Open Houses: Powerful or Pointless?

Posted on Aug 7 2015 - 4:11pm by Nick Caruso


In the latest RISMedia survey, we asked our readers whether they’re still using the good ol’ fashioned open house as part of their marketing plan. After an overwhelming response, the tribe has spoken: 56 percent said they were pointless, while 44 percent remained in favor. But this was just the tip of the surprising responses collected and presented in the infographic below.

Nearly 72 percent of respondents claimed to host 1-6 open houses per month, while almost a quarter (24 percent) abstain from them all together. While reasons vary as to why agents choose to host or disregard open houses, 35 percent indicated that sellers “frequently” expect open houses to be included in overall marketing plans, while 41 percent said sellers “sometimes” expect them, suggesting that the events are still utilized due to their popularity in the eyes of clients. In terms of benefits to the agent, gaining leads and referrals led the pack, followed second by getting invaluable buyer feedback.

To promote open houses, the top method of communication used was hardly a shocker: social media. Email blasts and print advertising were also highly selected by respondents as methods of promotion. Respondents also indicated many other left-of-center methods for drawing in potential buyers, including gift card raffles and other giveaways, a wine tasting, and a “sneak-peek” BBQ held the night before. Other responses were far left-of-center: one agent hired a sign holder and dressed him in a dog costume, and another held a “Where’s Waldo”-style game, with a hidden garden gnome in the house – whoever found him first won a special prize. Creativity seems key when hosting an open house, and the more unique ideas agents bring to the table, the greater the result, according to the responses.

While many indicate that personal phone calls and emails are common follow-up strategies, some stated using the Open Home Pro app as a huge aid to their efforts. While Open Home Pro streamlines the process for agents, automating a follow-up response for them, others responded that hand-written letters were chosen to add a personal touch and help solidify their new leads captured at the event.

While answers sure were varied, open houses remains a very polarizing topic in the industry, and the many additional (and optional) comments received definitely supported that. Said one respondent: “I have worked open houses for one year straight…I only got two clients out of it. The next year I stopped spending money on food and exerting energy on open houses. I give new agents that job. It gives them experience on pulling comps and meeting customers, and they have the time to do so. It does satisfy the seller who wants them. I have never sold one of my listings through open houses. It’s not worth the time and effort.”

Becky Babcock of Path&Post Real Estate Team agreed. “Agents use the Internet as a 24/7 open house by using professional photography and video. We sold 200+ homes last year with zero open houses. Inviting strangers into someone's home is not smart. They can scope out a house and leave a window unlocked with a plan to return to rob or assault the owners. Plus, buyers can spread out in a home, making it impossible to watch them.”

Opinions on the topic continued to vary.

“Open houses are neither pointless nor powerful, but they do have their place in a marketing plan and many clients expect them. I enjoy hosting them,” said one respondent.

Susan Petty from Ron Davis, REALTORS® also had positive remarks toward open houses: “People thinking about buying will drop by an open house. Curious neighbors will too. Though most agents would prefer not to do them, they are an excellent source of potential buyers and sellers. I have been fortunate enough to sell a couple of homes at open houses and I have met many buyers at open houses who eventually bought a house from me.”

Do you think open houses are powerful or pointless? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

More results from our open house survey:

open house IG


38 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Ruth Zeiss August 11, 2015 at 8:14 am -

    I think it depends on the property. I have sold my listings at my open houses, and I have picked up leads, but IF the property is overpriced and everyone but the seller knows it, or at least wants to admit it, then holding an open house is a HUGE waste of time because there will be no visitors, so no leads and no potential to sell the property.

  2. Connie Culbertson August 11, 2015 at 8:22 am -

    I agree with Susan, you may not sell the house that you are hosting the open house in; however you will come into contact with several buyers that are in search for something else and if you’re on top of your game you will find what they’re looking for and get a few sales out of it as well.

  3. Suzi Karr August 11, 2015 at 8:26 am -

    Unfortunately in today’s economy, OPEN HOUSES are dangerous for many reasons. One is the safety of those holding them, and secondly, a potential “client’ may just be casing the property for other reasons.

