Do you love looking at houses?

Most people do. There’s something almost alive about houses that makes us want to engage with them. We say a house feels good or bad, inviting, cold, or warm. We say a house has good bones, could use a facelift, or needs some love.

house with good bones
A house with good bones.

It’s one of the reasons why holding open houses is such a fun way to prospect for new clients. You get to experience that fresh engagement over and over on the faces of buyers and neighbors as they walk through the door. Not to mention, it’s easier to convert an open house visitor into a client than other forms of prospecting.

Your job as an agent is to facilitate the “conversation” between the buyer and the house, and in the process, show that you are a competent interpreter.

For example, Jason Artiaga of Coldwell Banker in San Ysidro gets one to two new buyer clients from every open house he runs. He’s honed his approach so that it feels natural and comfortable, even though it’s practiced. “You can’t just jump on them when they walk in the door,” he says of his methods. “They came for the house, not me. They don’t really want to meet me. The key is getting them to open up, get a little vulnerable about what they want. If I do that right, they’ll tell me all the things they like and don’t like about the house, and away we go.”

Lori Cayan of Smithfield Realty says that her magic is being loud and brassy. She welcomes people in with a great big ‘Come on in! You’re gonna love it or hate it, but you’ll tell me the truth, OK?’  “People don’t know what to make of me. I scare them a little, but they always warm up and start to trust me. That’s key. If they trust me, they open up about all kinds of things. What they like and don’t like, but also what they’re afraid of, and then I can really help solve their problems and win a client.”

Get People to Open Up at Open Houses

Finding your own way to engage is a talent. But it’s a learned talent that can be enhanced by using smart tactics to break through a visitor’s natural reticence. Often, if you can get just a moment of their attention, it’s enough to change the dynamics of the conversation. With that in mind, here are seven suggestions for getting visitors to open up to you at open houses:

1. Place an easel with a sign at the door welcoming visitors, and making a special offer, such as Free ebook (like, “Buying UP: How to Turn Your First Home Purchase into a Million Dollar Investment”) or a rebate on their purchase, or just a free hot sheet of hot buys in the area. Remember, only the reason you’re doing this is to create a talking point so you can ask visitors questions about their needs and set appointments.

2. Hand visitors a copy of a special open house real estate newsletter as they walk in the door. (Adjust your newsletter so it contains content geared towards active home buyers.) Place the property flyer inside the newsletter. Point out that’s where it is. Then you need a little guts to tell them that when they decide to hire you to help them buy their home, you’ll be keeping up with them using just such a newsletter, because they’ll be part of your exclusive client family. No one else is doing this, I guarantee it. You’ll stand out. If you want a good, flexible newsletter, check out ours at

3. Play “guess the price.” If you have a newer listing, or maybe the price has been dropped, use a sign rider or temporary yard sign that says “Guess the Price.” Provide a prize (a piece of candy, a keychain, etc.) to everyone who comes in and guesses. Doesn’t matter if they’re close or not. The point is to engage in a conversation with them about why they thought it was that price, their expectations, etc. This is also an effective way to gain traction in an area you’re farming. Print flyers about the open house, leave the price off, and invite neighbors to guess the price. Walk the neighborhood for a week before the home goes on the market. Knock on doors and invite people in person to the open house. At the open house, use cookies, books, maps of nearby listings, offers to estimate their house value, etc. The idea is to get people to open up to you, to share their plans. Engage with as many neighbors as you can. Ask if they know of anyone who’s planning on selling soon.

4. Be a data expert. People seem to trust agents more when the agent can pull up data at the push of a button. If the house is too expensive for them, be able to instantly pull up an alternative online. If they’re neighbors, be able to instantly show the value of the home in comparison to other homes that have sold in the area. If someone asks about schools, crime, number of coffee shops in the area, be ready with a report. You’ll come across as the competent agent you are.

5. Have them do an exit survey. This is ideal if you’re uncomfortable conversing, or if your open house is super busy and you can’t talk to everyone. Before someone leaves the house, ask them if they would do a one-minute exit survey for the purpose of providing the seller with feedback.

Ask two questions:

  • “What did you like about the house?”
  • “What didn’t you like about the house?”

Include several yes/no radio button choices:

– Do you want me to email you with new listings and price changes that fit your criteria?
– Do you need to sell a house before buying?
– Are you working with a lender yet?
– If you had a dog with spots, would you name it stripe? (This one is just for fun and will create some energy. Often it will result in them engaging further with you.)

Provide blanks for their name, phone, and email. Ideally your data collection tool will be online and linked to your CRM already, so as soon as they enter their data, they get an email…or even better, a text message thanking them, and offering an online tool or app they can use right away. Add them to your real estate newsletter list automatically, and you’ll have a client for life!

6. Offer props. How many times have you been in an open house where someone starts wondering how big a room is, or what it would cost to replace the frige, or move a wall? If you’re in the home in advance, then you have time to gather a few props that suit the house. “Here’s a tape measure.” “Here’s a list of appliance costs.” “Here’s the engineer’s report on what it would take to move that wall.” Don’t just leave these things laying around. Actually look for an opportunity to hand it to them, which can open up a conversation.

7. Ask a thought-provoking question (my personal favorite). This works 90% of the time…find a moment when they’re contemplating something, then sidle up beside them and ask something like:

  • “What do you like about the house?” They’ll tell you one or two things they like, then they’ll start telling you what they don’t like.
  • “What would prevent you from making an offer on this house?” They’ll tell you what’s wrong with the house, giving you the opportunity to say, “So if you found a house with __, __, and __, would you buy it?”
  • “What do you like about this neighborhood?” This usually is a nice discussion that simply allows you to share your expertise about the community and open the way to ask if they’d like to continue working with you. And on that note…don’t forget to ask.

Nail Down the Appointment!

You can’t win the lottery if you don’t play. You can’t get an appointment if you don’t ask.

Too many agents let people leave their open houses without asking for an appointment. Asking for an appointment is a natural extension of the conversation you’ve just been having. For example:

“Do you have time for me to show you a few additional houses next Saturday?” “Would you be interested in seeing a home I know about that might fit your criteria?” “It sounds like you need some answers to a bunch of questions about buying a home. Why don’t we set an appointment to just focus on your questions?”

So no matter what approach you use to open up the conversation, make sure you finish it with your ask.

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Linda Schneider
Linda Schneider

Linda Schneider, a real estate marketer, author, and former agent for 30 years. She thrives on helping agents make money using creative and affordable prospecting tools and real estate newsletters. Get her latest book, Door to Door Real Estate Prospecting on