Getting serious about selling your home? Then whisper the words "brokers' open" into your agent's ear.
A brokers' open house draws real estate sales people into your home -- usually for a light midweek luncheon and tour. Leave a good impression with these influential individuals and your marketing plan can gain great momentum.
"Brokers' open houses are a wonderful way to expose your property to people who actively market real estate in your community," says Dorcas Helfant, president of the National Association of Realtors.
Less than a quarter of homes sold in this country gain the exposure a brokers' open affords, Ms. Helfant says. Few sellers know the value of a brokers' open. They've heard only of the usual open houses, where the doors of a property are swung open to the public.
But the problem with public open houses is that most shoppers are only browsing. Agents conducting the open houses can capture future customers, but such events rarely yield a sale of the house being shown.
On the other hand, a brokers' open can be highly effective because it attracts agents working with buyers who are truly serious. If an agent likes the house, chances are he'll show it to a serious buyer, or at least spread the word.
Housing markets are not unlike job markets. Those hired are those who know the people doing the hiring. By the same token, the houses that get drawn from computer printouts to be shown and sold first are often those familiar to agents.
"Brokers' open houses are especially important in this market because there are an abundance of properties being sold and no abundance of customers. That means brokers are going to show first the houses that they know," says Carolyn Janik, author of the Penguin paperback "How to Sell Your Home in the '90s."
And just as a face-to-face meeting tells you more about a person than a resume and photo, a brokers' open house reveals more about a property than a photo and set of statistics.
"Homes are like people. We all basically look the same on the outside -- as far as having two arms and two legs. But when you get to know a person, there's a personality there. The same is true with a house," says Alex Smith, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker's Charles Street office in Baltimore County.
On paper, a four-bedroom Cape Cod in a middle-income suburb may look just like another home in its class. It takes a tour of the place to appreciate the sunny yellow children's playroom or the kitchen with a center island and gourmet range.
An agent who sees the Cape Cod will come away with a mental picture and will talk up the property with prospective buyers. Such testimonials can be persuasive in determining which properties are ultimately seen and sold.
"Your house will rise to the top of the list," says Ms. Janik, the real estate author.
Realty professionals offer these open house pointers:
* Be sure your house looks sharp and homey before you open it for inspection by realty people.
"Holding a brokers' open is like entertaining," Ms. Helfant says. "You want that home to sparkle and have a lot of warmth. You want the china glistening, the flowers out and the aromas fresh and sweet."
Real estate agents favorably impressed by your home can help sell it quickly and at a favorable price. But Ira Gribin, a past president of the National Association of Realtors, cautions that letting the agents in before your home is clean, painted and in otherwise good condition might have the opposite effect.
"If the house isn't clean, mentally the broker is going to reduce it to the bottom of his list," Mr. Gribin says.
* Be sure word is spread widely about your brokers' open.
Real estate agents willingly invite counterparts from competitive firms to a brokers' open. The reason: commissions. Firm A may have have obtained your listing. Still, Firm B could bring in the potential buyer. If Firm B's buyer goes through with the purchase, both companies get a piece of the commission.
Be sure your agent actively promotes your event through local advertising, direct mail or invitations hand-delivered to other realty companies.
* Make sure that food is served at your brokers' open.
A meal not only draws a crowd, it also encourages people to stay long enough to learn about your home. The food needn't be fancy. Mr. Smith, the Coldwell Banker agent, typically serves sandwiches, a pasta salad and soda. Another welcoming idea is for the homeowner to contribute a favorite recipe. Homemade chocolate chip cookies sitting on the kitchen counter, for instance, could leave a pleasant memory.
* Disappear before the brokers' open begins.
Agents attending the open house will appreciate your cookies, but they won't appreciate your presence. Most homeowners are thin-skinned about their property and, knowing this, agents feel inhibited discussing a home in their presence.
"I encourage the sellers not to be there so the people coming through the house will be a lot more honest," Mr. Smith says.
* Keep your pets out of the picture, too.
As charming as your cats and dogs seem to you, says Ms. Helfant, they can be a serious turnoff to the agents who visit your home.
"Take the pets to visit your neighbor," she says. "You don't want the real estate professional to go out with a run in her stocking because Fido is a friendly dog, after all."