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How-to’s: Should You Have An Open House?

March 31 2010

Since MLS* listings began being featured online around 1996, the transparency of homes for sale has improved exponentially. Through the use of multiple photos, 360-degree virtual tours, and video, home buyers can go inside each home virtually with all the convenience of choosing a car or a pair of jeans. 

So why have an open house? If you’re trying to sell your home, you want to employ all the ways home buyers choose a home. An open house may help, or you may decide it’s not for you.  

Here are a few ideas to consider.

Where and how do home buyers shop for a home?

The Internet is the first place home buyers shop for a home. One-third of home buyers start their search for a home online. In 2007, only 4% of first-time home buyers and 5% of repeat home buyers began their search by visiting open houses, according the 2008 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. 

However, as buyers get deeper into the home buying process, open houses become more important. Of all home buyers who purchased a home in 2007, 48% used open houses as a source of information, and 40% of all home buyers found open houses to be “very useful,” said the study.

But you’re not here to educate buyers, you want to sell your home. How can an open house be right for your marketing plan?  The study found the answer in buyer follow-up behavior.

In 2007, 15% of home buyers found the home they purchased from a yard sign or open house sign, unchanged from 2001. Meanwhile, 32% of buyers found their home on the Internet, up from 8% in 2001. But when they picked their home online, 77% of them drove by the home, and 63% of them walked through the home.

While the information doesn’t explain how they walked through the home – either by appointment or at an open house, it does make clear that home buyers use the Internet as a selection tool, but they usually make their choice in person. 

Risks and rewards of open houses

An open house is an invitation to neighbors and strangers to walk through your home. You might not like your privacy invaded, and sometimes you might find small items missing after an open house, like drugs from the medicine cabinet, or small collectibles.

The upside is that it’s a chance to showcase your home to potential home buyers who may have seen your home online and want to take the next step. An open house could seal the deal.

Open house do’s and don’ts

1. Clean the home thoroughly, so that the home looks and smells terrific.
2. Clear out clutter. Clean tabletops and neat bookcases makes the home appear roomier.
3. Empty medicine cabinets. Lock away jewelry, collectibles, and your personal papers, including credit card and utility bills to prevent identity theft. 
4. Depersonalize. Don’t leave out mementoes. Home buyers want to imagine themselves as the occupants.
5. Don’t leave pets on the premises. Make sure their beds, bowls and boxes are put away for the open house.
6. Make sure your listing agent doesn’t conduct your open house alone. Having two people, one to show the house and one to take information from open house visitors, which discourages “lookie-loos” and petty thieves.
7. Don’t hang around the open house. Owners discourage buyers from making honest comments.
8. Make sure your listing agent collects contact information from people who have visited your home for feedback.
9. Be willing to act upon the feedback you receive. If some number of potential home buyers said they hated the paint colors, prepare to repaint.
10. Use the Internet and open houses together. If you make a change to the home, such as a lower price and new improvements, announce the changes online, and those previous open house attendees may come back with an offer.  Your listing agent can also email the attendees with any new information.

*multiple listing services are cooperatives through which real estate brokers share their listings for sale with other brokers in order to widen the pool of buyers for their sellers.