    I have SOLD a property as a result of an OPEN HOUSE, but most REALTORS who go to them are those not busy and who are looking for the FREE food and the possibility of winning the gift or money offered.

    Truly busy REALTORS should have someone else hold their OPEN HOUSES, if the need to have one exists. Many REALTORS like to do them to meet others in the profession.

    To me OPEN HOUSES and even flyers posted with the sign are a thing of the past.

  4. Hank Miller August 11, 2015 at 9:31 am -

    Open houses are a waste of time – veteran agents know that which is why the ones that are held are usually rookies or nonproductive agents. Vets tell them what a great way it is to “generate leads” and it placates sellers – win win for the veteran agent.

    And as far as agents carrying weapons, better know how and when to use them. And having cops roll by? That made me laugh

  5. Pat almasy August 11, 2015 at 10:29 am -

    I just closed on a home sold thought my efforts of hosting an open house. It was the 393rd open house n I can tell you that this couple was riding around the community n stumbled upon this home. They were about to sign contracts on another home in the area n their realtor was surprised when they called to tell her they wanted to buy my stsgged home! 17 days in the market. Sold n closed.

  6. Danielle Claroni August 11, 2015 at 11:00 am -

    Broker Open Houses are necessary, especially in a high end market. If a broker thinks he/she may have a buyer for a property, it is a perfect opportunity for them to preview the house without putting the listing broker or the owner out.

    Public Open Houses should be conducted by at least 2 agents, for safety purposes. However, in today’s internet age, younger buyers go to the internet first and relish open houses so they can feel free to go see a house they think might work for them before engaging a buyer’s agent. It’s a great way for the listing broker or whoever is working the open house to get new clients who may be unaffiliated and if they don’t buy that house, they may buy another house from that agent if the agent can sell him/herself to them.

    Regardless of what agents think though, open houses make a seller feel that the agent is doing everything in his/her power to sell the house and that is the most important reason of all to hold open houses.

  7. Douglas Hill August 11, 2015 at 11:01 am -

    Any time you can get face to face with an interested party, it is good for your business. There are some areas that do not pull enough traffic to make it a source for leads, however it puts the seller on notice to get their house cleaned up and fixed up before the open house. It is a great place to meet neighbors that may be thinking of selling in the future. When you do not have a client, fall back to the basics and have an open house.

  8. Diana Margala August 11, 2015 at 11:32 am -

    I use to think Open Houses were a waist of time, but out of the last 5 open houses I have held, 4 of the homes were sold to buyers that came to the open house. They were represented by other agents, but my job is to sell the home and if it helps the buyers to feel more comfortable to come to the home without their agent, then I’m fine with that. It’s a great time for a second look too. Also many buyers go out on their own to look at open houses and may have never come to the home except through the open house.

    So as much as I would not like to hold an open house, I have found them useful lately.

  9. Doug Reichert August 11, 2015 at 11:42 am -

    Let’s be honest. Open Houses are NOT for the Seller. They are for the Agent. They become an instant satellite office where, if the agent is good, can turn leads into sales or more listings. And if they happen to sell the house that’s “open”, it’s a bonus.

  10. Ken Petrich August 11, 2015 at 11:52 am -

    With my entire career, I have found open houses to be pointless
    as no open house ever produced one buyer or seller as a result of the open house either for me or for any other agent.

  11. Les Krawitz August 11, 2015 at 12:16 pm -

    In the area where I practice the Open House is a staple of RE marketing. They happen nearly every weekend and much of the time potential buyers cannot make it to all the homes of interest. We also have Brokers Opens every Tuesday and for the most part they seem to be worthwhile.
    Are there exceptions to this? Of course, but we use them successfully here. I think other parts of the country will have different experiences.

  12. Terry Naber August 11, 2015 at 12:18 pm -

    I agree with the last comment.
    I started my 25+ year career in real estate by holding open houses in foreclosures, and despite the horrible market of the time, was immediately successful. However, not one of those homes sold due to the open house, in all the years I held them routinely. I have also noticed that the average attendance at open houses has declined, despite increased advertising.

