Open Houses – The Ultimate Pacifier

PacifierOh the magical open house!  The anticipation of Sunday afternoon!  The pageantry! The balloons, the directional signs with arrows and times, the streamers and flags, the cookies baking in the oven and the bottled water with a real estate agent’s glamour shot from 1985 on it.  It’s been around forever and has become a staple in every agent’s listing presentation as a differentiator from the other agents, because their Open Houses are ultimately the key to moving this property!

Here’s the truth: Open Houses these days are nothing more than a way to make a Seller feel like their agent is working hard for that 6%.  It’s the pacifier you stick into a crying baby’s (aka: frustrated seller’s) mouth to make them feel better and be quiet.

The majority of people who show up for an open house are unqualified buyers, looky-loo neighbors who just want to see your house because you’re not friends with them and wouldn’t invite them in otherwise, and people who are addicted to HGTV and love going to open houses and pretending that they are actually going to buy something.

A serious buyer today is not going to wait for balloons to be hung on the mailbox to see a house they are interested in.  They are either going to call their Buyer’s Agent to make an appointment or call the listing agent directly to get into the house and make an offer on it before the open house even happens.

Admittedly, there was a time, before the dawn of the internet, when open houses were valuable.  This is when Buyers really didn’t have a way to see a house or meet a real estate agent to work with, other than at open houses.  Sure they could call the number on the for sale sign, if they happened to be driving down the street on the right day, but back then, the open house advertising was a critical way of letting the public know that a home was for sale.  

Today, serious buyers know a home is for sale before their agents do a lot of the time, because they have their phones set to sound an alarm day or night as soon a new listing that meets their criteria hits Zillow or their local MLS.

The only other reason for an agent to embrace the archaic tactic known as the open house, is to pick up some of these unqualified buyers who are not going to buy your house, and turn them into buyers for someone else’s house so they can collect a commission as that buyer’s agent.  Its actually a great way to get paid to prospect for new buyers, but its not going to get your home sold.  Sure, there are those people out there who bought their house when it was held open, but they would have most likely bought the house anyway.

Knowing this, if you had to pay separately for an agent to hold your house open for 3 hours on a Sunday, how much is that worth to you?  What is a fair price for this service?  Leave your comment below.