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Do Open Houses Work?


What are the odds that you'll find your dream at a Sunday open house? What is the likelihood that your home will sell at an open house? Open houses are an integral part of the home sale business. But, do they work?

There are two types of open houses. One is for real estate agents. The purpose of the broker's open house is to introduce a new listing to local agents. The chance that a home will sell as a result of a broker's open house is relatively high. Serious buyers usually work closely with agents in order to find a home. By exposing a listing to more agents, you increase the number of showings to bone fide buyers.

Sunday open houses are more of a hit-and-miss proposition. When a home is open to the public, it is open to anyone who wants to take a look. Not everyone who walks through will be a legitimate buyer.

Some open house visitors will be neighbors. This is not all bad. Some neighbors have friends or relatives who may want to relocate into the area.

Most people who visit open houses are directed there by the signs. This means they don't have much information about the house when they walk in the front door. So even when open house visitors are legitimate buyers, they may not be well-qualified for the house in question. They may need a larger house or a smaller house, or something more or less expensive.

The biggest beneficiary of a public open house is often the agent holding the house open. Open houses give agents an opportunity to meet prospective home buyers and sellers face-to-face in a relatively non-threatening environment. An open house can be a source of future business leads for the agent.

From a seller's perspective, there are pros and cons to having a home held open to the public. On the positive side, an open house gives buyers' agents the opportunity to send their clients through the property. Buyers who may be reluctant to make an appointment to see a new listing, will often be willing to stop in at a Sunday open house. Sometimes, they are pleasantly surprised by what they see.

Buyers' agents sometimes make the mistake of screening listings too carefully for buyers. When this happens, one of the only ways buyers will be exposed to a rejected listing is if they find it on their own at a Sunday open house.

Open houses can be abused, however. If a listing is open all the time, there's no reason for a buyer to make an appointment to view it privately. The most productive showings occur when buyers visit a listing with their agent, privately--without the distraction of others.

First-Time Tip: From a buyer's perspective, visiting Sunday open houses can be both informative and misleading. One way to learn market value, and to educate yourself about the inventory, is to look at a lot of houses. Touring Sunday open houses is one way to see a lot of houses in a short period of time. However, if you limit your home search to only those homes that are held open to the public, you may miss out on good listings. Some sellers don't want their homes held open to the public. The only way to see these listings is by appointment.

The Closing: Well-priced listings sometimes sell before they are ever held open to the public. Don't wait until the open house to see a hot new listing if your agent tells you that it might sell quickly.

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