January 27, 2015
Do Open Houses Still Work in the Digital Age?
Most prospective homeowners would agree – if you’re serious about buying, then open houses will become a big part of your life. It’s a familiar ritual. Follow the sign, enter the home, sign in and pick up the sell sheet, poke around and once done let the selling agent know in broad strokes whether you like what you see, or whether you’ll simply move on.
The question is, in a world where people can easily create virtual home tours, make their own Facebook pitch or post detailed videos on YouTube, do open houses still matter?
If activity in Toronto or Vancouver is the only indication, the answer would be a firm yes. Every weekend the signs pop up at major intersections guiding passers-by to the nearest open house. And traffic outside these homes at times approaches mall-parking-lot proportions.
But just because we continue to display houses, and people come and look, it doesn’t automatically mean that open houses are an effective tactic.
A quick online search on the merits of the open house reveal countless blog posts, articles and comments that reveal a strong bias against the practice. One U.S. based commentator bluntly declares that only 2 per cent of home sales can be credited to open house listings. In fact, about the only thing that critics seem to agree on is the notion that open houses are a tactic invented and perpetuated by real estate agents trying to drum up new business. More on that in a moment.
So do open houses still work in the digital age?
Online listings are undoubtedly important. But for people who can’t or won’t secure an agent-arranged visit, open houses are the only chance they have to see what’s out there and to get a real feel for a house. Even the best images or videos may fail to capture a home’s true personality and how it fits into the neighbourhood, or give a sense of what the people in the area are like. We’ve all seen cases of people who were lukewarm on a property when seeing it online, but who changed their minds once they saw it in person. So getting out there and seeing a home in person is important. Open houses make this easy.
The arguments on the con side, however, are many. Detractors point to the quality of traffic. Open houses can attract lots of people, especially in peak season, but not always the type of people sellers want to see. Too often they attract a mix of curious neighbours, people whose full-time hobby seems to be visiting open houses, or in the worst case, even criminal types sizing up a place for burglary – or perhaps even taking a few items with them on the way out.
Have you hosted an open house? Did you find it useful in the home selling process? Let us know in the comments below.