things you should never say to a real estate agent

How to win a Tender

  1. Hi Andrew. I’m selling my home due to a marriage breakup,and can’t afford to keep it on my own.the agent dealing with me put a offer in front of me.it had 15 working days bfore it would go unconditional. They told me the buyer was part of a investment group that buys and sells property’s. That the buyer would try to resell my home immediately and if they had any interested buyer my agent would show them tru my home.meanwhile if any other people came tru my open homes in that time and put a higher offer in,that would force the first offer into 5 days to go unconditional. Plus it would give me a higher offer on the table ready to accept.which is important in my case as I require a urgent sale.my last 3 open homes,the real estate agent cancelled one the day bfor the open home.the other 2 no agent turned up to do the open home.didn’t contact me at all.I had cars pulling in my drive.but on seeing no open home flags or signs they would drive off.also the agent once the first offer was accepted, took the price of my home off the online site and put up for negotiation on there in place of the asking price.is this normal practice Andrew. Allso regarding them not showing up to do the last 3 open homes.do I have any rights there Andrew or do I just hav to bite the bullet…I feel that I’m missing out on any other offers being put fward to me .it seems that as soon as the 1st offer was accepted, they havnt been bothered working towards getting other offers …if the offer i accepted backs out in the next 6 days before it goes unconditional, then I hav no other offers on the table as a back up.and then the finance company that I’m morgaged with ,are goin to put my house tru to there collection branch ,as I am behind on payments and they hav allowed me a term of hardship.but the hardship term has expired and they want settlement. So alot rests on my home selling. ..I’m asking you Andrew if there is any rights I hav here regarding the agent taking my price off the house advertising, and putting up for negotiation ,in its place.also if I’ve any rights regarding them not turning up for open homes.I assume they will still want there full commission tho..any advice will b greatly appreciated Andrew. Thanku kindly for ur time mate.best of luck out there.by the look of some comments put up by previous clients of yours ,your a good man that looks after your clients. Thanku kindly. ..kane.

    1. Hi Kane, that doesn’t sound good at all. Firstly, I’m sorry to hear you have to sell. It is never an easy position to be in. Agents often say they will work hard to find a backup offer (once the first offer is accepted) but then ‘take their foot off the gas’ so to speak and act like the job is done. I would immediately find out who their office manager is and schedule a meeting straight away. Tell them of your concerns and ask for a new agent to be assigned to look after your property and to run your open homes. It is critical that your property is still marketed effectively while it is under contract – otherwise you provide no incentive for the current offer to go unconditional. Regarding the price – the agent must take your instructions on this at all times. You are in charge! Not them. If the current offer doesn’t confirm I would change salesperson immediately and look to list with a different company if you can. Let me know how you get on!

  2. Hi Andrew. Please settle a debate we are having. Are agents obliged to report to the vendor in writing who has come through an open home? I have heard several answers incl
    – A phone call saying 1,2,3 groups visited.. blah blah.. is all that is required
    -A weekly written and detailed report must be presented
    – The agent need not provide any details of who visited your home
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Chip, thank you for your message. The rules on this (providing names) are slightly ambiguous. But the expectations around constant communication are clear. For example, in the Real Estate Agents Act Professional Conduct and Client Care Rules (2012), it says:

      “9.3 A licensee must communicate regularly and in a timely manner and keep the client well informed of matters relevant to the client’s interest, unless otherwise instructed by the client.”

      I feel strongly that an agent should at the very least be able to provide (on request) a list of names of anyone who has visited your property during the marketing. I often did this in my real estate business. If strangers are visiting your home I believe you have the right to know who they are!

      Contact details should remain private however a list of names is not too much to ask in my opinion.

      A minimum standard of service should be:
      – A phone call immediately after the open home stating: How many groups through, and any immediate feedback.
      – A weekly written report with more detailed buyer feedback, advice and an update on marketing reach. I usually provided this report with buyers’ first names only, but…
      – If requested, your salesperson should (in my opinion ) provide a list of full names of those people who have visited the home.

      If you aren’t happy with your salesperson you can approach the office manager and request a change of agent.

