When you have a hot rental property on the market, one that many people will probably want to rent, holding one or two open houses is the way to go. Why? An open house creates excitement and urgency when potential renters see how many other potential renters are interested in your property. This also eliminates the dreaded no-show situation (otherwise known as being stood up) which can happen when scheduling one-on-one showings.
But should you hold an open house during a worldwide pandemic? The answer, for me anyway, is, “Yes, but …”
Yes, you can still hold an open house during COVID-19, but you should, for everyone’s safety, be prepared to change up the standard open house routine. What you don’t want to do, whether the property is vacant or the tenants are still living in the home, is hold a traditional open house where everyone gathers inside the property at once.
The two open houses I held during COVID-19 were big successes. No one was put out about the safety precautions and people understood and were more than willing to do what needed to be done for everyone’s safety. Here’s what I did for the two properties I needed to rent during COVID-19. It’s worth noting that it worked out well for everyone … both times!
1. Prepare a Video Tour
Hire a professional real estate photographer/videographer to take photographs and film a walk-through of your property. Although you can take your own photos and videos, doing this yourself probably won’t help you reach the goal of attracting as many potential renters as possible.
It’s usually worth the money to hire a professional, especially if there’s competition for rental properties in your area. Potential renters are scrolling through many listings, and if your photos aren’t eye-catching, your listing might not even get a second glance. Typically, I pay between $150 and $175 for this service for a home 2,000 square feet or less. Depending on the size of your property and your location, your mileage may vary.
Adding a video walk-through, which is typically after the last photo on your listing, allows people to virtually walk through your property. This is helpful for those who don’t feel comfortable physically walking though rentals during COVID-19. If there isn’t a place to add a video (not all listing sites are set-up for this), send a link of your video directly to the people who contact you.
Don’t confuse a video tour or walk-through with a virtual tour. A video tour is a recorded video of the property, whereas a virtual tour refers to a 3D-photo rendering that a viewer can use to “walk” through a property and see a panoramic view of the home. Keep in mind, more often than not, viewers would rather simply sit back and watch a video rather than click through a series of 3D photos.
The videographer should film while slowly walking through your rental property, just as a potential renter would walk through it. Highlight what a photo cannot, such as the true size of the rooms, which can be shown by how many steps it takes to get from room to room.
Tip: Taking photos and videos is usually reserved for vacant homes or homes that are staged well. If your current tenants are still living on the property, or if the property looks cluttered and messy, it’s probably better to wait. This could deter potential applicants so wait until the property is in tip-top shape to capture it.
2. Offer to do a One-on-One Live Stream
You might get a potential renter who likes what they see from your photos and video walk-through but who still wants to see more without physically coming to the property. In such cases, offer to FaceTime or Zoom with them or do a YouTube or Facebook Live event. This way, the potential renter can ask questions in real-time. Don’t be surprised if during a live streaming they want to see under the kitchen sink or some other area that was not covered in your video tour.
3. Set a Time for Your Open House
Many people will still want to physically come to the property before they’re comfortable enough to sign a lease. For those people, you can still have a safe open house.
Try to schedule at least two open house sessions. One during the week in the early evening and one on a Saturday afternoon, for example. Plan on blocking off two hours for the open house period, and let those who are interested know when and where it will be held.
4. Team Up and Come Early
When it’s time for the open house, you should have at least one other person to help you. One of you will serve as “crowd control” by greeting people and explaining what to expect, and the other will show the property. Arrive at your property 15 to 30 minutes before the open house to prepare the home.
5. Bring Essential COVID-19 Supplies
Here’s what to bring to your open house to make the showing as safe as possible during COVID-19:
- Facemasks (to hand out to anyone who doesn’t have one)
- Hand sanitizer
- Sanitizing wipes
- Small table or stand
- Disposable gloves
- Disposable shoe covers (optional)
Create a station at the entrance of the property with all the supplies. I get my supplies from Amazon and Home Depot. Before buying hand sanitizer, please make sure it does not contain 1-propanol by checking the FDA list of recalled brands.
6. Prepare the Property
Conduct the usual open house preparations, such as opening or pulling back window coverings, opening windows (if the weather permits), making sure the property is clean, and turning on all the lights. People like to see a bright and airy home.
7. Greet the Guests
At this point, have your showing partner wait outside to greet guests while you wait inside to show the property. The person outside will direct traffic, so to speak, making sure each person or family is maintaining enough distance. With only one potential renter (or renter family) allowed inside at a time, the outside greeter can notify the other applicants when it’s their turn to view the property. If there are more than four or five people waiting, the greeter can run this operation like a deli or bakery line, assigning everyone numbers.
When it’s the potential applicant’s turn to come in, the greeter should make sure they put on a mask and should offer to squirt some hand sanitizer on their hands if they’re not wearing gloves. This is recommended because most people will want to open cabinets and closets, turn on and off the water, etc. If you or your current tenants require shoe coverings, make sure those are on as well.
8. Show the Property
The person showing the property should welcome the applicants and then do one of two things: either 1) show them around (allowing them to lead, while maintaining a safe distance) or 2) let the applicants look around on their own while still being available to answer questions.
9. Lock Up … and Get Your Place Rented
After everyone has walked through the property and left, wipe down all surfaces with sanitizing wipes: cabinets, doorknobs, light switches, faucets, and toilet handles. Now you can relax, close and cover the windows, turn off the lights, lock up the home, and wait for the applications to roll in!