Realtors thinking out of the box to get prospective buyers in the door

Realtors thinking out of the box to get prospective buyers in the door

June 26th, 2009 by Amy Williams in Business Around the Region

As the economic slowdown continues, real estate agents across the area and the nation are stepping outside their comfort zones to get buyers through the doors of the houses they're selling.

Suzanne Watson, a Realtor with Crye-Leike, has proposed opening up houses during the evening hours after the workday, giving prospective home buyers an alternative to the traditional Sunday afternoon open house.

Dubbed "twilight open houses," the concept began gaining popularity in different parts of the country a few years ago, and agents like Ms. Watson say they are just one more way that her industry is reacting to the slowdown in the market.

"I guess we Realtors have to start thinking out of the box," she said. "We have a lot to be thankful for, but still we need to do different things."

The benefits of a twilight open house are that sellers like them, they convenient and they help a listing standout, according to Realtor.org. But, the Web site cautions, there are some drawbacks for agents, because they must develop marketing specific to showing a home in the evening hours, such as signs with lights.

While some in the real estate industry aren't sure the twilight open house is the answer, they admit there is a need for some innovation when it comes to marketing homes these days.

At Real Estate Partners, agents for years have been trying to provide alternatives to the traditional methods of selling homes, said Adelia Mosley, the company's marketing director. The company has offered non-traditional events like brunches and breakfast events for that allow prospective buyers to see homes at times other than the weekends. They also have held events that piggy-back on larger events so they can make the most of the exposure, Ms. Mosley said.

"There are different ways to reach to out," she said. "These days, you have to do that."

More agents are hosting the evening open houses as a way to reach out to people who want to avoid the crowds on Sundays, said Nickie Schwartzkopf, an agent with ReMax Properties and president of the Chattanooga Association of Realtors. Another tool more agents are using is the agent open house, she said. At the agent open house, someone will sponsor a lunch for other agents to come look at the house, so if they have a client that's looking for something like that, they are aware of that house, she said.

"I know they are trying any which way they can to get people into these houses all over the country, so any new thing would be a good thing," Ms. Schwartzkopf said.

Ryan King, an agent with Real Estate Partners, agreed that his agency has tried a number of different things to attract the attention of buyers. Mr. King has recently acquired certification as an EcoBroker, which required him to complete an energy, environmental, and marketing training program.

"When you have a slow economy, you have to do different things," he said.