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Should You Have an Open House?

Since multiple listing services first started putting listings online around 1996, the transparency of homes for sale has improved exponentially – all without open houses. From the virtual "fish-eye" tours of the ‘90s and oughts to sleek present-day audio-accompanied videos, homes can be showcased to buyers with the ease of a phone app. Then came the pandemic, when homeowners didn’t want strangers in their homes, and the validity of the open house came into question even more.  

So why have an open house at all? If you're trying to sell your home, you want to employ all the ways home buyers choose a home, for a variety of reasons. Your target buyer may use websites, not apps. Or, they may be relying on their agents to do the searching for them, as most buyers do have real estate professionals helping them who have previewed homes for their showing lists. Buyers who are just getting started or who don't have an agent are most likely to attend open houses for one simple reason – they’re not quite ready to commit and may still be running many what-if scenarios including how much home they should buy, when and where. 

So, the question is - do you want them to fall in love with your house or someone else's? An open house may tip the scale. Here are a few ideas to consider. Where and how do home buyers shop for a home?

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the first step homebuyers take of all generations is to look online for properties. Ninety-seven percent of home buyers used the internet to search for homes. They then used their findings to walk through the homes they viewed online. Fifty-three percent attended open houses based on what they found online. 

Buyers also cruise neighborhoods to decide where they want to live, and an open house sign in the yard is irresistible. Nearly half of homebuyers attend open houses and found them "useful," says the NAR. But you're not here to educate buyers, you want to sell your home, so how can an open house be right for your marketing plan?

Homebuyers use the Internet as a tool, but they usually make their choice in person. Yet, there are risks and rewards to open houses. An open house is an invitation to neighbors and strangers to walk through your home. You might not like your privacy invaded, and may worry that small items may go missing. The upside is that it's a chance to seal the deal with the right buyer at a personal level. Few buyers choose a home they haven't seen for themselves.

To make your open house memorable, do the following:

  1. Every seller's list begins with cleaning and decluttering thoroughly so the home will show better.
  2. Empty medicine cabinets. Lock away jewelry, collectibles, and your personal papers, including credit card and utility bills to prevent identity theft.
  3. Depersonalize. Don't leave out mementos. Homebuyers want to imagine themselves as occupants.
  4. Don't leave pets on the premises. Make sure their beds, bowls and boxes are put away for the open house.
  5. Insist that your listing agent bring an associate to your open house. Having two people, one to show the house and one to take information from open house visitors, discourages "lookie-loos" and petty thieves.
  6. Don't hang around. Owners discourage buyers from making honest comments.
  7. Make sure your listing agent collects contact information from people who have visited your home for feedback.
  8. Be willing to act upon the feedback you receive. If a number of potential home buyers said they hated the paint colors, prepare to repaint.

Use the Internet and open houses together. If you make a change to the home, such as a lower price and new improvements, your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network professional will also make sure that open house attendees get the latest information.

And one of those may come back for a second viewing and an offer.