  3. Hi there Andrew

    A very good article and yes I too have come across many agents like this when buying properties. As an agent now myself, I always go out of my way to treat people as I would like to be treated ie, I introduce myself and give everyone through my open homes a handshake as well as a small booklet on the property making the information available to aid the buyers in their decision making. I then follow up with an email and then initial phone call. Communication is always key.

    Maree Gray, Harcourts Milford

  4. I’m getting angry again just reading this! I wish we had an agent like you when we sold our house. Ours was very impressive on first meeting, but failed to communicate with us after open homes and viewings. Then he ditched us a few days before the tender deadline (to move to another company). It was an incredibly stressful time and I am sure we would have got more for our place had we had a decent agent from the beginning.

    In terms of open homes, we visited a LOT when we were looking … maybe 50? I would estimate that fewer than 10% of those agents called us after viewing. Just what were they telling the vendors then? There were one or two that went the extra mile but they were by far the exception. It struck me that there were a lot of lazy agents out there making money easily from a good market … thanks for the post!

    1. Hi Anna, thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have the agent you have put your trust in jump ship right before the deadline! That is ridiculous. I find it frustrating that some agents don’t have any sense of personal accountability to their clients. Selling your home is such a massive undertaking and I think a lot of salespeople lose their perspective of how big a deal it is (since they are exposed to it every day). You are right about the current good market ‘spoiling’ agents. As soon as prices plateau and houses take longer to sell they will suddenly start hounding every open home visitor 🙂

  5. Great article Andrew.
    My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed your professional service at open homes. Its sad we didn’t get a chance to buy a house through you but we always compare your service (and a couple of other agent’s) when we deal with others.
    There are some agents whom we really want to avoid
    (they are the ones who talk more than needed, push you to add those extra $$$). We avoid them by calling other agents in their agency to show us around the house or sometimes just avoid the house totally.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Andy. Great to hear from you again, and I really enjoyed, (in a very sad, but NOT surprising) manner your open home experiences!! Like you I continue to me amazed and extremely disappointed with the general lack of standards and mediocrity that still dogs our beloved industry. Like you I do get some what depressed over it all, but keep telling my clients just what a massive opportunity it provides them all. They just have to make certain they get the opportunity that is their main objective in life now.

  7. Andrew, come on. The agents keep saying there are far more buyers than sellers. Why on Earth would you bend over backwards in this setting? Professional pride? Oh come on!!! You are old-fashioned. Effective salespeople are heavy on “optimizing efforts” these days. Besides, it will sell anyway 😉 But seriously, you are right. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to get what is that exactly agent’s premium is paid for. It’s a bit more than $15 an hour. The service is expected to be, well, premium, at least.

  8. Good article. I made an offer on a property a while ago and found it incredibly painful – I just could not tolerate the agent. He talked slowly, he talked way too much and he never said anything useful. He did not respond to emails, which I found out was because he never read them until HOURS later. I had to sit and watch while he prepared my offer on his laptop – I had hoped to avoid this by emailing him my details and DD clause. He had been an agent for several years but had never had to remove clauses and insert a DD clause using word.

    Unfortunately our offer got turned down – I had to endure a 20 minute conversation to have that explained to me. However it was about 4% within the offer that got accepted. My offer was subject to DD and the other offer was unconditional. Imagine my amazement to find the place back on the market by the same vendors a few months later. It was in the same condition and going for around the same price WITH THE SAME AGENCY. I just double check all this online – the house even sold for $5k less than my offer. Why on earth didn’t this agent call me and ask if I wanted to have another go? They could have had it sold on the same day as they relisted it.

    1. What an ordeal! That is such a shame they didn’t call you the moment it became available again. This is a perfect example of what needs to change in the real estate world. Every agent should have the systems and support to prepare offers and have them drafted up quickly when required, and processes to contact every past visitor with any development regarding a property for sale. Thank you for sharing your story Julian, I really appreciate it.

  9. You have impressed me and my husband 10 years ago when you were showing us some properties. Good luck on your new (ad)venture!

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