Real Estate

Should I Have An Open House When Selling My House?

There was a recent article in the Globe & Mail where a real estate agent was interviewed about her opinion on holding open houses if you are selling a house.

To summarize, the agent thought that open houses were a waste of time with only nosy neighbours dropping in to check out your belongings.

I disagree.  I think those are the words of a lazy (and quite possibly untrustworthy) real estate agent who doesn’t like doing open houses.

Benefits of having an open house

When I sold my first house, some prospective buyers who had scheduled appointments with their agents, also came on the weekend for the open house. 

Why would they do this?

  • Less structured – They don’t need an appointment, so there is some flexibility as to the time and day when they check out the house.
  • No agent – No need for an agent, which makes things easier to schedule and allows the buyers more time to look at the house without using up their agent’s time.
  • Bring a friend/relative – Easy opportunity to get other opinions on the place.
  • Second look – If you are seriously interested in a house – why wouldn’t you want to have a 2nd or even 3rd look at it before signing your life away?

Is it just neighbours who go to open houses?

Neighbours can indeed be nosy, but they can also have friends who might be interested in moving to the area.  It’s very possible that your eventual buyer will be a result of one of your streetmates who sees your house and tells someone about it. 

The more people are at your open house, the more ‘buzz’ there is and the greater the chance that you will get an offer or have more bidders on your house.  Neighbours will always be welcome at any open house I have.

Casual dropins

Do casual ‘window shoppers’ ever buy houses?  I’m certain they do, because I almost did.

About 10 years ago, I got into the habit of looking at local open houses to get ideas on how to fix my house up.  One rainy Saturday I checked out this one house and fell in love with it.  It was large with a great third story party room (I was single and childless at the time) with a walkout deck.  I thought it was fantastic.

Because I casually dropped in on that open house, I went from being a curious neighbour (I lived on the same street) to calling my agent, scheduling a visit and seriously considered making an offer.  In the end I didn’t because it was a bit expensive for me and it needed some work which would cost even more.

Although I didn’t buy that house, I suspect there are other examples where someone attended open house for ‘fun’ and ended up buying the house.

Why not have an open house?

And really – What is the downside of an open house?  Sure you have to clean up and vacate the place for a few hours, but you have to do that anyway for scheduled appointments. 

Do you want to do everything you can to sell your place or not?

What do you think – Are open houses worthwhile if you are selling a house?

16 replies on “Should I Have An Open House When Selling My House?”

Open houses can be a useful tool in a real estate agent’s attempt to sell a home. However, In most cases, open houses are implemented just to show the seller that the agent is “doing everything they can”. The location of an open house makes a huge difference. An open house for a home secluded in a rural area will most likely not provide meaningful results, but there is always a chance. An open house in a popular subdivision has a much better chance of being effective, especially when the agent works with other agents in the area to schedule multiple open houses at the same time. With that being said, if the home is in a popular neighborhood, it is likely to have many showings without having an open house. Therefore, choosing to have an open house is a calculated decision that warrants a discussion with a good experienced real estate agent.

With online searching I think that if I wanted to see a house for sale, I would go to the open house to check it out then if I was still interested I would contact my agent.

I saw over 50 houses before I bought mine and burned out 3 real estate agents. That winnowing process would be very good.

There are two types of Open Houses. The realtors one is essential to create some buzz about the property, and the truly open types. I am neutral on the truly open types. It is much better to market your property through other agents, including your network.

If you have an agent that wants to run more than one truly open house, I suspect they lack a well-developed network. These will just create wear and tear.

I have never seen any stats on whether open houses work.

OTOH marketing the property widely on the Internet and in print is a good approach. Such expenses should come out of the selling commission.

I have sold five houses and always used a good agent. Never had more than one open house. I have always shopped around for the listing agent.

I bought my home as a result of going to an open house. The idea of making several appointments at different times did not appeal to me because I had to travel two hours to get here and two hours back.
Seeing a comparison of homes in the same day or weekend kept the information fresh in my mind.
I think some real estate agents have too many listings and do not market them properly. There should be more open houses not less.

@Steven – Good point about different markets impacting the effectiveness of open houses.

@Rachelle – You are a real estate agent killer! 😉

@Keith – I actually think the ‘realtors’ open house is a bit of a waste. An excuse for a wine and cheese party.

