Open House, Open Heart

How many times have you been excited to head out to an open house in your neighborhood (“I always wanted to see what that house looked like inside!”) or if you’re house hunting – get out there for a look around? A very important part of being a realtor is holding open houses on your seller’s behalf. Not only are you showcasing a home for your client, but it’s an opportunity to open up the home and yourself to the community, immediate neighborhood and potential buyers. When I first started my business, I sat at open houses almost every weekend for any broker who would let me, hoping to meet new buyers that I could represent. I thought that was what I needed to do to build my business. How wrong I was! I got really attached to some of the homes and began a cycle of being there every weekend until they sold – and I never did find anyone to sell that house to! But, what an amazing opportunity I had to sharpen my people skills and develop into the kind of realtor I wanted to be. I am so grateful that my mentors would let me sit in some really gorgeous homes and in fact, it was at one of these homes where I did meet my very first clients. Although I have have always been easily approachable, outgoing and talkative, there’s an art to making connections at open houses and it takes a lot of finessing to figure out what works. It took some time to get comfortable asking what I thought then was the most important question: “Are you working with a Realtor?”. But I soon found out – that’s not the only question to be asked. Approaching people and connecting with them on a very personal level is how I have built my business but I look back on my early days in the business and smile at how hungry I was to ask that question!

I absolutely love getting to know the people who live in the home I am selling on their behalf. It is so much more than four walls and a yard or a view that I want to tell each guest about upon their entry through the front door. I want to share with them why the people loved the home, that they had neighborhood parties on their patio every 4th of July, that there’s an amazing parade each summer or that there’s a terrific guy down the street that offers help with Christmas lights. Knowing the occupants of the home I’m representing means stepping into their daily lives so that I can be an extension of them from 1-4pm on the weekends. When I walk into an open house where the agent doesn’t get up from the table, approach me or my clients or even look up, I know that we won’t be leaving knowing any more about that home than how many bedrooms and bathrooms there are. Being an agent isn’t much different than being a therapist on open house afternoons. People come in with issues they have (“I don’t know if I can get over the color in this kitchen”) or they may come in thinking they want something specific only to be informed about something special the house offered they didn’t know about. Either way – I can make or break a potential life change for people – and it’s all in the approach.

Recently, I began thinking that Open House meant more to me than just sitting in someone’s home on a Sunday afternoon. When I moved into my house 4 years ago, I was thrilled to have something that was ALL mine. The independence I lacked since my college days was back and first on my to-do list: having my friends over regularly. I would pick a date and time to have the girls over and would write in a text or evite – Come As You Are – Open House. My tribe of women began coming by on beautiful summer nights to sit in the garden and grill, or gather around my large coffee table to pick at a massive cheese board (my claim to fame) and grab a good cocktail. We all enjoy the best part of my home – the view. Everyone shows up with a bottle of wine or some specialty they are known for and it has become something to look forward to. The term Open House means come when you want, leave when you want and wear what you want. It also means bring a friend or neighbor – the door is open. I love the casual vibe we have created.

July sunset. No filter from the deck of my home in Bellevue.

When I am telling potential buyers about all of the amenities they might find in a home I am representing, I often picture what one of my own girls get-togethers would look like in the fantastic kitchen or great room I am standing in. I often tell stories that are relatable to clients and I hope it opens their minds to the possibilities of what could be for them in that space. Applying my own life stories to each home I sell helps bring people closer to the space and gives them a kick -start on imagining themselves there.

Holding weekend open houses also has me thinking about my own home and its accessibility for my kids. Now that they are in high school, I love when they have their girlfriends and friends over. Often I will be sitting at the counter in my kitchen working when the door will open and in will walk Nate’s girlfriend Gabi. She just comes right in and says “hi!” – sometimes she’ll stop and grab a snack, and sometimes she will sit down and chat with me for a second – but no matter what, I am always so happy that she feels like she can come in to my house unannounced and feel like it’s her home too. This constant flow of activity is amazing because it keeps my kids at my house and I love that I get to see them even though they are all so busy with sports, school and friends. As my oldest son is preparing to leave for college in the fall, I am already dreading the quiet void that will come when my open house has a few less inhabitants.

My kids and their friends: Nate, Natalie and Gabi trying to get Lily to join in the fun.
Gabi showing off her quick reflexes. Notice the scrumptious dinner awaiting them.

For the next 6 months, I am going to keep making extra cheese plates, double the pancakes at dinner (yes sometimes we eat breakfast for dinner!) and always be ready for a crowd. I want my house to be just as open as the homes I show on the weekends: An easygoing environment where all are welcome, and a warm and inviting place for friends and family to gather. Being accessible to my kids and my clients is my number one goal. You never know what conversation will start next!

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