The Reluctant Prospector


Open Houses - Inspiring Visitors to Give You Their Information - Because they WANT to!

Funny - yesterday I posted a blog about getting contact information from open house visitors that ended with a "stay tuned for the next episode" teaser... and got slammed with "I'm doing an open house this weekend, please tell me what to do" notes.

Open HouseOkay, okay, okay. I hope I didn't overpromise in the blog - I don't have any secret phrase or magic sign-in sheet that will ensure names, numbers and email addresses* from your visitors, but I'll give it a shot.

The question I left you with was "How can you INSPIRE open house visitors to WANT to give you their contact information?" Not how to manipulate it out of them, but rather get them to offer it to you because they want you to have it?

The answer is awfully simple.

You DO (or should) have something a bona-fide buyer wanna-be wants. Not market reports or newsletters or lovely gift baskets, but KNOWLEDGE.

You know more about the real estate market and the houses in it than they do. You know the current inventory. You know which houses are priced right and which ones, well, aren't. You know that homes built by THIS builder cost more than ones by THAT builder, and why (and whether they're worth the extra). If the neighborhood of your open house is out of the buyer wanna-be's price range, you know of alternative neighborhoods that might work for him. If your open house is On The Lake (and priced accordingly), you know how much of a break a buyer wanna-be can get to be Not On The Lake, But Close. If a buyer wanna-be really wants a big yard, you know where he can find that while staying close enough to town to suit him.

When I say that you know all these things, I don't mean that you have a handy-dandy printout next to your personal brochure and sign-in sheet describing other houses for sale. Nor do I mean that you've memorized your MLS and can spout off DOM's and PSF's and List-to-Sold Ratios with abandon.

I mean that you have a conversational familiarity with your local real estate market. And you're more than willing to share your knowledge and expertise with anyone who is interested.

Which leads me to the next point. Not everyone who comes to an open house is a good prospect for you. In fact, most probably aren't, for reasons you're already aware of. Just let ‘em go. Don't be rude, of course, but don't fret about getting their digits or demonstrating your expertise to them. Just let them wander thru, politely and pleasantly answer their questions, and relax. You may leave your open house with only one or two folks to follow-up with and that's okay. It's perfectly fine to cherry-pick your future clients, selecting only those with whom you have a natural rapport, who seem to be open to hearing from you again.

Here's the thing. For me (and many of y'all), trying to create rapport with every warm body who walks in the door is exhausting. And discouraging. I'm just not all that charming, and frankly, not everyone wants to be chatted with even if I were. In fact, most probably don't. By the end of the open house, if I've tried to build rapport with everyone who came in, I'm an emotional mess, especially since many of them have probably rejected my advances (I don't handle rejection well). But if I save my emotional energy for those with whom I "click," I CAN be awfully darn charming!

So, what's the punch line?

1.       Be conversationally familiar with the neighborhood, amenities and alternatives to the neighborhood of the house you're holding open and be willing to freely share your knowledge with visitors, and

2.       Save your emotional energy for the visitors with whom you feel a natural rapport. Be pleasant and polite to everyone else, but don't stress yourself out trying to get contact information from them.

If you've done a good job preparing for your open house and you choose your targets wisely, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that many visitors will initiate further contact with you. Either they'll offer up their contact information voluntarily or they'll ask for yours.

If this isn't happening, it's not because you aren't aggressive enough, clever enough or sly enough to coerce those names and numbers from your visitors. So if you want to beat yourself up over the "effectiveness" of your open houses, don't go there. Focus instead on how you can better demonstrate to your visitors that you are the guy or gal they're looking for.


*None of this should be construed to contradict my opinion that open houses are held primarily for the SELLER's benefit, not the agent's. The owner of the home you're holding open expects you to be first and foremost trying to sell his home, not hungrily prospecting for leads for yourself. To read a practical implication of this philosophy, refer to Susan Haughton's comment on the previous blog

It's Here!


The More Fun You Have Selling Real Estate, the More Real Estate You Will Sell! 
(True Story)
Order Your Here!









