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Dream Big!

Art in the House/Users/adamp/Desktop/Stuff for FAR/Magazine Assets/SEPT08/images/youInc

An Ocala sales associate with an affinity for art has developed a creative way to attract prospective buyers to his open houses.

With an eye on fine design and a passion for historic homes, Rich Schleicher turns the homes into art galleries for open houses. The events, called Art in the House, marry his two loves and draw quite a crowd. Since October 2007, Schleicher, a sales associate with Roberts Real Estate Inc. in Ocala, has hosted two successful open house art events and plans to continue them quarterly. The first event coincided with the annual Ocala Art Festival.

“I actually went to contract with a buyer who indirectly found the house through the event. Unfortunately, our deal fell through,” he says. Still, Schleicher has received many leads through the events that he hopes to turn into contracts. And publicity they’ve generated about his knowledge of historic homes has caught the attention of local media, who now consult him on a regular basis.

“People are curious about art and historic homes,” says Schleicher. “The setting has allowed people to relax and enjoy both.” Schleicher has always enjoyed art, has taken classes, and is a member of a local art group. He showcased the work of one artist at the first event, and two at the second. All three sold several artworks.

Schleicher recommends planning each event in detail and having a unique property to showcase the art. “And if the home is empty, that’s even better,” he says.
Here’s how you can use his experiences to plan your event:
1. Create a Budget
Without predetermining costs for each item, Schleicher managed to spend almost the same amount each time. For the first event, he spent his $535 budget this way: $150 for food, drinks and paper products; $150 for a newspaper ad; $200 for a direct mail piece sent to neighborhood residents; and $35 for thank you notes to those involved, including postage. He spent $555 for the second event: $185 for food, drinks and paper products; $60 for fliers; $265 for ads; $20 for balloons and flowers; and $25 for thank you notes.
2. Let Results Guide You
Schleicher e-mailed press releases to the media with photos for both events, and plans to continue their use. One of his first press releases led to a local newspaper feature article. The article, along with publicity spurred by his fliers and ads, helped establish him as a local expert on historic houses.
Direct mail didn’t work for the first event, so he dropped it. Although he bought a larger ad for the second event, its impact was limited because of its placement among even larger ads. Schleicher now monitors results and boosts ad frequency and size as needed.

He is also pursuing coverage from Ocala’s two lifestyle magazines and mails copies of the newspaper article to the expired listings in his area.
3. Call on Contacts to Cut Costs
“My friends help me out a great deal—one friend is a great cook—my parents help with crowd control and I got help from another associate as well,” he says. The menu for the events includes bottled water and iced tea, assorted cheese dips, crackers, grapes and chocolates. Schleicher also counts on his contacts and art groups to help distribute fliers. Ocala Art and Frame displayed fliers and loaned him easels for the artwork. And two of the three participating artists have Web sites, where they promoted the events.

4. Choose Artists with Care
You can get to know local artists through gallery shows, art festivals and artists’ groups. When selecting artists, consider how you might put together a guest list for a great party. Make sure you have rapport with the artists, that they understand the purpose of the event and that they are willing to let you take charge. If you’re inviting more than one artist, their styles should be different. For example, it’s better to bring together a portrait artist and a landscape artist, not two competing portrait artists.