    Now, the only reason I hold an open house is to satisfy sellers that I am doing a good job for them.
    Criminals target open houses. Many agents have become victims at their open houses, being assaulted and even killed. I took a self-defense class run by 3 police officers who told an experience of a man who had planned to abduct a female agent from one of several vacant open house (it was in his journal). He failed at his first attempt due to an astute agent who became suspicious and called the police. They arrived almost immediately, and upon investigating the man’s van, found duct tape, ropes, weapons and the journal outlining his plan. (who said criminals are smart?!)
    In one occupied home that I held open many years ago, someone stole a pair of earrings with great sentimental value, during a rush of people when I couldn’t be everywhere at once. So, I discourage my sellers from holding them-but if they insist, I will find a hungry agent and even pay them to hold my listing open. The last one we did had absolutely no traffic, with lots of social media advertising, advertising in the MLS, signs, with a good location down the street from a builder’s model home.

  13. Troy Vathanadireg August 11, 2015 at 12:23 pm -

    I love open open houses; back to back open houses actually. To clarify, this would be with my own listings and solely to encourage multiple offers and to get offers from buyers genuinely interested.

    With the home being accessible 2 days in a row, potential buyers come the first day, with or without their agent and return the second day with their agent and other family members. I typically get a good turn out and potential buyers see that other potential buyers are interested as well. This typically translates in to multiple offers from potential buyers that have seen the home twice.

    I believe this helps eliminate the people that are running around making offers on multiple properties and have the “take or leave it” attitude. I mean, since they’ve seen it twice and brought everyone involved, they are less likely to get “cold feet”

  14. Deborah August 11, 2015 at 1:19 pm -

    I have used open houses for 15 years and overall I believe they are a good mix to the overall marketing plan. Personally, I have sold many houses by having an open house and have met neighbors (potential sellers) as well as many buyers. If a house is priced right people will visit the open house. While it is true that more buyers are being sent by their agents, there are still many potential buyers who are just at the beginning of the process and this is a great opportunity to sell yourself. Open houses offer anonymity so sometimes you just have to respect that people aren’t quite ready to make a commitment. I have sent out personal letters inviting immediate neighbors to see the house before the public comes in. This has worked well for me. Follow up notes rarely work unless the person is interested in me or the house. (They will call you).

    Overall, you need to plan safety precautions (we now require a driver’s license) and I always work with another broker so we can manage the people and watch the house.

    Unless you are knocking on people’s doors in the neighborhood, you will not get the kind of one on one and personal exposure that an open house will afford.

  15. Roy Freeman August 11, 2015 at 2:04 pm -

    I noticed most of the responses were related to the power of open houses to attract buyers. Agents with loads of top quality photos and effective carefully composed descriptive write ups on the internet probably will probably have a relatively small proportion of their buyer response from open houses.
    Now if you are required by seller expectation to have an open house in a tract, complex, or discrete area of similar homes, then make it worth while by turning it into a listing tool.
    Start by delivering an invitation to all residents requesting them to attend your open house because they may have a relative or friend who is interested in buying in their neighborhood!
    That notice puts your name in front of all the residents (prospective sellers?). A few days later-the morning of the open house-you saturate the neighborhood with open house lead in signs (with your name) directing people to your listing from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
    You will have early walkers, Looky Lous, and residents interested in what you are doing and you will get to meet them, answer their questions about Real Estate and generally extend your social contact in the area.
    If the home sells relatively soon, (days to a few weeks) after your open house(s) most residents will be impressed and have an idea who sold it, and who is successfully selling in their area!
    When you immediately deliver a follow up notice to the neighborhood that you just sold the home-you will have turned your open house(s) into possibly one of the best listing tools that there is, and established yourself as the “go to agent” in the area!

  16. Phil Amodeo, CRS August 11, 2015 at 3:33 pm -

    When I entered the real estate business in 1980, I was told that Open Houses were beneficial primarily to the agent, and that was long before the Internet and social media. I hold approximately 45 Open Houses per year, where 1 or 2 are sold as a direct result. More importantly, my personalized Open House directional signs have helped me build awareness to people I don’t even know. When I do meet them, frequently they state that they always see my Open House Signs.

    Recently, I received a call from a couple that had purchased a home with me 7 years ago. Although, I hadn’t stayed in contact (MY fault), they called me because they had seen my Open House signs and were reminded that I was their previous buyer’s agent. Now they are selling that home and buying another – two transaction sides with only passive effort on my part!

