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The Traditional Open House: As Valuable Today as it Was a Generation Ago

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Some real estate insiders say that the open house is dead, arguing that in today’s digital world, open houses are a waste of time.

Can this be true?  Do serious buyers who view a home they like online and make a private appointment to visit in person render the open house an unnecessary thing of the past?

We say no, and believe that the open house is a valuable home selling strategy—here’s why.

Until very recently home buyers and sellers did not have the benefit of viewing Internet listings, which play such a critical role in today’s real estate market. Instead of high resolution photos, online floor plans and virtual tours, house hunters relied on a real estate agent to find options that met their needs, and industry mainstays like the open house to view their options. Home sellers relied on open houses to show their property to as many potential buyers as possible on a pre-designated day, usually on weekends, making the task as manageable as possible.

Today, house hunters can easily vet potential homes online, but there is no technology available that can replace the up close and personal act of walking through a home.

Regardless of how perfect it may appear in the virtual world, most buyers still feel the need to visit a home before they can make a decision to buy. Beyond an in-person view of the floor plan, buyers want a real life take on the home’s interior as well as the neighborhood. They still want to eyeball the walls and ceilings, and allow their senses to check for traces of any previous owners’ pets or lingering traces of cigarette smoke that might affect a family member’s allergies.

In person, buyers can see details they could easily miss in photos.

Most serious buyers want to spend a good deal of time looking at properties online or at open houses on their own before even engaging a real estate agent. Some might spend months actively looking at properties with their realtor, familiarizing themselves with the market in which they’re competing, finding out more about the types of homes available in their area and what buyers expect in their price range.

Open houses offer buyers a no-pressure environment in which to deepen their understanding of the market in order to make an informed decision when it comes down to pricing the home of their dreams. An open house can serve both buyers and sellers as a first showing of the property; when buyers become serious about a home, an open house provides them with another opportunity to spend time getting a closer look without the limitations of a 15-minute private viewing.

Open houses are also much more convenient for sellers who may not have the time or the inclination to clean and vacate the home repeatedly during the week. Instead, a two-hour Sunday open house allows as many people as possible to take their time and view the home thoroughly.

While plenty has changed in real estate over the past decade or two, open houses are a tradition that still make a lot of sense. Without them, the same listing agents who complain about open houses would be aggravated by having to make themselves available to show properties to people who may or may not be serious buyers. Sellers would have to be reachable 24/7 to accommodate countless private appointments. If nothing else, an open house can help weed out the “looky-loos” so that when a buyer makes a private appointment to see a home, chances are they’re serious about buying.

Opening up your home for a two or three hour open house, is also a great way to get a feel for how potential buyers respond to it. Your listing agent can make the most of the opportunity to gauge visitors’ reactions to the home; they can note whether people are walking in and out quickly or spending long periods of time looking around. They can also offer insight into what questions are being asked by potential buyers and what concerns they seem to have—valuable information neither you nor your agent can get online.

Ultimately, the open house is important today for the same reasons it was 40 years ago; people still want to see a property in person before they commit—and when you have a group of people all showing interest in the same home, the competition heats up.


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