Newspaper ads, online marketing and fliers in the box outside are great, but for some people and properties, nothing beats seeing a home — even smelling and hearing it.

That’s why open houses still have an important place in the real estate business, not diminished by digital technology but enhanced by it.

Gary Simmens, who has 38 years in the business and is a broker at Balsley Losco Real Estate in Northfield, said he has averaged a steady 12 to 15 open houses annually the past three years.

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He said open houses on the mainland of Atlantic County typically work best for properties priced $375,000 or below, with a higher price range on the islands.

Simmens integrates the open house into the marketing plan.

“I try to do at least one ad the day before the open house in The Press. I set it up on about four or five days in advance, and I put it on more than 500 websites through our company,” he said.

Maria Sacco Handle, a sales associate with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, Realtors, in Brigantine, said this year the BH offices held a second open house last weekend because of unusually large demand.

“We had three months where people couldn’t get down here because of the weather. We have a lot of pent-up buyer activity,” Handle said. “We’re doing eight or nine appointments each weekend.”

She said her office did about 25 open houses last weekend, with about double that number through the group’s Margate office.

She said BH HomeServices has a smartphone-computer app specifically targeted at the traditional open showing of homes.

“We have our own open house app, through Berkshire Hathaway, and we’ve set it up in iPads at all of our open houses,” Handle said. “People log in and before they even leave, we send them a thank you with all of the information on the house they’re in.

“We’re also able to alert them if there is a price adjustment or the property goes under contract.”

Preparing a home for an open house is also important, but the emphasis is not on tricks and gimmicks but on ensuring potential buyers can examine the house efficiently and effectively.

Simmens said he makes sure the house is neat and if it is furnished, makes sure the furniture is lined up properly.

“I don’t want anything messing up the pattern and flow of someone looking at the house,” he said. “I want the house to have a clean, crisp feel to it, to be inviting to people.”

Handle said her office stages the homes a bit.

“Because we’re a shore market, we try to make sure the homes look as beachy as possible,” she said. “We try to bring out features, so if it has a great kitchen, we’ll take things off the counter so people can see the countertops. Sometimes, we’ll leave a door open it there’s a new hot water heater behind it. If there’s a view, we’ll leave the balcony door open to invite them out.”

Simmens said some conventional wisdom about open houses is overrated.

“There have been people who have burnt scented candles or baked cookies for the aroma, and sometimes it works and sometimes it’s so-so,” he said.

That view is shared by Leah Ingram in her recent article for Parade magazine on several mistakes to avoid when hosting an open house.

Adding strong odors to a home, even though pleasant, can be a red flag to visitors, suggesting that they are hiding something unpleasant, she said.

Real estate agents identified for Ingram several other potential mistakes, including:

n playing favorite music, even if soothing, which can suggest an attempt at distraction or simply prompt a negative reaction to that particular music;

n having pets on the premises;

n allowing the owners to hang around during the open house, which can only interfere with the unfettered consideration of the home;

n block off a room or two because they aren’t ready, which ensures visitors will assume the worst;

n writing notes to buyers, instead of leaving them to examine and ask questions as they see fit;

n and not providing an abundance of light throughout the home, with shades and curtains open and lighting turned on.

Simmens had none of these issues with a home he showed last weekend.

The owner already had moved out of the home in the Four Seasons 55-plus community in Galloway Township and it is empty.

On Tuesday, he said 16 people had come to the open house to see the property, including one from Manahawkin, two from Vineland and one from Willingboro, Burlington County. All mentioned seeing the open house ad in The Press

Nine of the visitors were serious buyers, Simmens said.

“This is the biggest model they offer out there, and he added a three-season sun room,” he said. “Some custom appointments have been made to it. It’s a great value for somebody.”

Contact Kevin Post:


Five years as Ocean County bureau chief, 12 years as regional news editor (not continuous), 10 years as copy editor (also not continuous), all at The Press of Atlantic City.

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