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How to Plan the Perfect Open House
Have you ever spent time and energy planning an Open House, only to have less than five people attend? Have you ever had a ton of people at your Open House, and couldn’t convert one of them into a sale or a future customer? Not sure why your Open House failed?
Open Houses are now more important to the real estate industry than ever. A 2015 report by the National Association of Realtors Home Buyers and Sellers indicated that 48% of home buyers cited the Open House as an important source for most of their information. The reasons for this are obvious, for many it is the first time they have smelled, seen and felt the home in person. It’s also a way to see what other people think about the house, which is a powerful boost in a person’s perception of a particular home.
I’m Cindy Bishop from Cindy Bishop Worldwide. I pride myself on not only being a successful real estate agent with over 28 years of experience, but an experienced and helpful trainer and coach. I am committed to making everyone who comes in contact with me successful, and have compiled the following opening tips for you, both from my own experience, as well as teaching and coaching my friends. Use them to succeed, and contact me if you have any questions!
Here are the best ways to perfect your Open House:
1. Choose a unique property that is easy to find.
We often have no control over which property we show, but when we can choose a house at which to host an Open House event, we should look for properties with the following:
* Straight path to them with very few turns. Street names are easy, and street signs are visible.
* Properties that are well maintained, and visually pleasing from the inside and out.
* A home with a “conversation starter” of sorts. It has a unique feature, and it’s not just four walls. It might have an infinity pool, a walk-in closet, or a newly remodeled kitchen.
* Your signage should be larger than life. On the day of the event, you need something to make the signs stand out even more. Balloons are often used, or you could even try streamers or pinwheels. Be creative, just try to find something professional, but that catches the light and people’s attention.
2. Have your Open House at the right time.
* Don’t have your event after dark. Plan your event to end at sunset.
* Consider having a separate preview open house, just for neighbors. And then an open to the public kind of event afterwards. Neighbors love this preview event concept because it makes them feel special, and they love to suggest who should live in their neighborhood. It also allows them to start thinking about friends and family they want close by, and they become part of your sales force for you, as well as your advertising force for the actual open house.
* If you are having an event just for neighbors, consider taking a camera and interviewing and recording them talking about the neighborhood. This is something you can add to your website or social media, or have on repeat loop during your Open House. For example, imagine how powerful it is to have a registered mother’s certificate in the school district area?
* Do not choose a date and time where people are not available, for example, most people work Monday to Friday from 8am-5pm, and may not be free on Wednesday at 3pm. Additionally, people are usually not free on holiday weekends.
3. Make your Open House event the right atmosphere, and the more exciting, the better!
* Entertaining music is a possibility, but be careful that it is not entertaining and that you avoid certain genres or language that may be offensive. Music can be seen as a way to hide noises or mechanical malfunctions in the house. Make sure you are sensitive to how the music is perceived.
* Snacks are a must! Try wine and cheese, or beer and wings. The most important part about the food is that it should match what kind of neighborhood you are. Fried chicken and hamburgers probably don’t fit on a million dollar listing, but champagne and caviar probably don’t fit in a first-time homebuyer situation, do they. Just a word of caution; however, if you serve alcohol, be very careful about who you serve. You may want to have someone on your team to help you with this. The last thing you need is someone drinking at your open house as a minor, or someone driving away drunk and having an accident. If in the right kind of environment, having comfort food is especially welcome and makes many visitors feel more at home. Take care to avoid foods with bad smells or odors, as you do not want them to be attributed to the home.
* Consider leaving a handwritten sign to “Help Yourself” along with a list of ingredients so visitors feel they can eat the snacks provided without fear.
* Consider having a slideshow or interactive photo board with the home at different times of the year. You may want to show the home in summer months, for example, if it is currently January and the garden and pool are frozen.
* Consider making a table, desk or station with local school information, neighborhood information, etc. The more resources you can provide, the better. You want the guest to stop at this station and pour over the resources, and ask as many questions as possible.
* Be sure to engage each and every visitor so they are interested and want to stay longer.
4. Don’t just promote your Open House, create a buzz around it.
* Create an event on social media, and share it with all your friends and customers, as well as everyone on your email lists. Facebook ads have become a wonderful means of reaching a lot of people in your area who would otherwise not be in your networks. And it’s incredibly cost-effective, for what it does. You should filter the Facebook ad to include only people in targeted zip codes. You can also disinvite or exclude people who work for other real estate agents or competing agents.
* A flyer surrounding businesses and schools in the area listed. Knock on as many doors as possible.
