Landlord's Guide to Open Houses in Chicago

As a landlord searching for tenants, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Should I host an open house for my apartment?” Chicago’s current rental market is saturated with renters. If you’ve received a ton of interest in your property, holding an open house may seem like the logical solution to manage showings. It can be an effective way to show your apartment to multiple people. But before going this route, consider the pros and cons of holding an open house.

The Pros
Hosting an open house is one way to show your property to many renters in a short period of time. Say goodbye to the endless messages and logistics of coordinating individual showings. Plus, at the end of an open house, you’re likely to have a larger pool of applicants. 

The Cons
Quantity doesn’t always mean quality. Individual showings may increase the chances of a conversion due to personal attention during a private tour. If you aren’t good with groups, private showings may also be the better option for you. 

When Should You Host an Open House?

  • You’re limited on time, and don’t want to host multiple showings.
  • You want to open your property to a larger pool of interested renters.
  • You want to avoid tedious messages, and, instead, direct leads to the open house. By doing this, you’ll save time for applicants and serious renters who have seen the property.

How Do I Host An Open House?

open house notice on a Domu apartment listing page

Step 1: Reach Out to Your Current Tenant 

If your property is currently rented, give your tenant as much notice as possible — out of courtesy and in accordance with the law. Never show up unannounced, and keep communication in writing if possible. The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO) requires landlords to provide no less than two days’ notice before entering the premises to show the apartment. Additionally, you may not begin showings until 60 days or less before the end of the lease. For additional information, we recommend checking our guide to showing occupied apartments.

Communicating with your current tenant and being respectful of their space is essential. First, ask them if they’re comfortable with an open house in the apartment. If they agree to the open house, find a time window that works best for them. Open houses are usually three hours or less. A happy tenant is more likely to tidy up the home before the showing. Also ensure the tenant knows to secure any valuables and take pets with them during the open house. 

Step 2: Get the Word Out and Add Your Open House to Domu

Domu’s listing setup includes a field to share your open house dates and times. Simply turn on the “Add Open House Dates” option, and select the date, start time, and end time for each showing. As mentioned before, open houses usually run three hours or less. Once you’ve added open house dates and times, share your Domu listing publicly on social media.

Open house feature for an apartment listing on Domu

Get more eyes on your open house announcement by optimizing your listing. These 10 proven tips for successful apartment listings will help attract leads and bring more renters to your showing. By including plenty of photos and writing a complete description, you’re more likely to get serious renters who know what to expect at your open house. A video tour on your listing will also attract valuable renters. 

Step 3: Setting Up the Apartment

Before the open house, make sure the apartment looks picture perfect. No one wants to see an unmade bed, construction debris, or laundry piles. Cleaning and staging can be more challenging if the apartment is occupied. In that case, politely ask tenants to tidy up or even offer to hire a cleaning service if they’re open to it. 

Cleaning Checklist

  • Minimize clutter. Place personal items like toothbrushes in drawers or laundry in hampers. Make beds, fold blankets, and fluff decorative pillows.
  • Sweep, vacuum, mop. 
  • Wipe down countertops, sinks, and other grimy surfaces.
  • Clean showers and tubs.
  • Dust and remove visible cobwebs. 
  • Make sure repairs and repainting are complete.

Staging Checklist

  • If weather allows, open some windows before the showing to prevent a stuffy apartment.
  • Add a lightly scented air freshener to the bathroom and kitchen if needed.
  • Turn it up a notch by styling the space with fresh flowers, decorative pillows, nice books, and unlit candles. 
  • Turn on the lights, and open the blinds or curtains. 
  • Set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature around 70 degrees. 

Remember These Essentials

  • Place instructions at the front door of the building on how to access the open house (via doorbell, buzzer, phone, etc). If a property is hard to find, consider placing an additional open house sign or balloons out front.
  • Place a sign-in sheet near the entrance. Ask for visitors’ names, phone numbers, and email addresses. 
  • Have rental applications available — either printed or digital. Eager renters may want to apply for the apartment at the showing. 
  • Print apartment flyers with your contact info, or direct visitors to your Domu listing with a QR code or link. 

Step 4: Welcome Renters to the Open House

As visitors trickle into the open house, ask them to fill out the sign-in sheet with their names and contact info. If the open house isn’t too busy, offer to give individuals a personal tour. Basic talking points include rent price, move-in date, and lease duration. Don’t forget to also highlight property selling points like free parking, walkability, amenities, in-unit laundry, air conditioning, and outdoor entertainment spaces. Other FAQs may include pet policies, deposits, fees, and utilities. Before renters leave the open house, make sure they know how to apply for the apartment and if there’s a deadline.

Step 5: Follow Up With Open House Attendees 

Soon after the open house, you’ll likely receive several applications, especially in the current Chicago market. If applications are slow to come in, however, use your sign-in sheet and reach out to attendees as soon as possible. No luck via phone? Brief text messages or emails are also a great way to follow up with renters. Persistence pays off when it comes to securing a lease from an open house.