Comment balloon 53 commentsJennifer Allan-Hagedorn • November 19 2010 07:53AM


Jennifer - very good points!  I do ask open house attendees to register and have a nice book for them to register in.  If you make is seem like a formality, they'll often do it.  There's no guarantee it will be correct or legible but, there's something there.  Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Carla Freund, Carolina Life RealEstate & Relocation 919-602-8489 (Keller Williams Preferred Realty) almost 10 years ago

Great points. Always helpful to hear how others handle open houses!

Posted by Jane Wemyss, CRS (Compass) almost 10 years ago

I think I tend to be like you... meaning, I tried so hard, then after wards I am in fact "emotionally drained". Great Great advice, this morning. Thank you!

Posted by Lydie Ouellet Dickinson, Realtor (Realty Executives Tri County, Bellingham MA) almost 10 years ago

I think you're right on with the punch line. That's pretty much what I do at open houses now. Some come in and I can't shut up! Others, if I dont feel a rapport, I just politely thank them for coming and give them my card in case they have any questions.

Posted by Mike Mitchell, REALTOR (R) (Real Living Kee Realty) almost 10 years ago

Good morning Jennifer,

Bingo!! People don't want to feel they are pounced on..good conversation..sharing your knowledge and no intimating tactics. You do have the chance to cherry pick new clients..after all you don't want and can't work with everyone. I love what I do, I know my market, people recognize this and they usually want to work with me..if they don't that is fine too!

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899) almost 10 years ago

Great advice Jennifer.  The one's that I've converted at open houses have been because we connected well and I had the answers to their questions.  Pouncing on them and aggressively trying to get their contact information just doesn't work.  In fact most often, it alienates them.

Posted by Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528, Real Estate Salesperson (Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jennifer: I agree with Lora above that the quickest way to lose folks is to pounce aggressively. I find myself using a technique that worked back in the days when I had a need and the time for garage sales. If I followed folks they didn't buy but if I acted busy working on setting up and just engaged once in awhile they were more apt to stick around and purchase.  I do the same thing now with open houses and seems more folks are drawn to me to engage in conversation. 

Posted by Lorraine Sayer, Realtor ABR,CDPE,GRI - Colorado Springs,CO RE/MAX (Monument, Black Forest, Falcon, Fountain homes ) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jennifer,

I think many people have forgotten the art of the conversation.  ThaNKS FOR THE INFO!

Posted by Mike Cathell, Real Estate Investing for Real People (Real Estate Services of SWFL, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Exactly! Be the kind of person WE'D want to give our contact information to. It's so simple, but everyone wants to make it so hard and scripted.

Posted by Sue Gabriel almost 10 years ago

Great Advice Jennifer -- I know first hand from being on the receiving end of a "pouncer" that is NOT that way to approach someone (this was before I got into the business) now I think like the buyer when doing an open house, NOT the agent and how did/would I like to be treated or better yet, just talked to you like you said....  That seems to work very good for me(only 5 months into new career but..) as I have gotten a few great buyers from open houses - or as you would say "soulful" leads! 

Posted by Heather Bicking, Realtor serving the Farmington Valley-Canton Avon Farmington (Prudential Realty CT - Farmington Valley) almost 10 years ago

THat is a refreshing approach, rather than try to get all of nothing go for the cream and let the rest go.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

I like the idea of cherry picking...

I would add that (in my area at least) it seems that an add in Sunday's paper helps to bring more people in the door, I really think people plan their OH Visit Routes ahead of time.   This is probably the only time that Print Advertising is an effective marketing tool.

Posted by Robert Rauf (HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ)) almost 10 years ago

Great advice Jennifer. I hold an open house almost every Sunday and have had great success with them. There are some people you just don't "click" with and others that just seem like a natural fit. I always send a hand written note to everyone that registers but definitely focus on the people I have good rapport with.

Posted by Jason Stewart, "Exceeding Your Expectations" (Keller Williams Realty - Red Stick Partners) almost 10 years ago

Jennifer, I agree.  You should have something of value to them as well as a good rapport. I have a drawing for a free copy of a book titled First-time Home Buying in a Nutshell. Of course, I also prepare for the open house by doing the research as you mentioned.

