With the real estate market in the doldrums -- and many agents leaving the business because of it -- getting those left to come to Realtor open houses has become an art of one-upmanship.
We've seen catered affairs that put weddings to shame, live music, and gourmet cakes in the shape of the house decorated with the listing agent posed in front -- all in the name of luring real estate agents to stop by and walk through a new listing on the market (and hopefully go find a buyer for it).
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The latest over-the-top entry in the race to stage the most-memorable open house comes from Malibu Prudential Realty agent Michael Gardner, who at an Oct. 18 agents open house of a $8.495 million Beverly Hills listing is raffling off $300 worth of Botox treatments; having an Audi dealer on-site to provide test drives of the 2012 A8; and providing Thai foot massages poolside. There will also be a gourmet food truck to feed the hungry agents and facials for those who want them.
Agents will be invited to bring a client, says Gardner, who is hoping for a huge turnout and we suspect will get it.
"Absolutely yes, we are trying to push the envelope," Gardner said. He said that there are often too many houses on caravan for an agent to see during the four-hour open house window. "If they are going to pick and choose, I want them to pick and choose this one."
Gimmicky? "Yep," he says. Serving great food has always been an important part of getting agents to a listing, he said, "but we wanted to go further. We look at ourselves not just as agents, but as promoters, and want agents -- if not attending -- at least talking about this."
Gardner says that he got the idea of partnering up with local businesses when he visited a few gifting suites at the Emmys and Oscars last year and saw companies give away things to celebrities. "I started thinking about how I could pair businesses with agents and wanted my open house on caravan to be more like the gifting suites."
And if this doesn't work, will he up the bar? "I'm thinking about having attractive women rolling cigars, golf-swing lessons and a wine-tasting bar."
Gardner has co-listed the property with Nikki Hochstein, also of Prudential Realty.
As for the home, here's what the agents will be looking at, as per the MLS: An 8,000-square-foot Mediterranean with great views and total privacy, located near Beverly Park. There is an oversize pool and 12-person spa. The home has a grand two-story entryway, wood-paneled library, gourmet kitchen with a six-burner Viking range, as well as marble archways, limestone floors and lots of fireplaces.
The Most Shocking Costs When You Can't Sell Your Home
Latest Open House Bait: Botox and Thai Massages
Average costs: $400-$5,000 Why it can’t wait: bug bites, allergic reactions, further infestation
It does not take long for people to realize that they have bed bugs. The small insects live in mattresses, bedding, and furniture. They suck blood from humans and leave visible marks. To confirm that a house has a bed bug infestation, the owner must call a pest control company, which may or may not charge an inspection fee. If it does, it can cost up to $200. Companies will then charge an average of $400-$600 to treat an infected room, although these rates may vary depending on geographic location, the treatments a company uses, and how severe the infestation is. Bed bugs are rarely secluded to just one room in a house. According to Jody L. Gangloff-Kaufmann, an urban entomologist with the New York State Integrated Pest Management program at Cornell University in the New York Times, the combined costs of inspections, exterminator fees, and cleaning and storage of infected goods and goods removed during bug removal can total $5,000 or more.
Average costs: $600-$5,000
Why it can’t wait: water leakage, ceiling damage
A sturdy roof is a necessity, the primary reasons being security and comfort. According to home improvement site, Fixr, common roof repairs include putting new shingles over an existing installation, replacing shingles in a specific area of a roof, and resealing seams with cement. The most common roof issue is a leak. This usually requires work that will cover a 10’ x 10’ area of the roof. If the owner uses a roofing company, this will cost between $100 and $350 for asphalt shingles and between $210 and $1,000 for wooden shingles to cover the area. Many times it is best to simply strip one’s roof and replace it. For the average, suburban, 1,000 sq. ft. roof this will cost $3,000-$5,000, including labor.
Average costs: $2,000-$6,000
Why it can’t wait: health effects, wood damage
Water damage can occur for many reasons, including burst pipes, flooding, and seepage due to poor sealing. It can come in the form of mold, which usually occurs in the short term, and rot, which can show up after undetected seepage has been allowed to go unchecked. According to the EPA’s “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, And Your Home” mold can cause allergic reactions, asthmatic reactions, or long-term health problems. If wood is allowed to rot, floors and stairs can collapse, leading to injury or death. Because it can cause structural damage, it can be a deal breaker when trying to sell a property. Mold removal often involves completely replacing affected drywall and sandblasting the surrounding wood. For widespread mold, costs can be $10,000 or more.
