Talk to people who have been around the real estate block a time or two, and you’ll get surprisingly strong opinions on a seemingly innocuous topic: Open Houses. Camps are divided pretty neatly between:
- those who think that Open Houses are a total waste of time, never actually lead to sales and are mostly a way for agents to meet up with brand-new buyers who are too early in the process to be suitable prospective buyers, and
- those who think that Open Houses are a fundamental building block of fully exposing a property to the market which, in turn, is a must for getting a home sold at top dollar and top speed.
So, which is it: waste of time or time well-spent?
While my personal vote is for time well-spent, here are a handful of truths about Open Houses you can use to make up your own mind:
1. There are different types of Open Houses, and type matters. There are two basic types of Open Houses: Broker’s Opens and public Open Houses. Public Open Houses are the traditional Sunday afternoon affairs where local buyers, neighbors and looky-loos alike peruse your property. (We’ll come back to public Open Houses in just a minute.)
Broker’s Opens are held for the ostensible benefit of the real estate brokers and agents in town, who can stop by one-by-one or may visit in groups or “caravans”. (In most areas, non-brokers are to be welcomed into Brokers’ Open Houses in the event they show up, but the majority of attendees are still brokers and agents.) Most often, listing agents will hold the Broker’s Open house on the day of the week that brokers usually tour the neighborhood, and will try to time it very soon after your home goes on the market - before the public Open House.
Over ninety percent of qualified buyers will start their house hunt online, so it’s essential to make sure your home is well-marketed, digitally speaking. But over eighty percent of qualified buyers will ultimately work with an agent or broker, so you can’t afford to miss them, either!
Broker’s Opens are an efficient way to expose your home in its best light to a large number of brokers who are on the lookout for their buyer clients at one moment in time, early in the life of your home’s listing. They also create a rich opportunity for local brokers to see your home in close succession to similar, nearby listings - so if your home is well-prepared, well-staged, and well-priced against the competition, Broker’s Opens make that very clear.
On the flip side, if your home is staged, marketed or priced in a way that puts it at a competitive disadvantage, local brokers and agents will often give your agent that feedback during the Brokers’ Open - giving you the opportunity to course-correct or put some final touches on your home’s staging before most buyers see it.
Verdict: Broker’s Open Houses = Time Well Spent.
2. The role of the Open House has shifted. As the market warmed, and then heated, up this year, serious buyers had to face a few truths of their own: intense buyer competition, multiple offers and over-asking sale prices, among them. As a result, many learned that to maximize their chances of successfully finding a property that meets their needs, they have to see a lot of houses - and they have to get out and view properties regularly, as soon as possible after they come onto the market.
At the same time, though, buyers live busy lives, and so do their agents, which makes the prospect of making an individual appointment to see every listing that comes on the market daunting, to say the least. If a buyer views 30 or 40 properties before they buy, imagine how many individual appointments that is to wrangle! One strategy many smart buyers and buyer’s agents are adopting is this: to keep a standing appointment every Sunday afternoon during the time homes are normally held open, and view as many properties as possible in one fell-swoop.
Open Houses aren’t just to help early-stage buyers discover listings anymore, they serve as a convenient way for serious buyers to access and view them, too.
Verdict: Time well-spent.
3. Few homes are actually “sold” at the Open House, but occasionally one is. You can talk to 100 people who have sold their homes, and less than a handful will report back that their home’s ultimate buyer was someone who found the place through an Open House. And that precise fact is often trumpeted by folks in the “waste of time” camp. No doubt, Open Houses take a lot of time and energy to prepare for, and it can be anti-climatic to do all that work, have a well-attended Open House and end the week with no offers.
But think about this: you only need to find one buyer, the just-right buyer, for your home. And what if - just what if - you would have been one of those handful of sellers who did sell their home via the Open House? Is the inconvenience of having to clear out for a couple of afternoons worth missing the potential opportunity to find your home’s ultimate buyer?
Most sellers think it’s not.
Also, there are loads of other ways Open Houses can indirectly lead to a sale. As you now know, buyers use homes not just to discover new listings but to actually access and view homes they’ve seen online. And sure, those neighbors you see as looky looks might be curious about our home decor choices, but they also might have friends, colleagues or relatives who’d be interested in buying your place.
Verdict: Could go either way, but the chances the time is well-spent are greater than they seem at first glance.
4. Prepping for your Open House is time well-spent no matter its outcome. Truth is, the time you’ll need to invest in sprucing and primping and cleaning and de-cluttering and de-odorizing and beautifying your home to prepare for an Open House is not incrementally greater than the time you would ideally invest in doing these things to put your home on the market even if you weren’t holding it open!
Setting a time and date for an Open House and marketing it widely is a powerful “forcing factor”: it provides both a hard deadline for your property preparation efforts and sets a higher bar for the prepping and staging of your home than you might set otherwise. It’s similar to all the housework you find yourself doing in a flurry before you have house guests: the week before they arrive is often the most productive home improvement week of the year!
Verdict: Time well-spent.
Ultimately, if you hold an Open House and it doesn’t result in the sale of your home, it might still feel like a waste of time to you. If you are worried about this, talk with your agent to get a good sense for the standard Open House practices and buyer expectations in your area, and to explore the factors weighing for and against holding your home open. Understanding the benefits of holding it open even if it doesn’t help a buyer discover your listing and the potential for missed opportunities if you forego having one might just be enough to tip your own personal verdict from waste of time to time well-spent.
SELLERS: Did you have your home held open? Was it a waste of time or time well spent?
BUYERS: Do you attend Open Houses? Do you use them for window shopping or for serious house hunting - or both?
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