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The Beginner’s Guide to Running a Successful Apartment Open House

July 19, 2021

Hosting open houses can keep vacancy rates low. This guide explains how to market and prepare for an apartment open house to find the right renter.

Apartment open house

As a leasing agent, one of your key responsibilities is keeping your units filled with reliable, responsible tenants. And that means that when one tenant moves out, you have to get to work right away to find another one. And get them to move in as soon as possible!

If you're about to put a new apartment up for rent, throwing an open house is a great way to get many potential tenants to see the place at the same time.

But how should you market it?

How should you handle it?

What do you need to do before, during, and after the event?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, this beginner's guide to running a successful apartment open house is for you!

Are Open Houses Better Than Individual Showings?

Woman planning for an apartment open house

When it's time to fill a vacant unit, property showings are a must.

But is it better to do one-on-one private walk-throughs? Or is it better to pack the place with potential renters during an open house?

There are pros and cons to conducting individual showings and to hosting an open house, as you’ll see below.

Pros of Individual Showings

If the potential renter is willing to take the time to schedule a private appointment, they’re likely interested in renting the unit. You can also pre-screen clients before the apartment tour, which helps you weed out unqualified tenants who can't afford the rent.

Cons of Individual Showings

The downside of conducting an individual showing is that it takes time. Even if you’re an experienced leasing agent with a 20% closing rate, you may have to show the unit to at least 4–5 potential tenants before sealing the deal

Pros of Open Houses

An open house is an opportunity to attract many people to your unit at once, reducing the amount of time spent on private showings and tours.

In other words, it saves you time, money, and patience!

Cons of Open Houses

One thing is inevitable with an open house:

People that are nosy, curious, and not at all serious about renting will also show up.

The most challenging part of throwing an open house is it takes a bit more time to plan than an individual showing. Plus, the more people that attend, the harder it can be to give serious, qualified tenants the individual attention they need.

How to Market Your Open House

Once you decide to host an open house, you’ll need to try various forms of marketing to attract the right renters to your listing. Marketing can (and should) be both online and offline.

Take a look at these open house marketing strategies.

Offline Marketing Strategies

Offline marketing strategies are the classic tactics that real estate agents have been using for decades.

The top offline marketing tactics include:

  • Displaying physical signs and banners on the property
  • Putting ads in local papers
  • Placing flyers or postcards in local restaurants, shops, and other places where your ideal tenants hang out, shop, eat, and work

It’s also a good idea to pass out flyers or postcards to nearby neighbors. They may have friends, relatives, or coworkers looking to move into your complex that they can pass the word onto.

Online Marketing Strategies

No matter how much offline marketing you do, you need to market your open house online as well. If you’ve already posted the rental listing on your website, Zillow, or Apartments.com, include a note that advertises the day and time of your open house.

You can also promote your rental property on Facebook events, Instagram, and other social media networks. This is the fastest and easiest way to spread the word to the local community.

Property management companies can draw foot traffic to an open house with incentives or freebies. If you’re planning to give away something for free, whether it be food, drinks, or swag, be sure to mention it in your online posts and ads.

Related: read our full guide to building an apartment marketing plan.

When To Start Advertising an Apartment Open House

It’s essential to market your apartment in advance of the open house, but not too far in advance. When posting open house notices on sites like Craigslist or Zillow, it’s best to do so about two days before the event.

An ad or post titled “Open House This Saturday” is more effective and enticing than one that reads “Open House Next Sunday” with a future date and time.

Many renters will attend an open house at the spur of the moment, yet many will not plan too far ahead for one.

There are also physical advertising and offline advertising techniques. Spend some time the day before or the morning of putting up signs throughout the neighborhood to attract local tenants who may be passing by.

How to Draw Potential Tenants to Your Open House

As a property manager or leasing agent, there are several subtle and effective ways to get prospective tenants to attend your open house.

Here are five things you can do to make your open house more effective:

Post Photos and Videos Online

Person taking photos of an open house

Some tenants will attend an open house without knowing anything at all about the property. But most serious renters won’t waste their time touring at a unit that doesn’t offer what they’re looking for.

By posting photos or videos that call attention to the unit's perks, you’re more likely to attract good renters with genuine interest. If your complex has great shared amenities, such as a pool or a gym, be sure to highlight those as well.

Schedule Your Open House for the Right Day and Time

When planning an open house, it's all about timing.

Most open houses fall on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but the time of day you choose is critical.

A Saturday open house from 1 pm to 3 pm may sound like a great idea, but those mid-afternoon hours cut right into people's weekend plans. Instead of making your tenants schedule their entire day around your open house, host it in the morning.

