The tradition of having an open house, like other real estate customs, has recently become a source of debate over its value and effectiveness. According to Rachel Stults, the tradition began over one hundred years ago when brokers allowed prospective buyers to “inspect” the house by having it open to the public (A Brief History of Opening Our Homes to Total Strangers; realtor.com; April 21st, 2015).
The house was advertised as “open for inspection.” Of course, it was a much different time. Home buyers were not represented, and there was no home inspection as we know it today. Hence, the “open house,” as first conceived, served an important function for the both the buyer and the seller.
As the housing industry evolved, visiting an open house morphed into a Sunday tradition. Open houses were not just for home buyers, as it also became a form of Sunday afternoon entertainment for the general public. The internet changed the tradition by virtually opening the house to the public through pictures and tours and allowing buyers to identify the specific homes they want to visit.
There is disagreement among real estate agents and other housing experts on the merit and effectiveness of the open house.
Additionally, home buyers have significantly changed how they use the open house over the last two decades.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (nar.realtor), twenty-eight percent of home buyers surveyed in 1999 indicated they found their home by visiting an open house, compared to only seven percent in 2017.
Adding doubt is a recent study that indicates having a public open house actually decreases the probability of selling a home by about 6.1 percent (Allen, Cadena, Rutherford & Rutherford; Effects of Real Estate Brokers’ Marketing Strategies: Public Open Houses, Broker Open Houses, MLS Virtual Tours, and MLS Photographs. Journal of Real Estate Research: 2015, 37:3, 343- 369). The authors indicated that having a public open house can increase your home’s days on market up to twenty-five days.
Although the open house may have lost its clout as a selling tool, it is still a major aspect of the home buying process.
Open house data from NAR’s 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers indicated: 48 percent of all buyers surveyed used the open house as part of their home search process; repeat home buyers are more likely to find their home from an open house compared to first-time buyers; the income bracket most likely to frequent an open house has a median income between $250,000 and $499,999; home buyers below the age of 65 (but older than 24) are more likely to frequent an open house; the Northeast and West regions of the US have more successful open houses; buyers seeking a new home visit open houses more than those seeking a re-sale; couples (married and unmarried) are more likely to visit open houses than single home buyers; and, ninety-two percent of home buyers surveyed indicated that open houses were at least “somewhat useful.”
If you decide to have an open house, put away your valuables and medications so as not to tempt thieves who may wander into your home.
Have a discussion with your agent about focusing on selling your home, instead of trying to get more clients.
And finally, don’t distract from your home by having an “event,” which employs food trucks, bounce houses, and other open house gimmicks.