Those who have an interest usually will register and those who are not interested in further contact do not register.

Posted by Karen Urata almost 10 years ago

I agree 100%!  If there is no rapport or seeming interest, I'm fine just letting it go.

Posted by Susan Haughton, Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results. (Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545) almost 10 years ago

Sounds like a plan - I think that too many are  looking to build a rapport with anything that moves these days.  When its very slow people get predatory.

Posted by Ruthmarie Hicks (Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605) almost 10 years ago

What I normally do is bring my laptop and some post cards that have all my social media platform info on them. I inform them that the sign in sheet is simply for the owner to know how many people came through to see the property. Other than that, if they want information from me, my laptop is there for them to sign up for my blog, my broker and contact info is on the front page of my blog, so if they have questions, they'll call me. They take a post card as well and can sign up to my business page later which I update and post to every day...

Posted by Shantée Haynes, Your Congress Heights Resident Agent (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jennifer - good post with some very good points.  The most important thing to bring to an open house is the right attitude.  You are correct about sharing knowledge.  I've found that the best contacts I make at an open house are those who are "lurking" in the background while I am chatting with another prospect and then the "lurkers" come and ask questions.  I have a follow-up aka sign-in sheet available but insist/request visitors use it - I only want to follow-up with people who want me to contact them.   Thanks for sharing your information.

Posted by Michael Jacobs, Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393 almost 10 years ago

I follow my instincts and only try to connect with a limited number of open house attendees.  Last fall I met a woman I really liked--she was just checking out my new listing in her neighborhood.  Life happens, and this morning I received an email that she wants me to list her house. 

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) almost 10 years ago

Great post.  Reminds me that there is a real difference between Professional Realtors and order takers.

Posted by James McGary (Agents Set Free, Inc) almost 10 years ago

Jennifer, I usually won't give them the free donuts until they sign in <smile>. Seriously, you are right everyone is not a good prospect and of course no one wants to be SOLD either.

Posted by Gary Woltal, Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth (Keller Williams Realty) almost 10 years ago

I think the old adage SW, SW, SW...Next! applies here; (SomeWill, Some Won't, So What... Next!).

I agree that trying to "get 'em all" is exhausting, frustrating and annoying! You could also put yourself in the position of chasing the wrong "suspect" while a real prospect slips on by.

Posted by Tony Gentile (Keller Williams) almost 10 years ago

Great Blog, Jennifer, and very educational.  I am going to suggest your book as required reading for our team.  Thank you.

Posted by Kathy Quinn, The Nines Team in Lodi - Team Administrator (The Nines Team Realty) almost 10 years ago

Thank you SO MUCH for all the comments! I've been remiss in commenting back, mainly because I'm deep into writing my next book (which this blog comes from). So your comments, opinions and ideas are much appreciated and may find themselves IN that book! Please keep them coming!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) almost 10 years ago

Thanks, Jennifer for your suggestions.  I make a habit of being conversational about the home and neighborhood but am definitely guilty of spending more emotion than I should on those who clearly aren't willing to move forward.

Posted by Dee Bundy, Helping You Make Colorado "Home" (Fort Collins Realtor @ C3 Real Estate Solutions) almost 10 years ago

Jennifer, Thank you, I am still a believer in Open Houses and they are productive if done correctly and with the right goals in mind! Thanks for the suggestions, I will add them to my repertoire!

Posted by Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

I too ask people to sign in, if they don't leave their real name well so what!!  I think a guest book is a welcome way to say hello, how can help?

Patricia/Seacoast NH & ME

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 10 years ago

Jennifer - I'm guilty of spending too much energy trying to get contact info from everyone.  I agree with your point #2 and need to do more of that myself.  There will always be people who simply don't want to give you their information and there's no point in pushing it.

Posted by Tim Markley, Real Estate Agent (314) 223-3681 - St. Louis, MO (Coldwell Banker Gundaker) almost 10 years ago

Jennifer, that is excellent observation. In fact, it works not only at an OH, but anytime someone starts talking real estate with you. If you care about building rapport first, and being one click away from a good fit - it works for everybody's advantage. 

