Are Open Houses a Good Idea

should-i-hold-an-open-houseThere is a conversation going on FaceBook about whether or not open houses are a good or bad idea. The question has two distinct answers depending on your point of view. Let’s take a look.

Are Open Houses A Good Idea for a Home Seller?

In a nutshell, this writer and a number of other Realtors on Face Book say “almost never if the home is occupied” and “okay for a vacant property.” Why the difference?

The difference between open houses at an occupied home and a vacant home is people and stuff. The occupied home has a family, jewelry, electronics, extra car/house keys, gift cards, privacy documents and other steal-able stuff. The vacant house has few, if any walk-away items.

Let’s just think for a second. The real estate agent puts out signs, advertises the open house on the MLS, Zillow and in the paper. The big day arrives and people come to your home who are complete strangers. Could they be nice people truly interested in seeing if your home is the right one? Could they be criminals looking to steal a few things while walking around the house or casing it for later? The answer to both questions is yes.

To be fair, it is important to say that 10-20 years ago open houses were a viable sales tool. Two decades ago you couldn’t’ go online to look at homes so you went to open houses. Today’s home buyers are searching Zillow at 2:00 am. Why would they go to an open house?

Why Do Real Estate Agents Like Open Houses?

I’d say there are a few reasons agents like open houses. Most have nothing to do with actually selling the home.

  1. Open houses are a great way to meet potential new clients. Think about it, you have a person (agent) who buys and sells houses for a living and you have people coming to the open house who are looking to buy or sell a home. Duh.
  2. Open houses are evidence the real estate agent is working to sell a home. Since much of the work done by an agent is at a desk, computer, networking event or office, some home sellers don’t know for sure if the agent is doing anything. An open house certainly makes it look like the agent is working.
  3. If the agent is a neighborhood specialist, the open house helps build his or her brand and exposure to other nearby homeowners.
  4. Some older agents may not know how the internet has changed the game and that open houses don’t do much towards selling a home. Likewise, some new agents rely on older agents to tell them what works.

To be fair, not much is taught or said about the risk to the homeowner. It is difficult to find hard facts regarding crimes and open houses. More is taught about how great open houses are for agent lead generation. I’d say most agents are completely unaware of the risks posed by an open house. I recommend you Google keywords like “open house risks” to read the latest on the subject.

Jay Thompson, a good friend and fellow real estate blogger, wrote a piece about open houses. His biggest complaint is the lack of honest conversation between agent and home owner. It’s a funny piece I highly recommend. Besides being entertaining there is a good lesson for both agents and home sellers.

Should I Hold An Open House?

By now you know my feelings.

  • If your home is vacant the risks are pretty low so the benefit verses risk is probably in favor of the open house… maybe, kind of, possibly.
  • If you think an open house will actually help sell your home, just post flyers at work and send emails to a 100 friends and post it on Face Book instead. Much better odds and very little risk of some slime-ball ransacking your medicine cabinet.
  • If you want to prove your agent is hard at work, go follow him for a day. Make him buy lunch though. I’d also ask him to provide a weekly report on his marketing activities.

As always, I hope this info has been helpful.

Gene Urban
The Urban Team at Realty Executives

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