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What you need to know about throwing an open house today

An agent's Instagram post for an open house

An agent's Instagram post for an open house in Valley Stream on April 14 shows the young chef Justin James, 12, who baked red velvet cupcakes for the event. Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

With social media posts, a party atmosphere and even participation from local businesses now in the mix, real estate agents have taken the ordinary open house to the next level.

Using social media

Many agents are using Instagram and Facebook posts and ads to find potential open house attendees. Ads can target specific age groups and locations.

“I would say probably 20 percent of the people who show up to the open house are due to Facebook and Instagram advertising,” says Zach Elliott of Nest Seekers International.

Elliott recently sold a home in Oyster Bay Cove for $4.35 million after posting sneak peeks of on social media before it hit the market. The buyer saw the ad for the open house on Instagram.

Before open houses, Yadlynd Cherubin of the Legacy Team at Keller Williams reaches out to businesses in the neighborhood that have Instagram accounts and Facebook pages to get them involved.

For a recent open house in Valley Stream, Cherubin had Truffle Restaurant & Bar, which is within walking distance of the home, post an offer on Instagram for 10 percent off dinner for open house attendees. She also had 12-year-old Valley Stream chef Justin James, on Instagram as Juss Baked, send mini cupcakes.

“When you’re buying a property, you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying into a community,” Cherubin says.

Cherubin also does live broadcasts from open houses on Facebook and Instagram to generate interest.

Virtual tours

Some real estate agents expand their listings beyond professional photos and create virtual tours. Every angle of entire rooms is scanned, allowing viewers to virtually “walk through” the house and also see the floor plan in 3-D.

LP Finn, the chief operating officer of Coach Realtors, says virtual tours give potential buyers a better feel for the home and give them an idea of whether or not it will work for their lifestyle. The tours can also make them more likely to attend an open house or help them see the property if they’re shopping from outside the area.

“The more time you spend engaged with a home online, the more likely you are to go see that property,” Finn says.

About 75 percent of Coach Realty listings have a virtual tour.

“They used to be a wow factor, but now it’s a basic level of marketing,” Finn says.

Make it a party

Some of the best open houses feel like a party, not a real estate showing, agents say. Put out fresh flowers, have music playing and have just-baked cookies, which is a cliché that tends to work.

“Make it feel like you’re welcoming guests, as if you were hosting a party in your own home,” says Debra Russell, an agent with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Cold Spring Harbor. “Have something to make it feel like a home, not just like people are coming to view a house.”

Some communities on the North Shore forbid sellers from putting up “for sale” signs, so Maria Babaev, an agent with Douglas Elliman, recommends tying balloons outside. Sellers should also move their cars to make it easier for buyers to park near the house.

Keep an eye on safety

Sellers should make sure all valuables are stowed away in a safe place and cannot easily be swiped from jewelry boxes or drawers.

Russell says she always likes to have two agents at an open house, but they cannot have eyes on everyone at once.

Patrick McLaughlin, an agent in the Hamptons with Douglas Elliman, says that while he always makes sure open houses are properly staffed, many houses are already equipped with security cameras. This can also have the unintended consequence of capturing potential buyers’ reactions to the home.

“Buyers have a tendency to be very critical, so be careful if you decide to listen,” McLaughlin tells homeowners.

Provide a takeaway

For some open houses, Traci Gazzo, an agent with Coach Realtors in Commack, gives visitors something fun to take with them, such as a mini bottle of water with a label that has a picture of the house and the address, or chocolate bars with custom labels, the kinds of things you can get as party favors.

Visitors should leave with a color brochure or flyer, flier with the floor plan and a list of the home’s features.

“Millennials want to know exactly what they’re buying,” says Gazzo. “They’re all about numbers.”

If the house was pre-inspected, the survey should be readily available for a buyer to take, says Babaev of Douglas Elliman.

Follow up

Visitors should be contacted after their visit.

Guests to Russell’s open houses sign in via a tablet, which displays photos of the house in the background. Once the open house is finished, the agent clicks a button and everyone who signed in receives an email thanking them for their visit. The app was introduced by Daniel Gale a few years ago.

“Sometimes I finish an open house and by the time I get back to my office, I get an email from someone,” Russell says.

Aside from following up with interested open house attendees, Russell can also contact people who may have missed an opportunity to buy a particular house and let them know that another one is for sale in the area in their price range.

Russell can tweak the app so that the sign-in process includes questions such as whether attendees are preapproved for a mortgage or to learn how they heard about the open house, all information that is useful for sellers. There’s also a record of everyone looking for a home in a certain price point, which is helpful for potential sellers when pricing their home.

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