BY TERRIE WHITTAKER
Recently, New West Realty held a broker open house at 1555 Wabash, and it was the first development broker open house we’ve hosted in some time. Once FHA approval had been secured and closings got underway, we completed two model homes. The next obvious item on the traditional marketing checklist is to host a broker open house, right? Well, maybe not given the current market conditions. There is nothing traditional about where we are as developers or Realtors. Oversupply of condos, fearful prospects, challenging financing and unrealistic sellers – what is a developer to do to get an agent’s attention?
We all receive dozens of invitations to open houses every month – even a few here and there for developments. What would tempt a busy Realtor to put an event on a BlackBerry calendar? To get the answer, I turned to several successful agents I know and respect. The answers were standard: gimmicks don’t work, complicated bonus dollar games don’t work and drawings for trips don’t pull them in. There is nothing earthshaking about what I learned from my personal panel of experts. You will get a decent turn out if you have a product that an agent feels they can sell. Invite them via e-blast combined with a printed invitation or advertised invite. If time allows, hit them with the invitation more than once. Access has to be easy and free parking is a must – particularly for an open house. Food is a necessity, though it needn’t be lavish and expensive. Portable food is helpful – if you are on the run it’s nice to be able to grab a bite to take with you. The price list you hand out at the open house will probably not make it back to the office, so the information should be readily available online.
If they have an interested prospect, they will check out your listings and click through to your community Web site for more information. Make it as easy as possible for an agent to sell your community. The most basic piece of advice is follow up. If an agent takes the time to attend your open house, call and ask for their feedback. Then, keep in touch and let them know what’s new in your market area or in your community. In the end, we had 23 agents who visited 1555 Wabash. From my perspective it was a great success, as there are 23 more agents who now know where we are and what we have to offer. Terrie Whittaker is the president of sales and marketing at New West Realty. She can be reached at 312.829.2100.