Home sellers and potential buyers are likely both familiar with the term “open house”, where a seller organizes a few hours to allow anyone to view their available property. First recorded in the early 1910s, open houses have proved a standard method of marketing a new home for over a century. However, with the influx of new technology and after sellers had to make modifications during COVID-19, are open houses as integral, and common, as they used to be?
What happens at an open house?
Typically held on a weekend morning or afternoon, an open house lasts for several hours and serves as an opportunity for potential buyers to come and view the home. For home sellers, an open house is usually beneficial in terms of scheduling, as it allows multiple interested parties to view the home in one day. While most attendees at an open house are potential buyers, some neighbors and curious community members are also eligible to attend, drawing a diverse crowd.
If a homeowner puts the home on the market on their own, they will likely be the person hosting the open house. However, it is most common that the homeowner enlists the help of a seller’s agent for the selling process, and that agent and their team will host the open house. This gives potential buyers the chance to ask the agent any questions about the home. If the potential buyer is interested in the home after the open house, they may either reach out to their agent to schedule a private viewing or place an offer if they’re in a competitive market.
Potential buyers at an open house can ask questions, take notes, potentially capture photos and videos with approval, and communicate with the selling party if they’re interested in moving forward.
What happened to open houses during the pandemic?
Throughout the pandemic, open houses were not safe to host or attend, so selling teams had to get more creative with how they sold homes to potential buyers. While many potential homebuyers simply delayed their search and waited a year or two to buy, there were still people looking to purchase property during the pandemic.
Luckily, an influx in technology-based selling features helped buyers get a decent picture of the property they were interested in. On top of standard photography, agents utilized the help of products like Matterport, where potential buyers can click step-by-step through a home while looking at the listing online. Some agents filmed video tours that were available to view at a client’s leisure on a house’s listing page, or completed video call walk-throughs in real-time. Other agents hosted visual open houses. Companies and products like Kleard, BombBomb, and Immoviewer also helped agents take advantage of technology to best market a home. All of these techniques gave potential buyers as close to an idea of what the home looked and felt like without having to risk exposure to the virus.
Some of these practices have held on strong, even as standard in-person open houses started up again. Providing more information for a client early on in the process saves all parties time as the buyers can quickly determine if they are interested in learning more about the home.
Pros and cons of open houses
If you are debating whether or not to host an open house for your property, you can consider the following pros and cons.
- Open houses offer the buyer an opportunity to get up close and personal with a property that they may have otherwise not had a chance to view. Due to typically occurring on a weekend, most potential buyers are able to arrange this time in their schedule and get over to the house for a viewing.
- Even though the abundance of technology-related features now provides a realistic view of the home, many buyers still prefer to view a property in person to fully visualize their future.
- Oftentimes homebuyers who attend an open house tend to ask for a more intimate and private showing, which often leads to closing. Open houses therefore can increase the likelihood of quickly closing the deal.
- Simply advertising the open house can help generate a buzz and spread the word about your home. Even if someone cannot attend that open house, the event of throwing one can still alert that buyer about your home.
- Newer buyers enjoy attending open houses as the volume of people means they can view rooms quietly and take their time to view the property. They may not feel as on guard and the lack of individualized attention may help them feel more comfortable.
- While the main person you’re trying to attract at your open house is a potential buyer, sometimes buyer’s agents also attend. They are then able to offer their services to potential, unrepresented buyers, which could help them move forward in the process if they are interested in your home.
- Open houses take time and energy to plan. Typically, you should complete any renovations and home improvements prior to hosting an open house, as you want to ensure the buyers sees the home in sellable condition. Some common areas you should address prior to your open house include your front yard and driveway and the exterior of your home. You may also decide to stage your home with furniture if yours is outdated or if you have already moved out and no longer have furniture in the space.
- To further prep your home for an open house, you will have to remove personal items and individual touches, both for your own safety and to ensure a buyer can easily visualize their own lives in the space. It can be difficult to imagine your own family occupying a space when you see someone else’s family photos on the walls. You will also have to clean the home close to the showing, whether you do so yourself or hire a cleaning service is up to you.
- Holding an open house can create safety concerns, as you are allowing strangers to access your home. While you can request that everyone registers ahead of time or signs in at the event, there is no way to guarantee someone will not steal or ruin your home before someone stops them. If you have valuable items in the home, put them in a safe or take them with you for the day when you leave the home.
- Buyers who spend time in the home have the opportunity to appreciate all the small details, but it also means they can easily pick out flaws. The longer they spend in the home, the more they will notice, and potentially dislike.
- As the seller, you will have to leave your home for the day and take any pets with you. While open houses typically do not last more than several hours, it can still be an inconvenience to plan a day outside of the home, especially if you have young children and nervous animals.
Are open houses worth it?
According to the National Association of Realtors, 51% of homebuyers who purchased a home in 2020 found their home online, while only 4% found it from a yard or open house sign. While this does not directly explain how many people purchase a home after attending an open house, it does indicate that the majority of home buyers use an online listing as their first point of contact when learning about a possible home. Therefore, seller’s agents who utilize this information may advise their clients to invest in virtual marketing techniques to ensure they grab a potential buyer’s attention early on.
Should you decide to host an open house, you may notice the most success if your home resides in a metropolitan area with a large volume of people. Additionally, hosting an open house in a warm season could prove more beneficial than hosting in poor weather.
After the pandemic created a new process for viewing homes, potential homebuyers do not heavily rely on open houses as they did several years ago. With most information available online, homebuyers can quickly weed out which homes are not for them, saving everyone time. However, sellers can still benefit from hosting an open house, as it draws those who are interested after viewing online information and can therefore serve as a connection spot for the agent and the buyer, hopefully leading to a deal.
If you decide to attend an open house, make sure to respect the wishes and instructions of the selling party. Ask questions and get all the information you need to help make an informed decision. Hopefully, the process moves to the next steps and leads to closing a deal.