Editor's Note: This post was originally published on January 19, 2015. Housecall continues to share this piece due to ongoing requests and reader interest.
When you go searching for a real estate agent, you are likely to hear a number of sales pitches speaking of the necessity and desirability of an open house. Many agents will speak of their enthusiasm for open houses and how they will do well for you with all the traffic they draw. What you may not realize, though, is that a real estate open house typically has far more benefits for your agent than for you. The question of course that is on the minds of many homeowners is does an open house sell homes? One thing is certain - statistics don't lie!
What may be a real shocker is the fact that less than two percent of all homes sold nationally are a direct result of a buyer visiting an open house unaccompanied by an agent. Real buyers are with real estate agents who schedule appointments. The people who come through your home on any given Sunday open house are not likely going to be the ones opening up their checkbook and handing over an escrow deposit!
So when people ask is an open house necessary when selling a home, the answer is clear, cut and dry - NO!
Problems with Open Houses
- Wrong Kind of Traffic – One of the biggest issues with open houses is that real buyers rarely attend them. You may get a number of different people walking through and viewing your home, but legitimate buyers are usually rare. Your neighbors might come by to satisfy their curiosity and you may get people taking a walk-through to get ideas for their own renovations. You may even get a few people who dream of one day owning a home just like yours – only they do not currently have money to purchase something as expensive as yours.
- The Unqualified Buyer - The likelihood you will get some buyers who are actually thinking about purchasing a home are pretty good. The problem however, is the vast majority of these people will not be qualified to pay your asking price. What is ironic is that most real estate agents will drive home the point about how important it is to qualify a buyer looking to purchase your home. This gets thrown out the window like the baby with the bath water when it comes to an open house.
- Busy Work – Your REALTOR® wants to appear valuable to you and an open house is a great way to accomplish this. It is one of the few tasks a REALTOR® can engage in that is easily viewed by clients. You see all the work the REALTOR® puts into the open house and it makes you feel like you are getting your money’s worth. In reality though, most of the work that goes into selling a home happens behind the scenes. Connecting with other REALTORS®, listing a property across a number of different marketing channels, and using social media all happen out of sight. Hence, clients don't always see everything they do.
- Mainly for Your REALTOR® – All sorts of people will wander into your home, even if few of them are truly interested or capable of buying. This is not advantageous for you, but your REALTOR® knows how to utilize this traffic. It allows an agent to make connections or network – one of the most important components of growing a real estate business. The agent will meet your neighbors who may need to sell a home in the future. He or she will also meet those that don't qualify for a home as expensive as yours but who may be in the market for another home the agent happens to be selling. That home of course would be in their budget and not at the price point your home falls into. Your agent will also add another successful showing to his or her belt, and therefore be able to tell you, “I have shown your home X amount of times and drawn X amount of traffic.” Very few real estate agents are going to tell you that the real reason they are holding an open house is to get additional clients.
- Security Issues - What many real estate agents fail to do is inform their clients about the drawbacks of an open house. Rarely are both the pro's and con's of an open house discussed. It is usually just the potential benefits. Unfortunately an open house is the perfect invitation to invite unqualified strangers into your home. When you do this you are potentially opening yourself up to a whole set of issues you probably have not given much thought to. Numerous sellers have reported theft both during the open house as well as on a later date when thieves who have visited come back and take what they like. It's no surprise this happens as an open house invites anyone and everyone into the home. If the open house is busy, it is impossible for a real estate agent to watch everyone.
See Past the Curtain
You certainly need a good agent to sell your home. A skilled REALTOR® can help you get a better price and move your home much more effectively than you can selling as a for sale by owner. However, do not be fooled by the illusion that an open house presents. Yes, some homes are sold through open houses, but the statistics are not encouraging. Far more homes are sold through hard work and the skill and talent of good REALTOR®.
If you still want to have an open house, by all means have one. But do not be fooled by claims from various real estate agents that having an open house is a “must” or that this or that agent is great because of them. Some agents are better at selling homes than others, but no one that is good will pretend that an open house should be a main priority. Very few top producing real estate agents hang out in someone’s home waiting for a buyer to show up.
The bottom line despite what some agents may tell you is this - a buyer who really wants to see your home will always schedule an appointment to see it. If you were in the market to purchase a home and saw something you really wanted to look at, would you be saying to yourself "If they don't have an open house I'm not interested,"? Of course not! Sounds pretty absurd when you think about it.
Like the popular old movie "The Wizard of Oz," make sure you know who is behind the curtain when selecting a REALTOR® to work with. The easiest way to do this is by asking good REALTOR® interview questions. When you do so, you will be more apt to find a true real estate wizard and not someone who will disappoint you.
Bill Gassett is a nationally recognized real estate leader who has been helping people move in and out of the Metrowest Massachusetts area for the past 27-plus years. He has been one of the top RE/MAX REALTORS® in New England for the past decade. In 2013, he was the #1 RE/MAX agent in Massachusetts. Connect with him on Google+.