Are open houses worthwhile?

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There were 105 open houses this past weekend across the Metrowest—yet a mere two percent of homes are sold at open houses, according to the National Association of Realtors. This begs the question: Is it really worthwhile to hold open houses? From my experience, open houses can be helpful, but are usually not the primary way to sell a home.

On the plus side, open houses can be a way to drive a significant number of visitors to the home at the same time. Often agents will hold off showings on the home for the first few days that it’s on the market to try and increase the number of people showing up at the open house. If there is a lot of activity at the open house, it can encourage potential buyers to move quickly to make a good offer.

However, there are several reasons why open houses have limited value.

a. Potential buyers have a “showroom” mentality. Understandably, many visitors treat an open house much as they would a car showroom; they want to avoid the agent at all costs. They’re often reluctant to share feedback, positive or negative, with the agent hosting the open house. In this situation you often don’t get as much definitive feedback about what they liked and didn’t like than if you just held private showings.

If instead of attending an open house, a potential buyer had to call an agent to see the home, that agent would have an opportunity to prequalify the buyer, gain an understanding of their needs, and then personally walk them through the home. In this situation, the potential buyer is usually more inclined to provide feedback – which is important to helping the homeowner make the home more attractive.

This gives the agent an opportunity to understand and potentially overcome a buyer’s objections. Note: This does not mean being a pushy salesperson. It means having a real conversation with a potential buyer so we can understand potential barriers to selling the home.

b. There’s less security at an open house. It’s easy for an open house visitor to walk in the door, sign a fake name on the guest register, and walk through the home unattended. The reality is that if there are many visitors touring the home simultaneously, it’s impossible for the agent to keep an eye on all of them at the same time. Sad to say, there have been recent news reports of thefts of personal items during open houses.

c. Open houses can be disruptive to homeowners. It’s no fun for homeowners to meticulously clean and prepare their home, get the kids ready, and head out the door for hours on their day off, only to return a few hours later and find the only open house visitors were a few curious neighbors or people “window shopping” outside their price range.

If your agent is going to hold an open house, talk with them about when it they feel it will be most advantageous to have and how they’ll promote it. Also, be sure to lock away personal papers and any valuables, including small items such as iPads. Thefts of this kind are rare, but it’s better to be safe.

Ultimately, open houses have their purpose, they shouldn’t be the primary vehicle for marketing a home. Real estate agents can add value by developing engaging, highly targeted marketing campaigns, geared for those people who would be most interested and qualified to buy the home. This is a far better way to attract the right buyers.

Do you have a real estate question? Contact Kyle Mann to learn more about selling your home in the Boston suburbs. Mann is a Realtor with Gibson Sotheby's International Realty.