Open houses have long been seen as one of the best ways to market, and hopefully sell, a home. In addition to print advertisements and lawn signs, an open house that welcomes everyone in to tour a home was — and still is — one of the top marketing strategies a seller has.
Now, however, with the advent of the Internet and home buying sites such as Trulia and Zillow — both of which are powered by MLS listings — the reasoning behind holding an open house has changed.
Today, potential buyers can quickly and easily search for homes for sale in any given neighborhood and with any set of data parameters they choose, including home price, number of beds and baths, lot size, or other features of a home. With the click of a few buttons, it’s easy to take what amounts to a virtual tour of the property, and see high-definition pictures, all at the click of a button.
In its annual Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report for 2018, the National Association of Realtors found that only 3 percent of buyers visited open houses for the homes they bought. The same report published in 2017 said 7 percent of buyers found the home they purchased through a yard sign or open house. Open houses rank 3rd in terms of sources where buyers found their home, with 51 percent coming from the Internet and 30 percent coming from a real estate agent.
Today, open houses seem to serve more as a marketing tool for real estate agents than they do for homes themselves.
So why, then, are open houses still popular amongst sellers?
Many sellers have high hopes of marketing their home to potential buyers through an open house. And while open houses certainly do get people to walk through the door, they don’t necessarily get true potential buyers into the home.
Some sellers and agents completely ignore open houses, while others still find them valuable, since multiple potential buyers can get a feel for the home, as well as the neighborhood, without having to work around different schedules during the week.
If you’re a seller who is thinking about hosting an open house, there are some important items to keep in mind before doing so.
What Is an Open House?
Before diving into whether an open house is right for you as a seller, you need to first understand exactly what they are. Open houses are scheduled periods of time where you and/or your real estate agent will open your home to all who wish to see it.
It’s important to note that there are no appointments necessary for people who would like to walk through your home during an open house. And in fact, there aren’t any pre-requisites at all. So, people may show up with or without their real estate agent, they may not be prequalified to buy your home, and in some cases, they may not even be in the market to buy a new home.
Open houses are a way for you to market your home to the masses. If you have a real estate agent, he or she will typically publicize the open house through all of his or her marketing materials, including:
- Print advertisements
- Digital and/or social media advertisements
- Through the MLS listing
In addition, the agent will:
- Post easy-to-see open house signs at the entrances to your neighborhood, with additional signs throughout directing people where to go
- Place an open house sign on your front lawn, along with some balloons that are branded in his or her agency’s colors
If you are selling your home without an agent, it will be your responsibility to undertake this publicity effort, and it is advisable that you follow the blueprint that other successful real estate professionals have already developed for hosting open houses.
Open houses are traditionally held on weekend afternoons to attract the most potential buyers, and last anywhere from 3 to 4 hours.
While open houses often occur right after a home hits the market, they are also often used to drum up interest in a home that may have been sitting on the market for a while. For example, agents representing homes that were listed in the winter but didn’t sell will often host an open house in early spring to attract interest from new potential buyers who are out enjoying a nice day.
How to Host a Successful Open House
If you’re selling your home without the assistance of a real estate agent, you’ll need to be present on the day of your open house.
When people walk through the doors, you should greet them and offer in-depth reading material on the home, including a printed listing that includes all the features your home has to offer. It would also be in your best interest to design and print a brochure that buyers can take with them as a follow-up piece after they leave.
You should position yourself in a central part of the home and allow people to walk through the home unsupervised. This gives them the opportunity to explore your home on their own. Also, be sure to dress the part of a real estate professional — either in business attire for women or a suit for men.
It’s important that during the open house, you appeal to all five senses of potential buyers, instead of just focusing on what the home looks like.
One of the most well-known ways to appeal to a potential buyer is to rope them in with pleasing smells of home. A great way to accomplish this is by baking fresh cookies or bread prior to your open house, since it elicits positive memories of being at home. Lighting a pleasant-smelling candle or lighting a wood-burning fireplace — if the season permits — can have the same effect.
But you shouldn’t stop there.
Handing out these freshly-baked cookies or other snacks, along with beverages, gives people a sense of what it would be like to do those everyday things if this house were their home. In addition, play soft, calming music inside the home to drown out outside noise, especially if your home is located in a heavily-trafficked area.
Finally, you should set the home’s temperature at an appropriate level for the season about 30 minutes before the open house begins so it’s at the ideal temperature when people arrive. If your open house is being held on a beautiful spring day, open the windows to show potential buyers the free-flowing fresh air your home gets.
While you need to give people an opportunity to experience your home on their own, it’s OK to casually roam around to see if they have any questions about your house.
And when people are about to leave, ask for feedback. The insight you get could be valuable in your quest to sell your home.
How Should You Present Your Home?
How you present your home during an open house is one of the most important factors in how it will be received. Make sure you present the home in its best possible light to the widest array of potential buyers, since the demographics of the people who will walk through the front door will vary greatly.
While you may think having a completely empty house will provide buyers with the opportunity to see the home as they’d like it, most people don’t have the visual capacity to see what is not in front of them.
As such, staging your home is one of the most effective ways of not only selling it quickly, but of maximizing the sales price as well.