Posted by Anna Tolstoy (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jennifer ~ This is how I've approached open houses from day one. Works for me. Nice reminder that I actually need to be doing more open houses...

Posted by Denise Hamlin, Broker/Owner, Helping Happy Clients Make Smart Choices (Cardinal Realty ~ 319-400-0268) almost 10 years ago


as always: great blog and advice.  

Posted by Anja Kerstens, GRI, CDPE, CHS, ASP, Selling Silicon Valley Real (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 10 years ago

This sounds something like find a comfort zone in your conversation and interactions at Open Houses. Don't stress is  what I get out of the concept! Sounds good!

Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge almost 10 years ago

Jennifer, great post as always.

Open houses trained me as a new agent. I learned very quickly. . relationships sell when cultivated with value.

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) almost 10 years ago

Great post... Open houses seem to be a lost art in our market. 

My business partner and I have challenged our buyer's agents with the tasks of doing more purposfull open houses and so far the results are great... ....

Posted by Kevin Kauffman, Kevin Kauffman (Group 4610 Network ) almost 10 years ago

Open house is something I haven't done in years, but I never had any trouble getting visitors to register.  I just put out a Guest Book, entered 2 visitors before anyone came (no one wants to be first), and asked if they'd mind registering to let me know how they found out about the open house.  They almost always filled out their current address and phone number, and I always gave them a nice folder of information about other current listings and recent sales in the neighborhood.  They were eager and happy to accept the information and my business card (except that I did not provide that information to anyone who indicated they already had an agent).

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Jennifer, this is a great post!  I happen to think that Open Houses are a wonderful prospecting opportunity.  

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

In our area openhouses get you nothing. No one comes, no matter what you do or how you advertise. They are just not popular. We have done them over and over, and I have yet to hear of any of them getting more than a couple of lookers and not real qualified buyers.

When buyers can enter exact search criteria into engines on a number of sites, they can home in on properties that meet their requirements. Just popping in on a home on a Sunday afternoon is inefficient for them. The price could be too high, the rooms not large enough, etc.

And getting a list of visitors that will be very short is not helpful. In most cases they (and I would do the same) are reluctant to give out information since they know that in many cases they will be bombarded with either calls or e-mails.

Nope, here the openhouse (except perhaps for the agents' tours) is dead as a doornail. Unless, of course, you have three hours you want to waste sitting in an empty property with no cars pulling in the driveway.

But we are a large country, and in other areas they may work well. In that case, more power to you and best of luck.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jennifer,  A great reminder and, as usual, so well written.  I've found that asking for contact info is not nearly as effective as offering to stay in touch by email - and then stop talking.

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) almost 10 years ago

Jennifer, great post and great reminder to relax and focus on sharing our expertise. Those who connect with us will want to have us be in touch. When I first started in real estate and conducted my first open houses (usually for other people's listings) I had no idea what to do. I worked hard to greet and converse with everyone. It was exhausting. Now, I try to give people the highlights and ask them if they'd like to go through the house on their own, or with me. I always tell them to ask me any questions they think of while walking around. I love Shantee's idea of postcards...rather than just business cards. Several of my sales have come from open houses so I am a firm believer in them!

Posted by Nina Rogoff, Sells Real Estate! (RE/MAX Executive Realty) almost 10 years ago


Had a Saturday Open yesterday, unusual but had decent turnout.  My flyer on FREE PHOTOS WITH SANTA stopped them all cold - parents and grandparents alike.  The house wasn't right for those guests but I made a higher number of appointments.  All asked me to call them with a reminder about Santa.  Proves your point - don't just push the house!

Posted by Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ (Weichert) almost 10 years ago

As I'm reading your post I'm thinking to myself how well written it is and then I get to the bottom and realize that it's by the author of Sell with Soul!  I have your wonderful book and it is a must-read for anyone in real estate sales.  Thanks for a great post :-)

Posted by Teri Deane, Realtor, ABR, CRS, SFR - The Deane Team (RE/MAX 100) almost 10 years ago

Jennifer, You are such a wonderful writer and always share great information.  I love you upbeat tone, always :)  I'm going to send this link to my new Rookie agent!  I think he'll enjoy it :)  

Posted by Elizabeth Cooper-Golden, Huntsville AL MLS (Huntsville Alabama Real Estate, (@ Homes Realty Group)) almost 10 years ago

Great points and reminders! I had many lookieloos today that were not qualified to purchase the house. Some were unfriendly and some were very friendly???

