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Open Houses – Yay or Nay?

People often ask whether open houses are truly helpful in selling a house. In my opinion, the short answer is a resounding YES, but not for the reason you think.

Since starting in this business I have held a LOT of open houses. Like a ton. I’ve held 3 or 4 houses open in a single weekend and kept that pace for several weeks in a row during busy seasons. I’ve come back early from weekend getaways, left swim meets early or missed baseball games (although I really try not to), and missed out on lazy beach Sundays to hold open houses.

I have sold exactly ONE (1!!) house to a person who had never seen my listing before, saw my balloon-clad sign on the street, and veered into my open house on the way to the beach. When I was a new agent I remember an office meeting during which someone asked if anyone had sold a house this way. About half of the agents in the room said that it had happened to them once in their entire career. No one said it had happened more than once. So, okay, but it does happen then. But WHY would I spend all of that time and sacrifice so much of my life holding houses open with such terrible odds of selling that house that day?

Many agents hold homes open in order to meet new clients. And that absolutely happens, and often. People that are in the market, or are thinking about getting into the market, spend a nice afternoon looking at homes and discussing their opinions on them. MOST of the time, even if the person is actively looking for a home, they don’t know the price range of this house, or they are just curious about it for some reason, or they are just learning about the market and want more data points. So it isn’t usually “the one”. And if they don’t already have someone helping them, the agent holding the open house might manage to become their agent if they are able to make a connection.

I met my first buyer client at an open house that I held for another agent’s listing. They weren’t quite ready to buy and that particular house was not the right one for them anyways. But I kept in touch with them for a couple of months and when they were ready we got to work and found them a great home. Another time I met a couple that was going to open houses specifically to shop for an agent! I didn’t know it when I met them but it sure made me happy to learn that later when we were listing their home for sale. So we agents definitely meet people at open houses that can become clients. Great for us – but that doesn’t do my seller any good!

The real reason to have an open house is for the MARKETING opportunity! If you’ve done your marketing correctly up front – the home shows great, the photos are perfect, and you’ve pushed it out EVERYWHERE possible – an open house becomes another marketing BLAST. Most of the sites that people are following during their home search (zillow, realtor.com, trulia, and so on), allow users to save their search. When you schedule an open house, these sites typically send out emails to anyone that has saved the search. You also normally get an extra sign or two out there that week, drawing attention to the home, reminding people to tell their aunt or brother or friend about that house down the street that is for sale.

Check out this actual screenshot from Zillow showing the page views of one of my old tougher-to-sell listings. I originally took the shot because the first set of data was the views that came from another agent that had listed the home at the end of August. I was super proud that our staging, better photos, and probably a little bit of timing, had resulted in quite a bit more interest when we first listed the home in February. So I knew we’d done our marketing right. But guess what drove all of those higher peaks after the initial introduction to market? Open houses and price reductions!

These peaks equal EXPOSURE, which is what you need to find the person that will pay the most for your house. I very often have an increase in showings the week of an open house. People see the house because of an Open House announcement so they call their agent and schedule a showing. Even if NO ONE shows up to the open house, but showings have spiked that week because of the increased exposure, I call it a success! I’m serious!

Once I sold a higher end listing because of an open house that I posted on social media. I was bored and posted a couple of photos and said something lazy like “Check out my view at my open house today”. A friend took notice and started messaging me about it and eventually bought the house through her agent. I never would have thought that specific post would have connected us with the eventual buyer but like I said…it’s all about exposure!

So unless there is an unusual reason not to hold open houses for my listings I always do. It means exposure for my client and that’s what I’m after. As a side benefit I might meet someone else to help as well, but my seller doesn’t care about that and I know it.

But I always go into an open house thinking I’m going to sell that house that day! Because it did happen that one time, so why not today?!

Thanks for being here!

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