Here are some revealing statistics from the National Association of Realtors:
- 29% of sellers’ agents said there was an increase of 1-5% of dollar value offered by buyers when a home is staged, in comparison to similar homes
- 21% said the dollar value of the home increased 6-10% with staging
- 39% said staging a home reduces the amount of time it takes to sell a home
- 49% of buyers’ agents said home staging had an effect on his or her clients’ view of the home
- Only 4% said staging had no effect
You don’t necessarily have to pay for professional staging, but you do need to make sure that your home is clean and uncluttered. This gives potential buyers the ability to see all the different possibilities of living there.
The most common rooms that are staged, according to the NAR, are the living room, kitchen, master bedroom, and dining room. A majority of buyers find the living room to be the most important room to stage, with the master bedroom and kitchen next on the list.
It’s important to note that staging doesn’t just refer to the furniture, accessories, and other décor in the room. The layout is equally important.
Ultimately, one of the most impactful ways to “stage” a home is to clean it thoroughly and de-clutter. This should include:
- Cleaning and organizing closets, cabinets and other areas of storage to make them appear larger
- Lining bookshelves with books in an organized fashion, leaving empty space for buyers to mentally place their own possessions
- Organizing living room furniture with neat pillows and a throw blanket
- Emptying kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers of clutter
- Cutting the lawn, laying new mulch, planting flowers and decorating the front of your home with a door wreath or other seasonal decorations
- Removing personal items such as family photos, and replacing them with pieces of art
- Returning rooms to their original function if, say, you were using a bedroom as your gym
More in-depth staging may include renting furniture that would fit the size and/or shape of rooms better than what you currently have, or even repainting rooms in a neutral color if your tastes are bolder.
The idea behind staging is to showcase your home in the best light possible — and to the highest number of potential buyers — by allowing them to envision what life might be like if your home were theirs. If buyers can feel at home in your house, they are more likely to pursue purchasing it.
The Benefits of Hosting an Open House
There are many benefits to hosting an open house. First and foremost, it allows a large number of potential buyers to physically see your home. The idea, of course, is to showcase your home to as many potential buyers as possible in hopes that at least one will be interested enough to make an offer.
While one of the downfalls of hosting an open house is that nosy neighbors are likely to attend (more on that later), this aspect could actually be a benefit for you. Marketing for open houses is seen most prominently by the people who live in your neighborhood, since they’ll see the for sale sign on your front lawn and the open house signs on nearby streets. If they have a friend or family member who is looking to move into the neighborhood, an open house could be the perfect way to market to these people who might otherwise not know a home in your neighborhood has hit the market.
In addition, real estate brokers and agents who attend your open house are likely to market your home to specific buyer clients they have.
While recent statistics have found that open houses aren’t as effective today as they were in the past, many buyers still rely on them as a way to see a variety of homes on the same day. Some buyers will even map out a list of open houses, in hopes of getting a better feel regarding what they truly want.
The Internet has made the entire research process for buying a home easier. Potential buyers can now do extensive research online about a neighborhood’s stats, demographics, livability, walkability, amenities and schools — all at the click of a button. But one thing they can’t do online is experience a home first-hand.
Open houses help fill that void, especially for busier people who often find it difficult to schedule a time during the week to visit a home. This type of situation could prove to be difficult for you, too, since you’ll be forced to cater to buyers who want to visit your home at off-peak times. This means cleaning and organizing your home, as well as finding a place to go, while a real estate agent shows your house to potential buyers.
The Downfalls of Hosting an Open House
While open houses still offer plenty of benefits, they still require time and effort. This means ensuring:
- Your home is clean, tidy, organized, and staged
- Rooms are returned to their original purpose
- Personal belongings and any other valuables are removed from the property or secured within
This also means that if you’re still living in the home, your family must find another place to go during the open house itself.
One of the top reasons people don’t want to host an open house is because of the “nosy neighbor” aspect mentioned above. You might not want to open your house to people who are only interested in seeing what’s inside, and not in actually buying the house. The problem with an open house, though, is it is impossible to prevent that from happening.
What’s more, because you’ll be letting a lot of strangers into your home — some who may be neighbors, some who may not be interested in buying your home, and some who may not even be qualified to buy your home — there’s a security and safety risk that goes along with it.
During the open house, you won’t be able to closely monitor what every visitor is doing, especially if the open house is successful and attracts a lot of visitors. Because of this, it is vitally important that if you host an open house, you lock up your valuables, especially things that can easily found in a drawer and hidden in someone’s pocket, such as jewelry or cash.
Open houses also may not be a great fit for every home. If your home is what’s considered a fixer-upper or is being sold as-is, an open house might actually decrease interest, as well as value.
The other main downfall of open houses is that they are often weather dependent. If it’s nice outside, your open house is likely to attract more visitors than if it’s cold and/or rainy. And since it’s impossible to control the weather, there’s always going to be some uncertainty about whether all your planning and hard work will just end up going to waste in the end.
The best thing to do when you’re planning on listing your home for sale is to do your research and weigh all your options.
At the end of the day, your goal should be to sell your home as quickly as possible for as much money as possible. And if you’re planning on selling your home without the services of a real estate agent, an open house may be a great way for you to get the word out about the amazing place you currently call home.
Just keep in mind that it’ll require time, money, and effort on your part to get your home prepped for the open house, and the event might not even result in any true potential buyers walking through the door.
In the end, however, hosting an open house may be a great way to market your home to a lot of potential buyers in a short amount of time.