The following article was submitted to the Ottawa Citizen as a candidate for their weekend Real Estate Q&A column which runs in the Homes: Rental and Resale section of Saturday's paper. Questions were provided by the Citizen.
I have listed my house for sale with a real estate agent. My agent wants me to hold an open house each weekend for the next few weeks. But that's pretty inconvenient for me, and I'm not really sure how effective open houses are. Isn't it mostly just gawkers and neighbours who want a peek inside?
-while we are generally big fans of open houses as a useful event for both buyers and sellers, it is certainly overkill to have one every weekend
-depending on how inconvenient it is for the seller, the seller can decide if they wish to have open houses or not. Many sellers find it is easier to be out of the house for a 2 or 3 hour block of time to provide access to 10 or more visitors, rather than having to leave for multiple individual showings at random times.
-certain properties may not be well suited to open houses i.e. higher end properties, remote properties or other unique properties. Sometimes condo access and security can be awkward.
-while one does get casually interested visitors and neighbours; what’s the harm? Many times buyers are simply doing research, are in the earliest stages of their buying process or previewing the property for a friend or relative
When are open houses useful, and what are the benefits?
-we find open houses most useful in providing access and exposure to the property early in the listing period, as buyers shopping the area are anxious to get in to see new listings as soon as they are published.
-this can benefit the homeowner by aggregating traffic and minimizing the amount of time they have to be out of the house for individual showings
-it may often attract casually interested buyers who are researching the market but perhaps would not come to see the property, if they had to go through the more formal process of scheduling a dedicated private showing
-Open Houses are the one opportunity for the listing agent to really "sell" the property to prospective buyers. Listing agent can also get a bit of read on prospective buyers which can help in negotiating a subsequent offer.
-open houses can also be scheduled to support an advertising campaign, price change or some seasonal change that may make the property more attractive i.e. pool opening, leaves on the trees, gardens in bloom etc.
-open houses can be useful if there are small children or pets in the house and it is a challenge for the seller to keep the house it peak showing condition for private showings all the time
-those with home based businesses will appreciate having an open house which may cut down on the number of private showings at buyer determined times.
- scheduling an open house may be a catalyst to encourage prospective buyers to book a private showing on a property or at least make sure they get to the open house, since they are afraid the property might get sold before they get a chance to see it. “fear of loss” is a powerful motivator.
-visitors to an open house will often share some useful feedback about a property and its marketability which may be useful to sellers and Realtors alike.
-we often find that when open house visitors really like a property, they will book a second showing to come back with their own Realtor and this can lead to an offer. We received a phone call from a client buyer couple last Sunday at 4:05 PM who were still at an open house on an MLS® listed property and we wrote an offer (that was accepted) that same evening. Proof positive that open houses help sell properties!
-while most properties are first researched on line, no one is going to buy a property without seeing it in person and visiting an open house could be a good in person introduction.
Two types of buyers you may miss if you do not have an Open House:
-some buyers prefer to shop with a "I'll know it when I see it" approach and these buyers may not call for a private appointment, as they typically do not have a defined timeline for a move.
-some buyers prefer to shop the market over a period of time and may not have a Realtor engaged which means that Open Houses provide them their best chance of seeing listed properties.
Will having one or more help me to sell my home?
We have often conducted Open Houses on both Saturday and Sunday on the first weekend of a listing to try to create some marketing buzz and make the property most accessible to interested parties. We started doing this last year, after selling our own home by holding both a Saturday and Sunday Open House and selling it 3 days later in a multiple offer situation, without ever having had a scheduled private showing.
-another benefit of our "dual" Open House strategy, is that holding both a Saturday and Sunday Open House allows potential visitors more flexibility, the opportunity to visit a second time and also provides a fall back, if poor weather spoils attendence on a single open house day.
-we generally consider having an open house perhaps once every 4 weeks or so, to be appropriate. If a property is priced, presented and promoted properly in peak selling season; a seller should rarely require more than a couple open houses, as the average home should sell within 30-40 days on the market.
Isn’t one of the reasons for Open Houses that real estate sales people are simply trying to recruit new customers?
-professional real estate professionals know they are there to help sell the listed property as their first priority and ethical duty to their client. Buyers are also much more focused and interested in shopping for a property than shopping for a sales person but do occasionally find a broker or sales person they like via an open house.
-open houses can be a great component of an overall marketing and promotion campaign so be sure to ask your prospective listing sales person how they will help get your property sold.
-a good source of information for open houses being held can be found at www.ottawarealestate.org
where the Ottawa Real Estate Board maintains a spreadsheet of upcoming Open Houses by area or of course ads and listings found in the Citizen.