* Visit neighbors’ homes with nice flyers or invitations. The nicer the invitation, the higher the chance they’ll show up to see what all the fuss is about. Some agents even suggest using wedding-style invitations.
* Don’t just advertise on one channel. You can try Facebook events, Twitter, your own website, your email list, your newsletter, NextDoor.com and even Craigslist. Just make sure you follow all appropriate advertising and marketing laws as defined by your brokerage and state laws.
5. Logistics, Logistics, Logistics
* Make sure everything is in order so you look your best, and the house looks its best. it should be clean, light bulbs should be new, dust should be gone, air fresheners should work, the climate should be controlled. I’ve even heard of some agents baking cookies before the big event to make the house feel and smell more like home.
* Consider getting rid of clutter that makes it difficult to navigate the home. You can also remove or hide offensive art, or anything that might make someone feel uncomfortable. But be careful – make sure the homeowner doesn’t just throw the mess into cupboards or closets! People are more and more concerned about storage these days, and if it seems like the closets and cabinets are bursting at the seams with junk, they will automatically assume that the amount of storage in the house is not enough.
* Use natural light to your advantage. Make sure all window treatments are open and all curtains are drawn. All light switches must be turned on, regardless of where they are. You don’t want someone to be afraid to go into the basement, or think that they are not allowed in the garage.
* Make sure the home owner is not present. The last thing you need is for them to have an emotional breakdown because they go down memory lane or answer a question incorrectly. People also feel uncomfortable letting loose when the person who owns the property is looking over their shoulder.
* That said, valuables, if left in the home, should be secured. At the very least, you should know what they are and where, and make an inventory of them. I strongly advise you to insist that the home owner remove them from the property before the open house, so you are not responsible for them in case of damage or theft.
* Use your team. If you’re alone at an Open House, you might be spread too thin. If you walk away for a minute to check that a sign on the corner hasn’t fallen down, you might miss someone who comes to find no one there. Have one person for signage and the guest book, one person for food and beverage, and that leaves you free to talk and engage guests.
* Have a loan agent or lender on hand to answer any questions the home buyer may have about the process.
* Make sure you have the necessary documents. You can print a copy of the MLS but it is strongly suggested that you make a booklet, flyer or something more personalized to the property and yourself.
* Make sure you know the neighborhood, and have done comparisons of values in the neighborhood. You might lose credibility if someone asks you and you don’t know this territory, and I’m sure you’d rather look like a pro!
6. Use the Personal Touch
* It is not enough for every visitor to log in. You should take detailed notes of your conversation with each person. If you can’t remember this, a helpful suggestion is to hide a notebook or tablet inside a kitchen drawer, and jot down notes throughout the day.
* You must remember one thing about each visitor and bring it up at some point during their tour of the home. “Jerry, wouldn’t this be a wonderful place to store your golf clubs?”
* Don’t try to sell anyone. They will come to you, and ask for the information they need, when they need it. This is a time to establish relationships. Your only goal should be to make this home (and yourself) memorable.
* Add all visitors to your email list, as well as your newsletter list. AM Open House is a great app and resource to make sure you stay on task with this.
* For those visitors who have taken a serious interest in the home or you, handwritten cards should be sent thanking them for coming, and encouraging their business in the future. Take out that handy notebook you’ve been keeping and make personal notes on each card. They are more likely to keep it the more personal it is. First of all, make sure your contact information is on each card.
* Some agents even send videos. You could post a live video of the open house on Facebook, or post a YouTube video of the listing. You could even send some kind of greeting card video for a special way to say “thanks for stopping by!” BombBomb is a great resource for this type of video.
* Texting is a fantastic way to contact people, and has a 95% open rate. It is less invasive than a phone call, which people may avoid answering if they do not know a specific caller. Send a very specific text message with a thank you, the property address and more information about the property, or a link for more information.
* Send a follow-up to the follow-up starting with the subject header “I forgot to tell you…” – You can then indicate a feature you neglected to tell them about on the current property, or even indicate other features you may have listed if this one they lacked.
Of course, the best resource for an Open House is a coach who can suggest strategies unique to your community and clientele. Not only is this more efficient, but a coach should follow you to make sure everything went smoothly, and question every step if it doesn’t.
Cindy Bishop is the Managing Director of Cindy Bishop Worldwide, a real estate education company specializing in Business Improvement and Growth training for the Real Estate Community. Cindy is an active coach specializing in real estate business development.
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