Is there a benefit to doing an open house?
Open houses are a common tool in real estate, but not everyone is convinced of their value. Personally, I like open houses. In my opinion, they’re useful to both sellers and buyers for several reasons and I can say that I have definitely sold homes because of open houses. I’ve had both visitors and their agents call me after an open house, and once, I was even asked to write an offer on the spot. Now, to be clear, this is a rare occurrence, but it goes to show how every viewing is important.
The Value of Open Houses
The primary value of open houses is in raising awareness about and increasing interest in a property. It’s an easy way for sellers to get a lot of people in to view the home in short amount of time. Buyers can tour a home at their own pace and may feel that it’s a less formal opportunity than an arranged showing.
Secondly, they’re a good way to gather feedback on the property: what people like about it, what they don’t like, whether the price meets their expectations, and how they feel about the neighbourhood. This type of information can help me better position the listing, manage my clients’ expectations and/or adjust the pricing.
Because I see value in open houses, I recommend continuing to host them as long as people keep showing up, maybe once a month or so. That being said, I work with my clients to make the schedule as convenient as possible, pausing during renovations, family events or holidays as required.
To increase the likelihood of a good turnout, I recommend waiting for 1 ½-2 weeks after listing before hosting an open house. I also stay away from long weekends when people are often out of town or tied up with other events. Weather can be an uncontrollable factor though, and really nice or really bad weather may keep visitors away.
Entice Visitors to Stay
You may have heard of the ol’ agent trick of baking cookies before an open house to make the home seem more inviting. Well, as hokey as it sounds, it works! Not only does it make the house smell like a home, it also tends to encourage visitors linger, and the longer they stay, the more likely they are to start seeing themselves living there. I always say that when a potential buyer sits down in the home, good things are going to happen!
I sometimes hear that that the only people that visit open houses are nosy neighbours or “tire kickers”, people who aren’t interested in buying but just want to check it out. Personally, I’m okay with this type of visitor because they can still act as promoters to increase awareness of the listing. Neighbours already know and (usually) like the neighbourhood and may have friends or know people who want to move there, so I say bring ‘em on!
Some sellers might be concerned about the security of the property and their belongings during an open house. In 11 years in real estate, I’ve never had a problem with theft or damage during an open house or viewing. I try to accompany visitors on their tour whenever possible to answer questions and keep an eye on things. That being said, sellers should take obvious precautions like putting away valuables before the open house.
Should You Stay or Should You Go?
It’s not a great idea for to sellers stay in the home during an open house. As I mentioned and encourage, viewers often express their honest opinions about the home and the honesty may be uncomfortable for the seller to hear firsthand. Instead, I can gather the feedback and deliver it to my clients in a more constructive, gentle manner afterwards. Also, sellers may be inclined to offer information they feel is useful but could instead hurt the sale. For example, a seller who loves children might describe how the neighbours’ kids often play in the yard without realizing that is a turn-off to that particular buyer.
Whenever possible, it’s best to take your pets out of the home for open houses. That way, viewers have easy access to the whole house without fear of a fur baby escaping. Keep in mind that some viewers may also be scared of or allergic to animals so removing the pets can make them more at ease. It’s also a good idea to remove or store dog beds, toys and kitty litters to reduce clutter and smells.
Some agents like to use sign-in sheets at open houses, asking visitors to sign a registry when they arrive or leave. This is not a requirement of an open house and is not something I do. It’s usually a way for agents to find new clients, but I do open houses to best represent my existing clients, not to find the next one.
The Benefits to the Buyers
Open houses don’t just benefit sellers; they’re also good for buyers. They’re a great way to see a lot of properties in a short time and get a sense of the neighbourhood. They’re also a good way to learn about the market to give you a better sense of what you can get for your budget. An informed buyer is more likely to have realistic expectations and be better prepared to find the right property. Open houses are also useful for buyers to “interview” agents to find someone they want to work with.
That being said, there are a few things that buyers should keep in mind while viewing open houses. Most importantly, remember that the host agent has an “agency responsibility” with the seller, meaning they have a responsibility to disclose to their client anything they learn from potential buyers. With that in mind, don’t discuss your budget or personal details like occupation or personal circumstances with the host agent as this information could potential affect your negotiating position down the road. Be aware that you’re not under the protection of an agent. I’ve stopped sellers from asking my clients personal questions during open houses, so you’ll need to police this yourself.
So, whether you’re buying or selling, don’t fear the open house. Embrace them and take advantage of their benefits. You never know, that Sunday afternoon may offer the key to your new home.