Last weekend Colleen and I sat in an open house. Something we rarely do, but the seller asked and since last weekend was "National Open House Weekend" we thought, "What the heck, why not!" Well, we promoted the heck out of it, posted all sorts of open house signs in all the busy intersections leading to the house, and of course hoped the National Open House Weekend would be the finishing touch to our open house marketing efforts. Well, we had 2 folks walk through. Yup, just 2! The first we have not heard from since, the second one worries me. I followed the second visitor from room to room maintaining idle chat hoping the visitor didn't realize I was thinking his motive for being in my seller's home was not a good one. What follows below is an article about open houses posted by Jay Thompson of the Phoenix Real Estate Guy. When I read Jay's summary of his experience with open houses as a marketing method I thought his critique was as good as it gets. I emailed Jay and asked permission to post his article on our blog. Jay agreed. Disclaimer: You have to watch the video, as it's funny. However, sellers, we will not drink your beer, or at least we will not tell ya about it of we do! [grins] Jay's article... The ink was barely dry on my real estate license. I needed business and no clue how to secure it. Figuring I'd tap into my broker's 30+ years of experience, I said to him, "Yo! How do I get clients?" "Here's a printout of all our listings. Hold open houses.  It's the single best way to pick up buyers." "Do people actually buy homes they visit at open houses?" "Hardly ever.  But that's not the point. You're looking for buyer clients – clients who will buy something." That's. Not. The. Point. Really? Something tells me that if you are trying to sell a home and you tell the sellers that you want to hold their home open, not to sell it but to get yourself some new clients, that they will tell you to... take a hike. Is this how that conversation goes?
"Hi there dear client. I'd like to hold an open house in your home this weekend!" "Great! Do you think that will get it sold?" "Oh, that hardly ever happens. According to the National Association of Realtors 2010 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, only 2% of home buyers between the ages of 25 and 64 say the first step they take in finding a home is visiting an open house. And only 11% say they found their home by the yard sign and/or an open house. Most agents say the odds of actually selling the home held open are extremely remote, on the order of 1 – 2%..." "Well, then what is the point in holding my home open?" "It's a great way for me to pick up new buyer clients!"
Yessir, I want you to leave your house for several hours on the weekend (make sure to clean it first), lock up all your valuables and prescription medications, and let complete strangers into your home (hopefully none are criminals scoping out what to come back and steal) – all so I can build my base of clients. What a deal! More likely the conversation with the seller goes like this:
"Hi there dear client, I'd like to hold an open house in your home this weekend! It will provide a ton of exposure to your home, create buzz, and get buyers really excited about your home! I'll carpet bomb the neighborhood with invitations, bake some cookies so the home smells great, and buyers will flock here in droves. It'll go viral! It'll be awesome!!"
And there will be no mention what-so-ever of the true purpose of holding the open house "” so the agent can get exposure to potential buyers and work their magic converting them into clients. That lack of disclosure is just plain wrong, in my opinion. Well, not just mine. Read Michael McClure's insightful article, The Ethics of Open Houses. I linked to this article on my Facebook profile earlier this week and an excellent 112 comment discussion ensued. There is some great conversation in that thread, both pro and con over open houses (and like any "electronic conversation" it sometimes wanders off topic). That conversation is really the reason I'm writing this post. Facebook discussions are very transient which makes them difficult to find and I wanted to be able to reference that conversation, and the shared links, in the future. Putting a link to the conversation on this blog makes that possible. I did not write this post to demean anyone who believes in open houses. Hey, if they work for you, knock yourself out. Hopefully if you are using open houses to acquire new clients you are disclosing that information to your sellers. If you aren't disclosing that, well... shame on you. Can open houses actually sell the specific home being held open? Of course they can. Are they the most efficient marketing method for selling a home? Not even remotely according to numerous reports from agents as well as the National Association of Realtors. I'm sure that local conditions and customs play a large part in the true success of open houses. (And I'm defining "true success" of an open house as actually selling THAT house.) Another thing that seems to escape most of the agent-to-agent conversations about open houses are that if an unrepresented buyer does happen to come along and decide to purchase the home, then the listing agent is probably going to wind up representing both the buyer and the seller. Now we've entered into the dark and ugly world of single-agent dual agency – where one agent represents both buyer and seller in the same transaction. You don't want to get me started on that. See On Dual Agency, for my general thoughts on that matter if you are so inclined. Here's a little video I made during that Facebook conversation. It's just a quick and fun look at what agents might actually be doing at open houses. Don't be a hater, it was supposed to be funny.

Home sellers, buyers, agents and brokers, what are your experiences with open houses? Do they "work" – however you chose to define "work"? Do sellers "expect" their agents to hold open houses? How do you react to that? Personally, I think the time spent marketing and sitting in an open house is far better spent working on activities that are proven to reach more buyers – that being primarily the Internet. But maybe that's just me...

Thanks Jay Thompson for a great Open House article! :)

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest on Flickr. CC Licensed.

Posted by Colleen Lane on


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As we all know picking up clients at open houses is a long shot, but picking them up off of the internet is a little easier. So why not try to get them to go to your website to get more information or to rate an the open house. This way you can capture their contact information. Just a thought. Realtors need to think of new ways to connect to clients.

Posted by Sean Pearson on Saturday, June 11th, 2011 at 6:56pm

I agree Sean. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Posted by Joe & Colleen on Sunday, June 12th, 2011 at 5:56am

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