Posted by Betsy Schuman Dodek, (Washington Fine Properties - Washington DC Area Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

Love your post. It's pretty much the approach I like to use. It's really our knowledge that we have which is of most value to them. One liitle tip on holding open houses that has been effective for me is to provide a lot of extra information to the visitor. I like to have a large bulletin board with photos of the neighborhood, other listings, maps, and of course detailed information on the house I am holding open. It's a good way to get people who are interested into conversation.

Posted by Buki Burke, (805)377-0236, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services CA (Ventura, California) almost 10 years ago

Love your post. It's pretty much the approach I like to use. It's really our knowledge that we have which is of most value to them. One liitle tip on holding open houses that has been effective for me is to provide a lot of extra information to the visitor. I like to have a large bulletin board with photos of the neighborhood, other listings, maps, and of course detailed information on the house I am holding open. It's a good way to get people who are interested into conversation.

Posted by Buki Burke, (805)377-0236, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services CA (Ventura, California) almost 10 years ago

Great post! I feel the same way about those seeking a mortgage. There are some who I can engage in conversation and some that I cannot. I spend my time with those who engage. #44 - great open house idea!

Posted by Melanie Thompson, Registered Mortgage Advisor (Mortgage Equity Team) almost 10 years ago

Jennifer - I have strayed away from Open Houses for some of the reasons you talked about.  It makes sense to be there as a source of information for not only that home, but for homes in our area.  I will dust my signs off and go at this source of marketing with a new frame of mind.  Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Posted by Robert Courtney, Century 21 All Islands, RA, CDPE, MCRE, CIAS almost 10 years ago

Hi Jennifer, very good points. I believe strongly in " Permission based marketing" . I have a very simple concept. I ask to earn the right to represent people when the times comes. I invite them to give me their information by first giving them mine through my information based website ( blog). Many like this and know that I will not abuse the privilege. Thus far it has worked very well.

Posted by William Johnson, Retired Real Estate Professional (Retired) almost 10 years ago

I like that SW, SW, SW, next! I have not heard that before.  You can lead them to water but you can't make them drink.  However, I have always had good luck because I tell them I am going to send them a thank you card for viewing the home.  So they walk right over and sign in...

Posted by Evelyn Johnston, The People You Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

Thanks for so many MORE great comments! I'm so glad this hit a nerve with so many. And I promise you - open houses are way more fun when you RELAX.

Elizabeth - I drove thru Huntsville yesterday and waved at you!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) almost 10 years ago

This is a very well thought out post and one which really matches reality.  I like this thought >>>   "Save your emotional energy for the visitors with whom you feel a natural rapport. Be pleasant and polite to everyone else, but don't stress yourself out trying to get contact information from them. "... it is priceless.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) almost 10 years ago

I've been reading Jennifers books, and this weekend followed her advice on Open Houses, as I was holding this open for another agent. For the first time (in my short history as an agent), I did not ask people to sign in at all.  I talked to them, found out their needs and desires and offered them the opportunity to receive the additional information they desired. Out of the 6 groups that visited, 4 offered ME their contact information, and 3 of those folks were interested in the house I was holding open. (Jennifer, I forgot to tell you that part) In fact, I could not write down their contact information fast enough for them!

We're told that Knowledge is Power, but the other side of that equation that makes this all work is, How you present and offer that knowledge.

This was a huge step for me, the second big step in the right direction in as many weeks, all from following Jennifer's advice and tweaking it to my personality.

Posted by Chiara Petro, Your KEY to Home Sweet Home - Knoxville TN (eXp Realty - Angie Cody Team) about 9 years ago

I have had TWO people recently contact me and buy a home through me that took my card and didn't leave their contact info. It can happen!

Posted by Karen Salmon, Okotoks Real Estate Agent (Royal LePage Benchmark) about 9 years ago

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