    Although in the last 2 years I have benefited from more repeat/referral business, Open Houses sustained me during the lean 2010-2013 years when it was one of the best, cost-effective ways to meet prospective buyers and sellers.

  17. Bill Hurt August 11, 2015 at 4:11 pm -

    Like many other marketing efforts; whether an agent believes it is worthwhile or not…..they are correct. We have agents on our team that believe strongly in open houses, and consistently generate real leads and business opportunities, Conversely, we also have some that feel the opposite. Reminds me a bit of “opportunity/floor time”. Once again those that believe it will work find it does for them, ….etc.

    Personally, it is my opinion that a good solid plan and preparation, will produce effective results from open houses. And I also do’t believe that this approach is only for “newbies”.

    • Becky Nguyen August 11, 2015 at 10:27 pm -

      I also agree that open houses are not for new real estate professionals that have entered the market. Many of my past clients look for my name in the paper. They are frequently following my activity in print media and on social media. I also feel that open houses give us great exposure, a familiar face, etc.

  18. Rocco J. Bruno August 11, 2015 at 5:16 pm -

    “Would you buy a car without test driving it”? Home shopping on line doesn’t give you the “feel” for the home or the neigjborhood.
    I have met buyers & sellers threw hosting Open Houses and even persuaded a neighbor to sell.
    It is the front line of REAL estate, not virtual estate.

  19. Shelly Smith August 11, 2015 at 7:47 pm -

    I met a couple through open house about 12 years ago and, as a result, have done five transactions with them totaling over $2 Million. I most recently sold their primary residence and the buyers’ agent stopped in my open house with her clients; she subsequently wrote the full-price offer. Incidentally, I never heard from these ‘open-house’ clients for 12 months after our initial meeting…be persistent.

  20. Becky Nguyen August 11, 2015 at 10:25 pm -

    I’m actually very fascinated by the many comments opposing open houses. The Internet has become a very valuable tool to buyers today, and those buyers shop online for all potential properties. They really don’t need us to help them to find a house. They peruse the many websites to determine which of those properties are of interest, and then they check to see when the homes will be hosting an open house. Many buyers prefer attending open houses on their own to determine if the homes that they found of interest online will actually fit their needs. They then turn to their real estate professionals to guide them through the process. I’ve seen more than my share of sales occur as a result of an open houses, and as a 5-year veteran, I’ll continue to host them to benefit my sellers, and to gain new prospects. They are a positive marketing tool in this day and age.

  21. Phil Sexton August 12, 2015 at 12:36 am -

    Open houses in Scottsdale work to sell houses. They also work to build brand awareness. They also work to generate leads. I’m a fan. Sit about 3 a month on average. We generate offers from them.

  22. Jeff Krusel August 12, 2015 at 11:15 am -

    If it is not working you are probably doing it wrong. Agents with good social skills and houses priced correctly with great pictures can clean up at open houses, acquiring new buyers while selling homes quickly.

  23. Carol Miller August 12, 2015 at 1:10 pm -

    Our agents host them as often as possible. They work well in our market areas, and we’ve met many loyal clients through open houses. We find that using company-branded open house directional signs brings a lot of attention to our company as well as to the open house itself. I agree that they don’t always work well in some neighborhoods, or in gated communities, but open houses are (and will remain) a part of our marketing efforts.

  24. Joan E. Clark August 13, 2015 at 2:55 pm -

    I have been a Realtor for nearly 35 years in S.E.Conn. I was born doing open houses. I just closed on my 6th transaction on the same street as a result of an open house. Lots of happy clients. It does take some time, but it does pay off doing open houses. About 3-4 days before the open house, I put a sign out front and on the front door or window Open Sunday 1-3pm, It does help to do this.Also an ad in the Friday newspaper helps direct traffic to the site. Good luck. It is very important to have the seller help set the stage and make the home sparkle, no clutter;

  25. Ken Bennett August 14, 2015 at 12:44 pm -

    Open Houses are effective in my opinion if they are handled correctly. The #1 goal is to get the home sold during the open but there are residual benefits as well in terms of getting valuable buyer comments, new buyer prospects, and meeting potential seller leads as well. One of my newer associates got a listing off of one of her open houses recently and sold it in two days, full price at that. She wouldn’t have gotten that listing if she hadn’t had the open house. That said, if you’re established in the real estate business and generating all of the business that you can handle, perhaps Open Houses aren’t worth the time investment. But for most of the sales associates in our market area, they are a viable source for marketing that sellers seem to appreciate and a good source of leads.