@John – I agree.

Open houses are low signal-to-noise. Most of the people running through have no interest in buying your house, and most of the ones that do would set up an appointment if you didn’t have an open house. But, there are a few who find houses that way, and it’s not a costly affair to throw. On balance, it’s worth putting one on, IMHO.

I was an agent for 6 years. I was good at it. Every year my business doubled but I got so busy I could not keep up and was to cheap to hire help and my wife got tired of me never being around and wanted me out.
With that said, my first year I had no money to put into marketing. So I did tons of open houses to pick up buyers. I am a pro at open houses. I had this down to a science because I had no money.

I learned that doing open houses like everyone else did nothing. If all you do is clean up your house and put out 2 or 3 signs your wasting your time.

I came up with mega open houses. If you are going to do it and make it work it is a week long process.
I started on Monday calling local restaurants asking for them to cater something free and I would let them advertise at open house for business. Tuesday I would go to local business and ask to put out flyers about coming open house.
Wednesday I would make sure it was good for the newspaper.
Thursday I would walk the neighborhood telling neighbors about the coming open house.
Friday I would put out signs and not just 2 or 3 but 30 to 40. As many as I could within a 5 mile radius. Every single intersection and infront of all exit roads to big neighborhoods. I would also drop a note on the door of everyone I meet on Thursday saying I hope to see you there with your family and friends.
Saturday was a make sure the house is ready and buy supplys for open house.
Sunday go out in morning and put out signs. I would put strings so long on my signs the balloons would bounce off car windows as they passed my sign. I did honestly have a few times people showed up to my open house that the string and a popped balloon was tied up on there windshield wiper.
Now the most important part is while at open house u have 2 goals. 1 to get the people to spend as much time in the house as possible. 2 to get the people’s information. Thats it. You do not try to sell them the house on the spot. You do not throw them an offer right in the kitchen while you are standing looking at the counter top. This is where an agent is a big key player. I have never been to an open house where the For Sale By Owner has not stuck his foot in his mouth. I have even been to For Sale By Owners where I tell them right up front I am an agent and I may have a buyer so do not disclose anything that might harm you if I bring you the buyer because I will have to tell my buyer. And low and behold 10 minutes later I know the seller is behind on payments, how much they owe, what they will take and there tolerance to pain is. This is not just a rare occasion. This is around 90% of For Sale By Owner. It is probably most of you. Can’t tell you how many of you say not me. And yes it was you. All I did was disclose at the beginning dont tell me anything and then start going thru house being nice and friendly and 10 minutes later seller forgot what I said at beginning and told me everything because they really want to sell there house and think I am a nice guy. And I was a nice guy but I was looking out for my client and if I have something that will help them then I am going to use it.

I had scripts I would follow on Sunday that would get me more time with the buyers and there info. You have to come up with scripts especially if you are a For Sale By Owner. Most agents say as someone is leaving, so what do you think? This sets it up for them to tell you everything they do not like about the house. I used, so how does this house compare to what your looking for? I found out that no one ever told my what they hated about the house. They simply went into describing what they wanted in a house. This opened up the door for me to point out features they may of missed about the house and to tell them about other houses if they turned there nose up about this one I am in. This lead to more time in the house and me getting there info because they wanted to look at the other house I was describing. Scripts are one of the most important.

Open Houses worked for me but they were hard work. I will tell you I never sold the house I was in. I come close about 5 times in 6 years. Other agents in my office have been in business for 30 years and never even come close. So for a For Sale By Owner I have to say it is a lot of work and little reward. For agents it could be a great way to get clients but you are probably not going to sell the house you are in. Now I did have a few times where due to the open house a couple came back with there agent and because of the way I handled Sunday they did think the house was #1. But it would still take a few more showings and talking to get under contract. But the guy who walks in looks at the house in 10 minutes and looks at the agent or seller and says Ill take it. Doubtful that will ever happen. If it does happen to anyone play the lottery and buy me a ticket also.

I’d be one of those nosy neighbours who ends up wanting to buy the place.

There’s a place near me that seems to be sticking. Won’t sell. They fired their agent and hired another. Let’s see if this one does anything.

@Mike wrote
“@Keith – I actually think the ‘realtors’ open house is a bit of a waste. An excuse for a wine and cheese party.”

