Do Open Houses Really Work?

Thursday, January 22, 2009, 5:06PM

By: Aaron Hoffman

When I first became a Realtor, the manager in my office told me that if I did not change my attitude about open houses I would not do well in real estate. New agents were taught to do anything — and I really mean anything — to get business. I held a few “opens” every weekend in those early days, and I hated doing them.

Agents in my market complain about hosting open houses. I ask them why they do them. They tell me that their clients demand it. I tell my sellers that I don’t do open houses, and I explain why. I let them know that if they expect opens as part of the marketing plan, I am not the best agent for them.

Homes occasionally do sell at open houses, but most serious buyers have an agent and buy a home after a private showing. It is in the consumer’s best interest to use the services of their own agent rather than buying from the seller’s agent at an open house. The Realtor makes more money by getting both sides of the deal but also increases risk with dual agency, and by working with a buyer that they do not know.

We all know the reason Realtors hold open houses is to meet buyers; only a very small percentage of homes sell at opens. It is so rare that when it happens, people talk about it for years and the sale becomes part of the open house lore. As an industry, we have managed to keep the myth alive that part of selling a home is sitting in it for two hours every Sunday afternoon. Open houses were invented during a time before the Internet, when consumers had to rely on Realtors, yard signs and newspaper ads. Those days are gone, but the opens live on.

If buyers only toured homes that are open they would be greatly limiting their opportunities. There are people who do attend open houses who are not buying. It is a hobby, something to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Some agents see open houses as a customer service item for their sellers. My clients ask me to do all kinds of things to sell their homes. I gently remind them that I sell homes for a living and have a lot of experience. I am open to new ideas and advice, but I have enough experience to know that holding a house open is not going to sell the house. I don’t subscribe to the theory that the customer is always right, and I don’t think that customer service is about doing whatever a client asks; I think it is about selling their home for top dollar in the shortest amount of time possible.

For some agents open houses are the way to go and I would never discourage anyone from doing them. We all need to spend time prospecting and for some, sitting at an open house is a good way. In some markets, open house attendance is high.

I prospect on the Internet, and I know that not all agents are interested in spending as much time at it as I do. We each need to play to our strengths and make the best use of our time and resources if we want to run a profitable business. I run my business on the Internet and I am the Realtor who does not do open houses.