Are Public Open Houses Worth It?

Some sellers love the idea of a public open house. But most don't like the idea of strangers walking into their home. Are public open houses worth it?

Many sellers often ask me if a public open house holds any value in helping them sell their home. No one likes strangers and “tire-kickers” walking through their house.

The biggest complaint most sellers have about open houses are about nosy neighbors and “looky-loos” coming through. That is, after all, exactly what people think of when a public open house is mentioned. However, many realtors actually encourage neighbors to come take a look. After all, they know the neighborhood and what makes it so special. You never know when they might have a relative or friend who is looking for a home.

Security can also be an issue. Many sellers are worried about letting complete strangers roam freely through their house with access to electronics, jewelry, prescription drugs and personal information.

Andy, a seller in White Plains, has had his home listed on the market for almost one year. Despite the difficulty in finding a buyer, he will still not allow his realtor to hold a public open house. “I know a majority of my neighbors will come to check out the house, and since they already own a house, they sure aren’t going to buy mine,” says Andy. “I have no desire to open up my house for other people’s amusement. It’s not a museum, it’s my home.”

The vast number of real estate websites and smartphone apps available today allow most buyers to procure so much information online, that often public open houses are no longer required. Statistics show only 2% of properties nationwide actually sell from public open houses.

Some realtor’s disagree with the statistics. “We sell more homes in Clintonville and Columbus, Ohio, with open houses than the internet or advertising,” said John DeFourny of DeFourney Realtors. “It’s a great way to get as many buyers, lookers and neighbors through with the least inconvenience to the sellers.”

Certain sellers agree. “I want to get as many potential buyers in my house as possible,” said Geri, a homeowner in Mahopac, NY. “I want my house sold ASAP and even though the person walking through may not be my buyer, they may know someone who is.”

In previous years, sellers liked the idea of having public open houses. In 1995, 41% of buyers surveyed relied on open houses to sell their home, according to data from the NAR. By 2000, it had dropped to 28%. Beginning in 2003, however, as the market started to heat up again, that number began rising. By 2005, 51% of all sellers were using open houses, though not all agreed they were effective.

For those who approve of having a public open house, it can often be a valuable opportunity to get feedback about what are the good and bad points about a home. However, holding them too frequently can send a signal that there is something wrong with the property.

An open house is only worth having if it's done properly. Make sure the landscaping is well done, and the home has great curb appeal. Some sellers go so far as to stage their homes just for open house events.

Despite the large number of resources used by buyers to look at and locate properties, there are still some homes which would benefit from open houses- those which would not photograph well, or where the photos do not do the property justice.

In some cases, a house is just too unique to market without an open house. There are some homes you just have to see to believe. Certain features and amenities may not translate into words or photos, and having an open house will allow people to personally view the character and benefits of the home.

For sellers who are still experiencing a buyer’s market, you will want to try everything. In this case, public open houses will likely attract new people to the property. Why limit your resources to find a buyer?

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