For example, in the morning from 9 am to 11 am or in the evening from 5 pm to 7 pm. Depending on where your property is, weekday evenings from 6 pm to 8 pm can also be a strategic time to throw your open house event.

Take a New York City neighborhood like Soho, Chelsea, or Manhattan for instance. There, locals visit bars and shops after work. A 6 pm open house is the perfect way to get them in the door before heading home or before they head out for the evening.

Offer Freebies at Your Apartment Open House

Everyone loves getting something for free!

Make your open house a success by teaming up with a local restaurant or local caterer to provide free snacks, appetizers, or drinks.

Don’t want people eating and drinking in your brand new, remodeled apartment?

Have a giveaway or a raffle instead, where everyone gets a ticket at the door and is eligible to receive a prize.

Giving away swag with your company logo is also a good way to get people in the door and advertise your company outside of the open house. Hats, water bottles, or tote bags with your company logo are inexpensive to buy, especially if you buy them in bulk.

Make It a Charity Event

It’s easy to encourage potential renters to attend your open house if you market it as a charity event. Choose a local charity that you want to support and offer to donate $5 or $10 for every person that attends.

If your apartment is pet-friendly, choose a local animal shelter as your charity. If your complex is in a college town, choose a non-profit related to literacy, educational issues, or environmental issues.

Live-Stream the Event

If the weather is uncooperative or you're nervous about low turnout, you can open up your open house to the world by live-streaming it. In your live stream, offer a thorough tour of the unit and highlight its best features.

How to Prepare Your Apartment for an Open House

Person handing out business cards at an open house

Before you open the doors for your open house, be sure to have the apartment cleaned to perfection and staged with furniture. The goal is to make it look move-in ready. So make sure it’s in the best shape possible and that it smells inviting.

And no, you don’t need to bake cookies.

A fresh lemon or citrus scent is all you need.

After ensuring the unit is in pristine condition, you’ll also want to make sure that you have plenty of floorplans, brochures, and business cards out. That way, your contact information is ready for clients to pick up at the door.

You should also have some rental applications on hand or a link with a QR code to access your rental application online.

Be sure to schedule an assistant or a junior agent to attend the event with you. You’ll need someone to handle the door, invite guests in, and collect their contact info. Let your assistant handle the easy work so you can field the hard questions from serious renters that are milling around inside the unit.

How to Get Potential Tenants to Move Quickly to Rent

The goal of an open house is to find a tenant, so when you spot someone with genuine interest, encourage them to fill out an application right away.

Don’t be afraid to play up the FOMO aspect.

If there’s a lot of interest in the property, let potential tenants know. Tell them that other interested parties are filling out their rental applications right now. Let them know that if they delay, they could lose out on the unit.

For tenants that show serious interest, ask them when they’re planning to move. The sooner they’re looking to move, the quicker you’ll need to follow up after the open house is over.

Some property management companies also offer incentives for would-be renters. Whether you’re offering a small gift card or a free month of rent, be sure to let your potential tenants know that there’s an incentive to act quickly.

Learn how to avoid long-term vacant units. Check out 13 Unique Ways to Boost Your Resident Retention.

Apartment Open House Red Flags

No matter how many people attend your open house, you can be sure that some will be serious tenants and some will not. If you're hosting an open house for the first time, here are two red flags to watch out for:

People Looking for Free Stuff

People that have no intention of renting your property will attend.

These might be current tenants living in other units, nearby homeowners being nosy, or people that are only there for the freebies. If you see someone lingering around the free food and cookies rather than touring the unit, they’re likely not serious about renting.

Spending too much time with these potential renters is a waste of time. Instead, devote your attention to those that show genuine interest.

People Who Seem Suspicious

Take note of people who won’t give you a straight answer about where they live or work or who don’t ask you any questions about the apartment. Serious renters will have questions and will want to offer up some information about themselves.

Those are the people you want to spend more time with.

Pay special attention to people who seem more interested in the door locks and video security system than the unit itself. Open houses are open to everyone, and potential criminals plotting their next criminal offense might make their way in.

The real estate market is always evolving, and that includes how you market, show, and find the best tenants for your property.

Whether you're renting a multi-family home or a single unit in a massive apartment complex, having an open house is a great way to get many prospective renters through the door in a short amount of time.

With this beginner's guide, anyone can plan and host a successful open house. There's no guarantee that it will help you find the perfect tenant, but the more people who come through the door, the better your chances.

If you want to draw the right crowds to your next rental open house, having LeaseLeads on your website can connect prospective tenants to floor plans within their budget!

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