  26. mike August 14, 2015 at 1:25 pm -

    in your farm? absolutely.

    a hot property in a hot market? absolutely.

    other times? depends on your business plan.

    i absolutely agree with joan clark…it’s a GREAT way to have the sellers do some staging to get their clutter and crap out of the home. some folks will only be shamed into cleaning up

  27. Lisa Boone August 17, 2015 at 6:17 pm -

    Back in the day in my small community, Open Houses were held every weekend and agents had Broker Opens to encourage agents to preview their listing and get some feedback for their sellers. Sometimes the feedback was all good and everybody patted themselves on their collective backs. Sometimes negative issues were revisited by comments from the veterans in the RE field.
    I have personally sold several homes after an Open House; I had an offer within 3 hours of my personal home Open House. Depends on location, price and condition – and the sellers frame of mind – as to the need to Open the house. In todays violent times, am distressed to read in this article that police drivebys, weapons and escape routes are the first thoughts for safety of buyers – not turning on lights, making sure stairs are marked and candles extinguished. We’ve come a long way baby.

  28. Richard Johnson August 25, 2015 at 8:39 am -

    Open Houses can be a great way of meeting new prospects. I am in NYC – Queens County and I have met sellers through Opne Houses as well as buyers through Open Houses. I usually do not do Broker’s Open Houses. I do consumer Open Houses targeting buyers and of course the curious neighbor who I want to start a relatioinship with because soon, he too, may want to sell. My intent is to impress those “would be’ sellers, so they can be facinated by the idea of Open Houses and my efforts to market their home and bring them potential buyers.
    In Real Estate there is no one way to be the ultimate Agent. Buyers and Sellers come from all angles. The farther out you reach and the more you twist and curve those angles, the better the opportunity for success.
    Again, Open Houses are great if you advertise and promote it well; if the property is priced right; if the house is staged well and id the property has curb appeal.

  29. Lucy Metcalf August 26, 2015 at 4:35 pm -

    All comments support my own opinions formed in hindsight over a 38 year span. At the start (of my career), open houses were like a tradition, not only a marketing tool. Sellers and agents both expected them. They did help as a good excuse to “ready” the property (for the neighbors) if a subtle hint was needed. . In a “hot” market they are not necessary but help to build one to one farming recognition in neighborhoods. There have always been risks involved but it does appear the internet as a marketing tool, has increased awareness of the potential for criminals to target homes with an “open” invitation, no less. I think twice before holding my own open houses, taking into consideration, it rarely sells the home I sit. In my area, open house signs have proved to be a good barometer to note a market change is in the works. Recently, 4 Open House signs on each corner of major streets supports my observation of a subtle change in rising inventory., a major shift from low inventory. First clue, 30 days on market, without a good offer and anxiety starts to build with agents as well as their sellers. Price reduction become more common and it follows a trend. No surprise, here. Many factors have been out there but ignored. 1. No adequate change in income and jobs to support the increased prices and Buyers are being priced out of the market. 2. Indicators are warning of a potential “bubble”. 3. Consumer confidence is waning as those people who follow world events become aware of the effect “China”s economical situation and the European countries financial instability, do have an affect on the global community and closer to home, our own still fragile economy.

  30. AusRealtor August 26, 2015 at 9:21 pm -

    I’m a buyers agent operating in Adelaide, South Australia.
    Here Open Houses are the primary means of promoting listings, engaging buyers and finding potential sellers.
    There’s no MLS here, so what agents list they have to also sell.
    Most Opens run 30 minutes & attract from 0 to 50 groups.
    Professional photography, video & floor plans are routine requirements, and staging has gained wide acceptance.
    All the marketing is paid by the seller in addition to professional fee.
    Agent’s priorities with Opens are:
    #1 Prospect for more listings
    #2 Refer visitors to other listings they have in the area (if ‘this’ one doesn’t suit)
    #3 Promote self & agency
    #4 Sell the house

    • Tony Williams December 31, 2015 at 8:39 pm -

      AusRealtor… Start an MLS.

