Labor Day typically marks the start of the busiest selling season besides spring—a time when stuck sellers tend to get serious about cutting prices and buyers swap beach weekends for open-house crawls.
If you are selling now, chances are the recent uncertainty about whether a fall rebound is actually on its way is stirring your inner micromanager.
For instance, when it comes to the open house, how do you know whether your agent is doing it right—from picking the optimal time slot, to advertising in the right places, to showing up prepared? (The last is not a ‘duh’ question, believe it or not.)
BrickUnderground checked in with 23 brokers from a dozen firms across New York City to assemble this week's three-part owner’s guide to the NYC open house. The advice ranges from the obvious (nothing sells like clean) to surprising (how to get competing brokers to send buyers to your open house).
Today, we turn to the basics of scheduling and getting the word out: What time is the right time…and where’s the best place to advertise?
The Sunday open house tradition was established back when the Sundy real estate section of the newspaper drove most of the traffic.
With virtually all open houses advertised online these days “there is some increase in Saturday open houses,” notes Roberta Axelrod of Time Equities. However, she says, “most brokers take Saturdays off so, there’s a resistance to changing it.”
Your goal is to be where they buyers are – not a straggler on a scantily traveled road - so stick to Sundays.
For the same reason, pick a popular time slot: Buyers are out in droves from 11-4. In particular, we are told, 11-1 to 2-4 may be the most strategic choices, while the 12-2 slot and to a lesser extent 1-3 may lose buyers to the lunch hour.
“Isolated time slots like 10 am or 3 to 5 pm lose lots of traffic,” says Melanie L. Swanson of Century 21 NY Metro.
The time slot you pick should overlap as much as possible with nearby apartments in the same price point, to encourage buyers to include yours in their itinerary.
“Be aware of all open houses—not just in a 10 block radius but north and south too, because buyers will either drive around and hit them all, or split up and reconvene at the end,” says Swanson.
If possible, sync up to any competitors that have “a snazzy marketing campaign and large budget,” suggests David Maundrell, the president of Brooklyn brokerage aptsandlofts.com.
Ideally, your place should be shown at the time it gets the most natural light: “For instance, east-facing apartments show best in the morning or earlier in the day,” says Deanna Kory of Corcoran.
Exceptions to the Sunday open house rule: If it falls too near a national or religious holiday, or on a long weekend, you may want to consider skipping a weekend or trying a weeknight open house.
After-work open houses—Tuesday or Wednesday from 6-7 o’clock--are more common in the summer when many people go away for the weekend. They may also be a useful year-round Sunday supplement for apartments located in midtown or downtown, convenient to offices.
“Weekdays are hit or miss,” says Maundrell, who nevertheless holds Sunday and weeknight open houses year round. However, he says, ”Sunday is our bread and butter.”
Most brokers said that an open house should last around one and a half to two hours, tops.
“I think the biggest mistake owners make is hosting a four-hour open house,” says Swanson. “It takes away from the exclusivity and allows people to make casual visits once they look at everything else. That is, IF they don’t go to brunch in between.”
These days, if your open house isn't advertised online, you may as well not hold one.
Beyond a presence on your broker's site, most agents we spoke with said StreetEasy was hands down the most effective tool, followed by the NYT online.
“StreetEasy has become the buyers’ real estate bible,” says Rebecca Knaster of Corcoran.
Some brokers say that offering extras can draw more eyeballs and traffic.
“My single best trick to get brokers and/or buyers to an open house is to offer the services of a mortgage broker at the open house,” says Charlette Klarfeld of the Fox Residential Group. “Buyers ask questions regarding their personal circumstances. And the mortgage broker provides spread sheets to help buyers see the actual monthly costs.”
Light refreshments, like the “tea and cake on the terrace” Klarfeld offered at a recent event, can also draw buyers.
In addition to advertising your open house, your broker should employ a number of simple but not necessarily obvious marketing techniques, beginning with your front door.
“Signage is very key, not just within the unit but as well as the doors outside the building,” says Frances Katzen of Prudential Douglas Elliman. A simple, clear sign with phone numbers and the time of the open house “is very effective and much overlooked.”
Keep the doorman in the loop too so they’ll treat your visitors nicely and inform others about your open house, suggests broker-blogger Malcolm Carter.
(If the building requires appointments to see the “open” house, make sure that’s in the advertising information. A potential buyer will probably still get in, but doormen can be downright hostile in those circumstances.)
Somewhat counterintuitively, agents at competing properties can be potential allies.
“Sending personal emails inviting other brokers that have listings in the area will always increase your traffic and the chances of having a successful open house,” says Maundrell.
The emails should make clear that even though outside brokers may be working their own open houses, they can send their potential buyers and earn a co-broking commission.
Most brokers also send out email blasts to hundreds or thousands of potential buyers and other brokers at their firm or other firms. There’s a debate over how effective these are.
Vince Collura at Gotham Photo Company--a Manhattan firm that specializes in generating and designing the email blasts--says they work best when something specific and uncommon about the apartment is highlighted in the subject line, like the fact that it's in a small building that rarely has anything available, or is sporting a fresh and amazing renovation.
Among the least effective come-ons: "Never put 'Price drop!' or 'must-see listing!' in your subject line," he advises.
Tomorrow: Go away. And take your cat with you.