That may be true in your market. My actual experiences were in Sarnia, London, Edmonton, Toronto (twice) and Richmond BC. The only time it was questionable was in Sarnia. All the others generated prospects from the attending realtors who eventually bought. YMMV

BTW the open houses here in PV are very much wine and cheese for friends events. I have been to several but once in a while some other current owner decides to move.

But Keith – in this age of MLS, I don’t see why those ‘prospects’ wouldn’t find out about the house even without an agent open house.

I guess if the house was really nice, then having the agent actually visit the house might help sell it – especially if it’s a buyers market.

My latest experiences were Toronto in 2009 and Richmond in 2008. Maybe things have changed since then. But the listing agent in each case added a lot of value. I got to know the buyers enough to know that they were not scanning the internet. It could have been the timing. Both sold quickly.

I think an agent open house is sometimes valuable. The owners only have to get out of the house for a couple of hours and all of the agents can get their snooping done with at once. The house only has to be immaculate that one time, and cleaned up afterwards. When we sold, it was to a client of an agent who came to our agent-only open house. When our agent took us to look at the house be bought, he had already cased it at the agent-only open house. So I think there may be some value to them.

I don’t know about the value of a everybody’s-welcome open house. We didn’t have one to sell our home and we didn’t go to any to buy our next home. Our agents (different ones) both didn’t care for that type of open house.

My only concen with having an open house is securing valuable items. I have an extremely expensive house with expensive furnishings and would not feel comfrontable having an open house.

I held a real estate licence for several years. In starting out doing open houses is a way of meeting people. Most of the time they were a waste of time. However sometimes they are successful. I did one open house on both Sat and Sun. One person on Sat said he wanted his daughter to see the palce on Sun. On Sun. one person came in and was very interested. He said he was going to look at another and he was going to buy mine or the other. I guess he liked the other one better. However the fellow from Sat came back with his father and I wrote an offer up for him and it was accepted.

You never know where the buyer is coming from and if the house is not open you may never see the buyer.

I have been selling real estate for 25 years and I agree with Mike. If the house is not located in a remote area the open houses are an important marketing tool. Agents who don’t think so are LAZY. Here’s why they are effective:

1. Buyers who are interested in a house and have seen it with their agent will probably come to the open house. This is where a listing agent can shine. For 25 years I have used the open house time to speak to a potential buyer to help clinch the deal. The listing agent should know the house and area best. The open house is the only time you get to meet other agent’s buyer. This is the time you can find out if the buyer has any reservations and deal with them. Yes the other agent will sell the property but you just got one more offer for your seller.

2. Open houses do create a buzz. I have found that sometimes, not often though, a buyer walks into an open house and falls in love. This would not have happened if the house was not open.

3. Open houses are an opportunity for the listing agent, who should know the house best, to talk up all the positives about the house and the neighbourhood. Someone will be listening. As agents we don’t always know where the offer is coming from. Maybe one of these open house visitors listened to what the listing agent had yo say and called their agent and made an offer. If we get five offers on a house – we don’t really know how they were generated do we?

If the listing agent, who is too busy or too lazy, asks another agent in their office to conduct the open house who knows nothing about the house and spends their time reading a book during the open house, yes it is a waste of time. When I can not conduct my own open house I meet with the agent who will be conducting it for me and take them through all the features I want them to point out and I make sure they know everything about the house so they can answer questions intelligently and not sound stupid. After all they are representing my listing.

I can give you many more examples but I have to start my day and plan my weekend open house. Believe me I don’t like to leave my family on a weekend either. But, if you want to do your job properly, doing an open house is your duty to the seller.

Josie Stern

I’ve only bought one house (our current home) but I remember visiting over 20 homes before deciding on our home. I never went to an open house with my agent, we arranged appointments. I’ve found that there are three types of people who go to open houses:
1) Nosy neighbours – obvious reason
2) Thieves – a friend of mine had an autographed baseball go missing when his agent did an open house, he’s lucky that’s all that disappeared.
3) People who aren’t serious about buying because they don’t have an agent – people who have an agent typically make an appointment with their agent to view the house. People who go to open houses typically don’t have an agent, and these are the people the real estate agent is targetting. It’s not about selling the home, it’s about getting more clients.

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