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Recipe for a Successful Broker’s Open House. Price? $100./Users/adamp/Desktop/Jan images/youInc

Take one standout home on a lake. Serve gourmet food, prepared by top area chefs. Add wine tastings from a local wine shop. Mix in curious real estate sales associates and neighbors with community connections. Garnish with tasteful décor and soothing piped-in music. The result: a recipe for a successful broker open house.

George and Judi Steffens of Century 21 East Lake Realty in Palm Harbor originated the palatable party last October for a home on the market two months. They spent just $100 for an event that would’ve cost an estimated $15,000. They dubbed it the “First Annual Upper Pinellas Fine Dining Restaurant Challenge” and advertised that guests would sample upper crust fare, then vote on their favorite foods. They lured participating restaurants by promising that they’d reach a unique target audience. Their idea resulted in 175 attendees and two possible buyers for a $1.75 million property.

“Any time you can have a competition, it builds excitement,” says George Steffens. “ Plus, we could showcase the way the house can be used.”

Here’s how the couple threw a great party for pennies:

1. Promote It
One month before the party, the Steffens pitched Palm Harbor’s locally owned fine dining establishments (with menu offerings averaging at $125 per person), highlighting that party guests were sales associates who represented the restaurants’ target clientele. Further, they explained, they’re the first to introduce newcomers to a community.

Four signed up. Each brought five employees to serve a special menu dish and were assigned a station. The restaurant with the most votes received a plaque. Additionally, guests participated in a raffle for dinner certificates.

2. Split Costs
Restaurants paid for their food and wait staff. The homeowners paid for ice, water and soft drinks. A local wine shop presented a wine tasting. The Steffens paid for plastic cutlery, plates, cups and tablecloths ($100). 

3. Recruit Help
Twelve volunteer sales associates from the brokerage played host in various rooms of the house. Before the party, they made staging suggestions. One suggested that each of the home’s nine flat-screen televisions should play a DVD that showcased the home’s amenities. (“That cost me $2 each,” George Steffens says.)

In exchange for their help, the Steffens pledged to help volunteers with their own open house event. Plus, next year, they’ll hold the “Second Annual” event at one listed home for the brokerage.

4. Time it Right

In October, restaurants are in between their summer slump and busiest time of year, Judi Steffens says. The Steffens also chose a house that had recently come on the market (with the understanding that if it went under contract, the party would still occur). And they were particular about the day of the week: They chose a Monday, because that’s when most restaurants are closed.

The party went so well that the Steffens hope to host similar events for years to come. “You’ve got to shoot for the stars in order to get them. We’ve been to a lot of brokers’ opens and we wanted to have something different,” George Steffens says. “The more you can do to help other people, the more help you’ll get.”