Real estate agents have long debated the value of open houses. Some sellers wonder if the Open House is worth the work and inconvenience. Some even complain that agents only do open houses to pick up clients, not to sell their home. There are sellers who wonder why they should open their homes to the public if most people coming through are not serious buyers. Preparing for an open house is a great deal of work because the house should be its perfect, and then you have to be away for most of the day, not to mention wear and tear on the house and the risk of theft.
Do you need an open house?
It depends on how you define the goal. When you list your home for sale, you generally want as many people to visit the house as possible. Open houses are a stage of getting folks to see your listing. They are other marketing tools in the box to help get the house sold.
Online listings are undoubtedly important. With 90% of buyers going to the Internet before they visit a home you can be assured that many potential buyers have visited your home on the Internet before they come through your door. For people who cannot or will not secure an agent-arranged visit, open houses are the only chance they have to see what’s out there and get a real feel of the house. Even the best images or videos may fail to capture a home’s true personality and how it fits into the neighborhood, or give a sense of what the people in the area are like. We’ve all seen cases of people who were lukewarm on a property when seeing it online, but who changed their minds once they saw it in reality. So getting out there and seeing a home in person is important. Open houses make this easy.
Buyers like open houses because they give them an opportunity to browse properties without engaging their Realtor. Some buyers prefer to shop with an “I’ll know it when I see it” approach and these buyers may not call for a private appointment, as they typically do not have a defined timeline for a move. Many buyers get their inspiration by seeing properties in person, and open houses provide a great opportunity for this kind of buyers. Some potential buyers do not want to bother their own Realtor until they are really serious about buying. They also prefer to direct their own search independent of a Realtor and engage a Realtor only at purchasing time. Both of these buyer groups may shop casually for a property over an extended period of time, but there are still bona fide buyer prospects and a market segment not to be overlooked. In many cases, open houses are the only way to attract these kinds of buyers. A certain number of buyers find the home they ultimately buy on their own and often at an open house. Open houses can be very beneficial in that they create a rare opportunity for a buyer or prospective buyer to step inside without the added pressure of a true purchase. Yes, the percentage of open houses that sell homes is extremely low, but the buyer needs to feel the space and become familiar with the floor plan that fits them the best.
The arguments on the con side, however, are many. Detractors point to the quality of traffic. Open houses can attract lots of people, especially in peak season, but these not always the types of people sellers want to see. Too often they attract a mix of curious neighbors, people whose full-time hobby seems to be visiting open houses, or in the worst case, even criminal types sizing up a place for a burglary – or perhaps even taking a few items with them on the way out.
Neighbors can indeed be nosy, but they can also have friends who might be interested in moving to the area. It’s very possible that your eventual buyer will be a result of one of your street mates who sees your house and tells someone about it. The more people there are at your open house, the more ‘buzz’ there is and the greater is the chance that you will get an offer or have more buyers for your house.
The “looky-loos” type of house buyers do exist at open houses. But that shouldn’t be used by agents as an excuse against open houses, and that shouldn’t deter the public from going to an open house for home decor ideas, market research or to assess the skills and knowledge of a potential agent. There may be people who are just attending an open house for a laugh or to pass the time, but for every one of those types, in my experience, there are more attendees who are genuinely looking for a new home or ways to improve their own before listing it for sale. Those are potentially new clients and that is always worth the effort on your part as an agent.
If you do agree to conduct an open house, here are some tips:
- Make sure proper home staging is done in advance so your home appeals to the maximum number of potential buyers.
- Do not stay in the house during the open house. You are more than likely to volunteer too much information, including why you are selling. This will hurt your negotiating position later.
- Make sure your agent will be there the entire time.
- It is not against the law to ask for identification in order to allow someone to enter your home. If they refuse to provide it, tell your agent to refuse them the entry.
- Ask your agent to check all windows and doors before they leave your home to make sure everything is properly secured.
- Remove all valuables or store them in a safe, if you have one in the home. This includes your laptop and any discs that may have your personal information on them.
- Keep all of your bank and credit card statements out of view, as this could lead to identity theft if someone takes them.
- Take pictures of each room so you can check later if something is missing or damaged during the open house.
Technology has changed the way we buy and sell property; most people use the Internet to start the search for a new home or to check out the competition before deciding to list their home for sale. It only makes sense that agents would also change some of their sales strategies to suit the new online demand. But buying and selling property is still very much a people business and we believe there are valuable opportunities for consumers and agents in connecting at open houses. Adapting sales strategies to meet the changing demands of the online market is one aspect of real estate success, but so is connecting with people. Open houses are a great way to do that because you never know when your next client is going to walk through the door.
10 Home Seller Tips For A Successful Open House by Xavier De Buck
Tips to Avoid Getting Robbed at an Open House by Anita Clark
Making the Most of an Open House Visit by Wendy Weir