The Most Outrageous Open Houses Ever -- and Their Budget-Friendly Alternatives

  • A weekend getaway open house in Santa Barbara

    A weekend getaway open house in Santa Barbara

  • Photo of entertainment at the One Vandam open house

    Photo of entertainment at the One Vandam open house

  • TandM Joan Collins

    TandM Joan Collins

Trying to get attention? Well, when it comes to the hypercompetitive real estate market -- especially in luxury properties -- a little pinot grigio and brie probably isn't going to cut it anymore The latest tactic for high-end sellers? Throwing over-the-top open houses where the attendees are pretty, the party is posh, and the sky is the limit.

These upscale parties can run from $5,000 for an intimate catered gathering for 10 high-profile potential buyers to $50,000 for a blowout with 200 guests. Costs are usually covered by the seller or the broker, or both splitting the bill in hopes that it'll pay off big-time. The main idea: sell a lifestyle, not just the listing (and if you invite people to the party of the year, chances are they'll show up).

Check out these six over-the-top open houses that totally worked -- and find out how you can do a more budget-friendly version.

Hot cars and Hollywood views

During the sale of 1201 Laurel Way in Beverly Hills, CA, The Agency (the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills'" favorite real estate pros) partnered up with Lamborghini to sell flashy cars and homes, killing two absurdly pricey birds with one stone. In addition to serving up espresso and macarons, the open house unveiled Lamborghini's all-new Veneno -- one of only nine ever made.

"It was showcased in the property's gorgeous glass-cased garage, or 'car museum' as we liked to call it -- the only garage I know of that has stunning city views of all of LA," says agent Farrah Aldjufrie, founder of The Agency. The property did sell (though the car wasn't for sale). However, for those who are drooling at the photos, it's back on the market again for a mere $42 million.

Budget-friendly version: "It's very easy to add elements to your open house that really create a sense of what it would truly be like to live there and live out the lifestyle of that home," says Aldjufrie. "Try adding simple touches such as having music playing that embodies the vibe of the home or playing a movie on the TV that brings life and action into the house." Avoid the slasher flicks.

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Movie star glamour and a million-dollar makeover

When the popular real estate duo of Tom Postilio and Mickey Conlon, stars of HGTV's " Selling New York," were hired as the fourth (and it turned out final) brokers to sell the New York City pied--terre of legendary actress Joan Collins, they realized no ordinary open house would suffice for the relaunch of the listing.

By embracing an opportunity to tap into the seller's star power, Postilio and Conlon spearheaded an extravagant $1 million temporary makeover of the apartment to showcase its old-world movie star glamour, including the support of Steinway & Sons, who provided a fabulous white baby grand for the open house.

"We called in favors all over the place from several designers and vendors," say Postilio and Conlon. "Cocktails and food were provided by our favorite NYC restaurant, and lots of Champagne was served." The event was well-attended, garnering the attention of the entire brokerage community, as well as that of several previous prospective buyers who came back for a second look. (The property received multiple offers and sold six to eight weeks after the open house at well above its $2.35 million asking price.) The entire process was filmed for "Selling New York," on which Collins made her first-ever reality TV appearance.

Budget-friendly version: "Sometimes it takes a village to sell a property," say Postilio and Conlon. "So, reach out to your network of local vendors for contributions.Not only is it a great way for them to showcase their services, but it can reinforce the sense of community so many people seek when buying a new home."

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Like Burning Man, minus the camping and most of the drugs

To attract attention for their listing at 2458 N. Beachwood Drive in the Hollywood Hills, real estate agents David Parnes and James Harris, stars of Bravo's " Million Dollar Listing," drew their open house inspiration from the Burning Man music festival. The result was an extravagant party that included an open bar, catering, dancers, DJs, costumes, tarot card readers, body and face painters, human lampshades, and confetti machines.

"We went above and beyond the typical open house or party to create something unforgettable and emphasize the lifestyle one would have living in that kind of home," say Parnes and Harris. And it worked, because the place sold soon after for over $2.2 million.

Budget-friendly version: "For anyone looking to fake a less extravagant variety of this, we would just emphasize thinking outside of the box -- anything that can capture your audience and get them excited," says Parnes. "Instead of hiring professionals, ask friends if they would be willing to help for the night as waitresses and bartenders." Or perhaps shell out for a pro mixologist for special cocktails like freshly made mojitos or Maker's Mark Manhattans. A few glow sticks might not hurt either.

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Did someone say open house crawl?

While Malibu is obviously a hot location, sometimes its remoteness can keep agents and buyers from making the trek to showings. So Eric Lavey, director of the Estates Division for The Agency, decided to solve that problem with luxury transportation on the house, so to speak, thereby delivering people to the front door in style.

"I organized a Champagne caravan taking agents in Beverly Hills in a few fancy, luxury buses from Beverly Hills into Malibu to see five houses ranging in price from $3 [million] to $23 million," says Lavey. "We served Champagne and cupcakes on the buses, and the whole thing took about four hours. Each house we stopped at had something different to offer guests like more drinks, and some even catered lunch." The event was a huge success, attracted about 30 to 40 agents, and was a topic on Season 2 of "Million Dollar Listing."

Budget-friendly version: "If a luxury coach with Dom P. flowing is out of the budget, then offer a courtesy UberX ride up to the property and give them a Snickers when they get there," suggests Lavey.

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Sunsets and sushi

Forget a couple of hours, how about a weekend getaway open house? That's what agent Billy Rose, a founding partner of The Agency, decided to do to showcase a newly constructed modern residence on the market in Santa Barbara, CA.

"We teamed up with Luxe Magazine and Barbara Bestor Architecture to showcase two of Bestor's properties, one being the listing we had on the market," says Rose.

Lucky invited guests arrived on a Saturday and met at the new Santa Barbara Public Market, where they enjoyed snacks and gift bags from the market's different vendors. Then chartered buses transported the guests to the first Bestor property, Dewey's Surf Shack, and ultimately to the listing they had at 3660 Toro Canyon Park Road. A wine tasting from a nearby vineyard and a hired sushi chef made for the ultimate open house experience. Guests mixed and mingled as they toured the property with Bestor and her team, learning about the place from the architect and taking in the Santa Barbara views and sunset.

Budget-friendly version: "Look to engage the property's architect, designer, or even a historian for a detailed tour of the property with your guests," says Rose. "Most likely, the person will be willing to do this at no cost as it offers a way for them to engage with potential buyers, clients, and agents for future projects."

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Try experimental theater (really!)

At an open house in January for the brand-new $17.5 million penthouse in the One Vandam building -- which lies on the cusp of Greenwich Village and Tribeca -- the scene was like an artsy, avant-garde party. With a full bar, special lighting, a DJ, and random entertainment ranging from a ballerina in a "Black Swan" costume, to Martha Graham Company dancers wearing robes and acting as hosts, to a live "staging" event by Meredith Bauer Home, the party was not dull.

"Realtors go to open houses constantly, so you need to create spectacle and give them what we call an 'Instagramable moment' … something that makes people say, 'I went to this open house and there were live models in the shower,'" says Natasha Estrada, director of events for The Society Group. "It brings an immersive wonder to their experience and also provides something they can post to social."

Budget-friendly version: "If you don't have the budget to hire performers, hit up your creative friends, contact your local art and dance schools, or post a notice on Facebook," says Estrada. "You'll be surprised how many artists want to share their talents." Or people eager to gawk at them.