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January 27, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched nearly every aspect of our daily lives. And for those trying to sell a home, even the long-standing open house tradition has been interrupted by the coronavirus.

But there are ways to continue to run successful open houses to market your listing and even get new client leads in the COVID era.

Here’s how you can successfully host a COVID-friendly open house.

Virtual Open Houses

Even if you’re allowed to hold an open house, you may want to offer virtual open houses (also called online open houses) and virtual showings as well. This gives buyers who are quarantining, or who are extra cautious because they or their loved ones are in high-risk groups, the opportunity to still see the property. Here’s what you need to know about hosting virtual open houses.

What Exactly is a Virtual Open House?

A virtual open house is simply an open house conducted via audio/video tools that allow buyers to tour the listing online from the safety of their own homes.

Virtual open houses and virtual showings are similar but have one key difference. In virtual showings, the buyer makes an appointment, and the host contacts the buyer via one-on-one video call at the appointed time. But with virtual open houses, the host sets up a virtual video conference call, and publishes the details of the call so anyone can call in at any point during the virtual open house hours; the host remains on the call the entire time, ready to answer questions and show off the home as new buyers jump on and off the call.

How to Host a Virtual Open House?

Hosting a virtual open house is similar to hosting an in-person open house, but there are a few things to plan that may not be apart of your usual open house process:

  • Where will you host the virtual open house?
  • What equipment should you bring?
  • How will you get the word out?
  • What will you share will buyers to help them join the call with ease?
  • When will you rehearse?
  • Best practices to make for a great virtual experience.

Where Will You Host a Virtual Open House?

There are several options for hosting a virtual open house experience online. First, you can do it in real-time, or you can shoot a pre-recorded video. Decide which option is best for you based on your overall comfort level with performing on-camera live.

The real-time option is a great way to answer buyer questions as you go along and have a more personalized/intimate experience.

There are several platforms that you can use to house a “live” or “virtual” open house. Facebook, Instagram, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc. It’s wise to choose a platform that your clients use frequently. That way, they understand how to navigate the platform, and their account is already activated. Ask the prospective buyer which account they’d feel most comfortable with before the virtual open house. If it’s more than one buyer, poll your guests to find out the group’s preference.

What Equipment Should You Bring?

You can house a virtual open house with a fully charged smartphone, but it’s helpful to have these tools to enhance the experience for your audience:

  • External lavalier microphone that plugs into your phone – this tool will improve your sound quality and make it easier for your guests to hear you during the tour.
  • Camera stabilizer – You will be walking around the house and movement may cause your camera to bounce around while you’re recording. Use a stabilizer to ensure that your video doesn’t give your guests motion sickness.
  • Chargers for all devices – Make sure your devices are fully charged prior to your open house, but also consider bringing them along as back-up in case you need to power up.
  • Strong Wi-Fi connection – This might not be possible if the home doesn’t have Wi-Fi or has a spotty connection in some areas of the home. Check with your mobile service provider to see what your options are to ensure that your phone can support this effort. You may also use a hotspot to connect to your own Wi-Fi on the go.

How Will You Get the Word Out?

As usual, use marketing tactics to spread the word about the open house. You can create a Facebook event or set up an Eventbrite page, send an e-mail invite, text an invite, etc. Promote your virtual open house 2-4 weeks before the actual date to give your campaign time to reach your desired audience.

You’ll want to include detailed instructions for your guests to make joining the call or live video seamless. Include an instruction guide with your invitation. Here’s a template that you can work from. Turn the template into a branded PDF that you can upload or link to on your event landing page or attach in an email.

Will You Rehearse?

The answer should be, yes! Pretend like you are a news anchor rehearsing for a live televised report. Test your equipment, get familiar with the platform, ensure your internet connection is strong, playback your dress rehearsal to refine your presentation. Schedule your rehearsal on-site if possible.

Best Practices for a Great Virtual Open House Experience

Once the big day has arrived and it’s time to go live, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Welcome your guests.
  • Tell them where you are in the tour (“we just saw the kitchen, and we’re heading to the master bedroom now”).
  • Let them know you’ll discuss the basic details of the home when you get back to a certain point (like the entry hall or living room), but for now, you’ll be discussing each room as you go.
  • Ask them to stick around for a Q&A when you get to a certain point (typically whatever you would consider the end of your tour).

Don’t forget to “always be closing,” even on these group calls. Regularly remind buyers that they can contact you privately when they’re ready to make an offer (or schedule a private in-person tour).

In-Person Open Houses

In-person open houses may or may not be permissible in your local area, depending on ever-changing Governor’s orders and local ordinances. Before planning an in-person open house, double-check your current local rules regarding gatherings and essential business functions.

Assuming that in-person open houses are permitted, there are several things you can do to make your open house safe while still being an effective marketing tool.

Require Masks

Political connotations aside, as the open house host, you’re responsible for making the environment as safe as possible for the prospective buyers visiting the home. Nose and mouth coverings have been shown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, so it makes sense to require masks for all guests while they’re inside the home.

Open Cabinets and Closet Doors

As virologists have learned more about how the virus spreads, concern about contagion from surfaces has decreased, but it has not been eliminated. To be on the safe side, open cabinet, and closet doors throughout the home so guests can see inside the storage spaces without touching doorknobs and handles.

Turn on the Lights in Each Room

Ensure that the lights are on in each room of the home to prevent the need to make contact with the light switches. Your guests will want to see the home in it’s best lighting. This trick will prevent them from needing to turn on a light to do so.

Have a Sanitizer Station

Despite keeping cabinets and closet doors open to avoid unnecessary surface interactions, many of your open house guests will feel more comfortable if there’s a space to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer upon entering the home.

Use a table in the entryway of the home to display your sanitizing station. That will make it easy for prospective buyers to access the sanitizing tools when they enter or exit.

What to Display at your Sanitizer Station

Savvy real estate professionals are getting branded hand sanitizers and inviting guests to take one. Buyers will see your contact details every time they break out the hand sanitizer for months to come! You can also brand hand sanitizer stations.

Disposable shoe covers also come in handy to keep the outside germs that live on our shoes off the carpets and floors.

Set Capacity Limits

While you don’t want to limit the number of prospective buyers attending the open house, it is a good idea to set a capacity limit for the number of people who can be inside the home at a given time. This will help your guests adhere to the six-foot spacing rule. Once you hit capacity, new arrivals can tour the outdoor spaces while they wait their turn. One nice perk of having people touring outdoors is that it makes your open house look busy and creates a buzz around the neighborhood.

How OVM Can Help With Your Open House

OVM Financial helps with your open house by qualifying your buyers so you don’t invest your time working with someone who can’t secure financing. When you send out your open house invitations, remind your buyers of the importance of a preapproval at the very beginning of their home search. And when you have a prospective buyer, invite them to contact OVM to get their letter of pre-approval right away so their offer will carry more weight with the seller.

As always, we’re here to answer any questions you have and help guide you through the mortgage loan process. Give us a call at 757-296-2148 or start your application today at ovmfinancial.com/QuickStart.