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Open houses: The pros and cons

Hosting an open house when selling a home is a tried-and-true real estate technique. But it can be a real hassle for the homeowner. An open house will undoubtedly get people in the door, but is it really necessary if you’re trying to sell a home? If you are honest with your client, you will say the short answer is no, but the longer answer is a little more complicated because open houses generate leads for you.

Open houses don’t generally have a big impact on home sales. While statistics on open houses aren’t available for the Canadian market, in the U.S., less than 10 per cent of open houses directly result in a sale. If a home is being marketed properly – listings are publicly available, you are actively networking and advertising, there is a website with photos or ideally a walkthrough video where prospective buyers can have an initial look at the property – then you don’t need to rely on an open house to get the property seen.

And it’s undeniable that many, if not most, of the people visiting an open house are not actually serious buyers, at least not yet. They may be “looky loos,” who simply enjoy seeing the insides of other people’s homes or who are looking for decorating or remodelling ideas; they may be people who are thinking about buying and are trying to get a sense of pricing and neighbourhoods; or they may be buyers who are visiting a house that’s a little above their price range just to have a base of comparison for their “real” house hunt.

Open houses have benefits for you, the agent. They allow you to show the house to multiple buyers’ agents. In an afternoon, they let you hand out cards and possibly find more customers, and they give newer agents practice in talking to buyers, showing off a home and networking with fellow agents.

Here are some reasons why your client may want to consider allowing you to schedule an open house as part of your marketing plan.

Explain to your clients that an agent-only open house can be very advantageous to sellers, as it allows a large number of agents to familiarize themselves with the home and therefore to be able to connect you with buyers who are looking for what you’re offering.

The open house can provide a handy deadline for the seller to make sure that everything they need to do to get the home as market-ready as possible is done by a fixed date: sprucing up the landscaping, painting, staging, decluttering and making sure the home is spotlessly clean. It’s very easy to put off these tasks from day to day and then get stuck with a possible buyer coming to look at it with only a day or two notice. If you set up an open house with a week or more of lead time, they can ensure the house is ready and from that point on maintaining tidiness is much easier.

From your client’s point of view, letting you market your house as you see fit demonstrates trust in your professionalism and if you get a networking boost off of selling the home, there’s no harm to them from it. If the time comes when they want to move again, you’ll remember them favourably. And if the property you’re selling is part of a larger complex of properties – perhaps a luxury condo or part of a planned community –then an open house allows both buyers and their agents to become familiar with the amenities of the building or community, amenities which are unquestionably among the property’s assets.

And finally, in a truly hot market, an open house can result in multiple offers and a quick sale. Open houses unquestionably create a sense of urgency for buyers, who can see the “competition” also viewing the home. While in a hot market the property is probably going to sell regardless, urgency can push the selling price up a bit.

Candice Schaffer works at Knightsbridge Park, a leading digital marketing firm for luxury real estate brands such as The Bristol and 550 Vanderbilt.

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