Average costs: $3,500-$8,000
Why it can’t wait: discomfort
During the summer, it is sometimes hard to imagine life without air conditioning. For those with a pre-existing forced-air heating system, adding central air costs $3,500 to $4,000 for a 2,000 sq. ft. home, according to This Old House. If a house needs ducts to be added, this amount can double to $7,000-$8,000. The majority of air conditioning systems exist as a split system, with the louder, heat-generating portion located outside of the home and the cold coil, a type of air handler, located indoors. The other type is a packaged central air conditioner, which includes window air conditioners. One drawback for older homes is that it is often very difficult and costly to install a duct system. If this is the case, ductless air conditioning is recommended by experts.
Average Costs: $10,000
Why it can’t wait: disease, water damage, lawn damage
One of the most inconvenient and unpleasant things to happen to a home is to have a broken septic system. Usually, the only way to know a septic tank is broken is when waste starts seeping onto the surface of the lawn or backs up through a toilet. A standard septic system installation, according to the University of Rhode Island New England Onsite Wastewater Training Program, can run from $2,000 to $6,000. However, the costs of removing the old tank, treating the soil, and dealing with any water damage done to your home can raise the total costs to well over $10,000. In more expensive areas, costs can be even higher.
Average costs: $500-$12,000
Why it can’t wait: lack of heating, water damage
A cracked boiler or hot water heater can cause water damage to a home. A heater that is beyond repair will require replacement; otherwise a home will be left without heating. Depending on the level of boiler efficiency, a replacement can cost anywhere between $500 and $600 if it’s run on water. If it runs on gas, it may cost up to $1,000. There are a number of additional costs a homeowner may encounter. Some local governments require a fire inspection, which will cost between $25 and $75. If a person is upgrading from a previously installed heater to a more efficient model, that homeowner may need to invest in a chimney liner. This can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000. Water damage caused by an old boiler can also cost a homeowner.
Average costs: 8,000-$12,000
Why it can’t wait: cracked walls, collapsing parts of the house
Foundation damage can manifest in the form of cracked walls, crumbling or shifting of the house if it was built on unstable soil. In the short term, a shifting or deteriorating foundation can lead to cracks in walls or floors. In the long term, a worst-case scenario is that part of an affected home collapses. Repairs to a small crack in the foundation can run from $400 to $800. However, a major fix can involve paying to have a foundation inspected, digging up the ground surrounding the house, underpinning and replacing large sections of concrete and support bars. This can run from $8,000 to $12,000, or even more, depending on regional prices and the size of the house. According to The Concrete Network, costs for major repairs on a foundation will be $10,000 or more.
Average costs: $2,000-$15,000
Risks: drainage issues, lawn damage
Sewer lines often incur damage due to old age or interfering tree roots. This damage can cause major problems involving water drainage issues in the home, or unsanitary sinkholes in the yard. There are a number of variables that can affect how much repairs will cost. The depth of the pipes, the length of the sewer pipe, and the extent of the damage all can cause costs to increase. Unfortunately, the job must be done if a homeowner wishes to keep his indoor plumbing in operation. The cost of these repairs usually runs between $50 – $60 a foot, totaling $5,000 to $6,000 for a 100 ft. pipe. The average pipes run about 6-8 feet deep, costing the average homeowner $5,000 for repairs. If the pipes are especially deep, or an exceptional amount of landscaping must be worked around, the cost can run up to $15,000.
Average Costs: 5,000-$15,000
Why it can’t wait: house fire
If the wiring in a home is outdated, the current insulation is getting worn, or it was installed by an amateur, there is potentially a high risk of electrical fire. Home inspectors also say there is a high degree of risk if wires are located near insulation. If aluminum wires are used, then the risk of fire is also high. The average cost of rewiring a house can range from $5,000 to $10,000, but costs in a larger or older house, or one that is hard to access, can be as much as $15,000. In addition, breaker panels used to be less efficient, and modern appliances and central air can’t run on one of these. A new panel can cost from $3,000 to $5,000, including the cost of the electrician.
Average Costs: $8,000-$70,000
Why it can’t wait: water damage, flooded basement
Depending on where a house is located, a lot of things can go wrong with plumbing. Metal pipes can have small cracks or leaks, or a cold snap can cause pipes to freeze and break. Widespread rusting can create the need to replace large sections of plumbing at a time. Because of the potential for water damage to a property, mold, and rot, this is not a repair that can be put off. According to separate estimates from plumbing contractors, total costs of re-piping a standard home with copper pipes can run from anywhere between $2,500-$15,000. According to State Farm, the average cost of a claim for broken pipes from freezing is $15,000. Costs of this nature can be much higher. If pipes burst while no one is home, the basement could be completely flooded by the time a problem is identified. Having a plumber come over on short notice, in addition to replacing the carpeting and other water damage, can result in a worst-case scenario of as much as $70,000.