The answer: Yes. And it depends. How do you like that for a wishy-washy answer?
The main reasons Open Houses haven’t completely died out like our friend the dinosaur are:
- Realtors who are looking for more business still host them because it is a great way to meet new prospects. The overwhelming majority of people who walk into an Open House are just getting started in the home buying process, and many have not linked up with a Realtor yet. If the home being held open isn’t a match, or they are not ready-to-buy buyers, the Realtor hosting the Open House has an opportunity to win them over as buyer clients.
- Every town has a “most-sought after” community where everyone wants to live. In these coveted areas where buyers “circle the wagons” waiting for a home to pop up on the market, Realtors can put up an “Open House” sign, and sell the home that day. Even in today’s market, homes in these areas tend to sell quickly and at top achievable dollar. Clearly, Open Houses in these areas do very well.
Once Upon A Time
Not so very long ago Open Houses were a key way to sell homes. Seems hard to believe (especially for those of you who have grown up in front of a computer), but as recently as the early 90’s here in Louisville, KY, Realtors relied on huge Multiple Listing System (MLS) books that typically arrived at real estate offices about every two weeks. If a Realtor missed the deadline for turning in the listing information to the publisher, a new listing could take 4 weeks to get published. And they offered only a comparatively small amount of information about the home, with one black and white photo. (Even as I write this I find it incredible how far we have advanced in such a short amount of time.) So if a buyer wanted to see a home up close and personal, they would grab the local paper, circle all the homes they wanted to see, and go off on a quest to find a home.
Not so today. With 88% of home buyers shopping online (according to the National Association of Realtors 2011 statistics), buyers can shop for homes in the comfort of their own homes, viewing multiple photos, taking virtual tours, and truly seeing the home inside and out, without spending a dime for gas. The savvy homebuyer can save their searches, paring it down to their very favorite homes, and then go out with their Realtor to get inside them.
How Secure Do You Feel Letting Everybody In?
When I sit down to list a home, often the Sellers themselves tell me they do not want Open Houses, citing an unwillingness to let anybody just walk in off the street. Today’s seller understands that people are indeed viewing their home – online – and they want only the truly interested to pick up the phone and make an appointment to see it.
We Still Host Open Houses
At The Shafer Team, we will host Open Houses if our Seller clients want that service. We try to schedule them out a few weeks to allow us time to call other Realtors who have listings in the neighborhood and coordinate a multi-family Open House in an effort to get more prospective buyers in the door. Having several Realtors getting the word out about an upcoming “Subdivision Wide Open House” will increase the chances of a successful Open House. Buyers are much more willing to come to Open Houses in a neighborhood they have an interest in if they know they can view several homes in one afternoon.
If You Are Going To Do It, Do It Right
Just as you would with any showing, have your home “show time!” ready for the Open House.
- The lawn should be freshly mowed, landscaping all spruced up, and whenever possible, add that pop of color with some fresh flowers.
- People respond positively or negatively, using all of their senses. I find people enjoy walking in to soft music playing.
- Offer refreshments. Ice cold lemonade is a crowd pleaser and also adds a nice citrus scent in your kitchen.
- Have all the blinds and drapes open, letting in plenty of natural light. Remember, we want them to feel welcome. Natural light lifts the mood.
- Hide all your valuables. Lock them away. Your Realtor can’t be in all places at the same time, so be sure to pack away or hide anything you don’t want to walk out the door.
- Of course it goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway: don’t be at the home during the Open House. First of all, it’s rather unnerving to have so many people in your home, so why do that to yourself? And secondly, people won’t be able to speak freely if you are there. If you have pets, please take them with you.
- Your Realtor will arrive a few minutes ahead of the Open House to make sure everything is ready.
- She will ask prospective buyers to sign in, explaining that you would like to know who toured your home. Not everyone will sign in, but it presents a professional first impression.
- Your Realtor will hand everyone a colorful flyer with bullets of information about your home.
What Are Your Chances?
I caution my clients that an Open House does not usually result in a sale. That’s not a pessimistic statement. It’s just a realistic one. Statistics show that you only have about a 2% chance (unless you live in that “circle the wagons” neighborhood). For all the reasons we have already discussed here, it often is not the best use of either your time or your agent’s time. You very best bet when selling your home is to find a Realtor with incredible marketing savvy – someone who not only uploads professional photography, creates visually stunning virtual tours, writes eye-catching ads, and knows how to entice potential buyers to pick up the phone and make an appointment to see your home. Wouldn’t you prefer a pre-approved buyer who has fallen in love with your home online and makes an appointment to see it? I’m a strong believer in this: The truly interested will call.