  31. Brian "Doc" Burry December 31, 2015 at 5:08 pm -

    Open houses are amazing and what you put into them is what you can expect from them! You are personally servicing your Client’s Listing by working an effective open house. You are introducing yourself one on one to neighbors and potential clients. Buyers are allowed an opportunity to meet a real estate professional who can guide them through many complex areas they may need help on.
    Using all tools, from social media (fair responses) to physically contacting neighbors (50 to 100 for each open house) by informing them of your Open House or if not there, leaving them a door hanger invitation to your location.
    Get a CCW Permit, train well, make regular range days and carry a firearm against threats. Only do this if you are wiling to train.
    Remember, whether it is working an Open House or any other client development/sales endeavor works, doing nothing does not!!!!
    We have tracked 80% success in either selling our Open Houses or obtaining another listing or successful selling a Buyer.
    You have free product (your Sellers Home) to sell, put in the effort and create more opportunity by your professional dedication and work.

  32. Tony Williams December 31, 2015 at 8:37 pm -

    Forget about it. There are those who still hang on to marketing as if they still lived in 1972. The internet is the best way to hold an open house. It’s safe, effective and that’s where the buyers are. A top producer’s time is much more productive marketing the way our society expects… today. If you depend on open houses, good luck. But as for me and my team. We don’t go there. Our sellers understand how valuable our marketing plan is and it does not include sitting in their house waiting on the neighbors to drop by. Just sayin’. By the way… It’s a new year… 2016… Here we go !!

  33. Frank December 31, 2015 at 9:09 pm -

    Perhaps the next time they run this survey they also should ask what the agent’s annual closed production is. I would wager that the number of open houses in most areas correlate nicely with agent’s gross income. Unfortunately no facts regarding actual agent earnings in this survey makes this discussion pointless.The 56% that said open houses were pointless could well be those agents that are part of the 80/20 rule that don’t produce much income in the first place. Let’s improve on the surveys first.

  34. Patricus January 1, 2016 at 6:39 pm -

    I started in the late 1980s and met a number of buyers through open houses in the early years. As time passed, and buyer brokerage became the rule, I found it was not productive for me to hold open some other agent’s listing. I hold my own listings open and can often instigate a sale even if the buyer has their own agent. From time to time I get a buying prospect, and my highest dollar commission came from clients I met at one of my open houses.

    Sitting at open houses solely for the purpose of meeting buyers is a poor use of one’s time. It can be productive if one has several hands to play. First, instigate a sale on your listing (not some other agent’s listing). Second, an occasional buyer prospect is met at the open. Third, one may meet neighbors, chat a bit, and maybe instigate a new listing in the area. Last, in rare cases I sell my listing at an open house.

    Our most productive activity is to meet a lot of people who, ideally, are interested in home buying or selling. It is hard to think of a better way to meet these people except at open houses. If I hold open another agent’s listing I expect to be paid for my time, and I pay agents to hold mine open.

  35. Mickey Green January 2, 2016 at 11:57 am -

    What ideas do you have about an open house selling
    for $3,500.000 in Jamaica Estates NY

  36. Dee Pardue January 3, 2016 at 9:06 am -

    Great choice for topic of conversation. I think the general consensus is that the open houses do not generally generate a buyer for the home that is open. But since many clients expect and want open houses and you can always have newer agents looking to generate new leads host for you, it is a good idea to include these in your marketing. When I was new in the business over 20 years ago, I saw open houses as a “free” way to market myself and be face to face with prospects. I did open houses for years and now have buyers agents who do them for me occasionally. Just always ask the sellers if they prefer to have them or not–if they are concerned about security, just drop this from your marketing plan. Incidentally, I definitely think agent open houses are passe’. And I don’t think serving food, doing raffles, etc. helps–if a buyer is interested in the home, those things will not help motivate them to see the home. Just show up with good info about the home and area.