How to make the most of open houses
In our latest research, real estate professionals say how they really feel about open houses — the good, bad and the ugly.
BY GILL SOUTH – Staff Writer – INMAN
- More than two thirds of the respondents think open houses are still worthwhile.
- Nearly 70 percent of respondents have sold a home as a result of a connection made at an open house.
- Consumers still want their agents to offer open houses.
- Two thirds of respondents’ brokerages offer virtual tours, while a quarter do not.
- More than two thirds of respondents felt that virtual tours replacing open houses was unlikely.
It’s 11 a.m. and brunch is calling your name. But instead of meeting your friends for breakfast tacos, you’ve got to get your game face on — and it’s not to cheer on your favorite football team. Signs and balloons in hand, you’re out the door for this afternoon’s big hoorah: Open House Sunday.
Love them or hate them, to many in the business these regular marketing events are a “necessary evil,” while others put a more positive spin on this opportunity to interact with their community.
With so much of the property search being done online, including some excellent virtual tours in real estate, are they really worthwhile in this day and age? Surely people see a property they like online, then if they are serious, make an appointment to go and see it with their agent.
But in this month’s research conducted between Aug. 1, 2016 through Aug. 8, 2016, Inman’s 923 survey respondents who participated in giving their take on this contentious topic generally said “yes,” open houses are still worthwhile. This sentiment was expressed by a good majority, with 68 percent giving open houses a rating of five out of 10 or higher.
And although virtual tours are an extremely welcome add to the mix, the overwhelming response by survey participants (more than half of whom were senior agents and brokers with more than 10 years in the business, and another 12 percent who’ve been in the business for six to 10 years) was that digital offerings are not going to replace the touch, feel and smell experience of an open house, a form of marketing that seems to polarize the industry.
Industry statistics support this research. According to the National Association of Realtor’s (NAR’s) 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, open houses remain one of the most popular ways real estate agents market their homes. They come in third, equal with agent websites, after putting the listing on the MLS and sticking up a yard sign.
In the NAR’s 2016 Member Profile, 37 percent of respondents said they received some business from open houses, while 63 percent said they did not.
As one experienced Washington, D.C., broker put it in our research: “Real estate is still primarily a face-to-face, people business. Open houses are one more opportunity to meet more people, make connections and grow your business.”
“An open house gives me the chance to meet people and show them the knowledge I have about the market. Open house contacts are about 20 percent of my business,” said a successful Indianapolis agent.
Of course, it’s well-known that agents find open houses worthwhile, not only to sell a house but to find buyers for other properties.
An active Pennsylvania agent added: “In our market, about half of those looking at open houses are unrepresented. It’s a chance to show your professionalism and engage them in person, which is vital.”
One California owner/agent was strong proponent of the open house. “I have sold over 500 homes from this. The only people who would say open houses are not worth it, are the types that sit there when clients come in and do not engage, connect or take interest.”
Just the advertising alone for the open house generates “tons more activity” on the home that it wouldn’t have received otherwise, said another advocate in the survey.
Why some agents hate open houses
While the research gives open houses the thumbs up, it also made it clear that not all agents like them. A little over 30 percent of respondents gave them a low one-out-of-10 to four-out-of-10 rating, and they spoke passionately about their objections to what they called this “crapshoot.”
An experienced Nashville broker summed up his concerns in these bullet points: “Time consuming. Costly. Unquantifiable. Risk to safety. Risk of theft. Unnecessary in today’s market. A stab in the dark.”
Another agent, who said she came close to being raped at an open house years ago, is understandably against them, and not just for safety reasons.
“When we develop a skill set to educate sellers on the reality that open houses are ‘so yesterday’ and explain to them that they can sleep in on Sundays, have brunch, watch the game instead of open their home for virtually no reason, it makes sense to them. Plenty of buyers will come on any other day of the week, and if they really want to see that house, they will make an appointment.”
There is real resentment about the “come one, come all” side of an open house among those in the anti-open-house camp.
“I have heard the analogy used: it is much like hitchhiking — you are allowing everyone access to your home,” said one respondent.