Pros and Cons of Holding an Open House (especially if you are the homeowner and NOT a realtor)
If you are selling your home and considering an Open House, READ THIS FIRST!
You want to sell your house and you get conflicting opinions: "You have to hold an Open House" or "Open Houses are a waste of time." Or your Realtor really doesn’t have that many goodies in his/her bag of sales tricks and pulls out the old standby: "We can always hold an Open House and see what happens."
Or, maybe you want to sell your house yourself and you view an Open House as a low cost way to capitalize on drive-by or foot traffic from other Open Houses in the neighborhood.
Personally, I think Open Houses work better in a good seller’s market. In a great one, you probably don’t need an Open House; in a bad one, it may be that nothing will help. I recently had my home in Michigan on the market for TWO years, so I’ve been through this. The best way to sell your house is to have a magic geni wave his wand and make it all happen. Ok, that’s not likely to happen, so you have to consider if you want to have Open Houses to sell your home.
Here are some thoughts on the pros and cons of holding an Open House to sell your home. First, I discuss the Pros of holding an Open House in general, and then if you do it yourself. Second, I discuss the Cons of holding an Open House in general and follow that with the cons of doing it yourself. These are all things to think about when marketing your home for sale.
Nine Pros of holding an Open House:
Semi-serious buyers may be more inclined to stop by an Open House because they won’t have the commitment of having to go through a realtor. New and/or tentative buyers may be less intimidated by attending Open Houses. They could like your house enough to become buyers. Potential buyers don’t have to set up appointments, enabling them to drive around and pick and choose only the houses and neighborhoods they like in situ (that is, seen all together, in place). In neighborhoods where HOAs (Homeowners Associations) forbid For Sale signs, an Open House may be the only way drive-by shoppers are even aware any homes are on the market in a neighborhood. In HOA neighborhoods, your neighbors will see your Open House signs and advise people they know of homes available, letting them help choose their new neighbors.
Home prepped for sale
An Open House may indicate a level of buyer interest in your house by the number of people who traipse through.
An Open House may indicate the amount of buyers actively shopping for homes.
An Open House is pretty inexpensive for the Realtor: the cost of an ad they should have placed anyway, a plate of cookies, re-usable signs (we had to have HOA specific signs at $50 each) and maybe a protective rug by the front door. Even if they don’t get prospects for your house, they will potentially pick up new customers out of the foot traffic or they’ll spend the afternoon on their Blackberry or watching TV. This is why they’re willing to give up a Sunday afternoon.
You might actually sell your home through an Open House! My neighbor did this in a close-knit community and sold their home on the first day. Caveat: the market was way different then!
Eight Pros of holding an Open House Yourself
Control: You choose the timing based on your needs, not that of your Realtor.
Capitalize on the weather: You can choose an Open House day based on good weather forecasts. My realtor had a bad tendency to choose rainy days—no one showed at all on two out of three of those!
Flexibility: You can close down early or stay open later if the traffic and weather indicate it’s a good idea.
Frequency: You can hold an Open House every weekend if you want. Your realtor will likely have commitments to other sellers.
You can talk to people and point out features of the house and the neighborhood. You can mention traffic patterns, schools, local parks, neighborhood advantages. You may meet some of your neighbors for the first time (not unusual in this day and age!), make a new friend or just have a nice social afternoon, even if it’s not productive.
You may get feedback on your home, your asking price, your neighborhood.
You get direct, unfiltered feedback on how it went.
Low cost advertising – just as for the Realtor above.
Eight Cons of holding an Open House
An Open House means opening your home to neighbors and strangers without conditions. This means nosy neighbors, potential buyers, curious cruisers, other realtors, thieves, bored people, etc. Holding an Open House is a lot of work: the house must be absolutely clean, the yard, walkway, garage, garden, everything in tip top shape. Anything that doesn’t add to the appeal of your home should be donated, discarded, stored or temporarily lodged at a neighbor’s home. Your things could be stolen! You need to take all the precautions normal of having your house available for potential buyers to walk through, and MORE. Depending how the afternoon goes, people may be walking unescorted through your home, or one person may distract you while the other walks through the home. Remove or lock up jewelry, personal papers, portable valuables, prescription medications, private stuff, etc. Some of it could be locked in your car or stored at a friend or relative’s home, or put in a safe deposit box. People will invade your personal space. I’ve had them sit down on my couch, help themselves to books off the shelf and relax! Their kids have also written all over my chalkboard. (The kids didn’t bother me—strangers treating my den like a public library did!) If you have personal stuff, whether x-rated, medical or just private, lock it up! People WILL go through the closets, medicine cabinets and cupboards, even if they’re just sizing them up to determine if their stuff will fit. You may experience damage to your home, although it’s likely to be limited to muddy footprints. Things could get knocked over or broken. An Open House is an opportunity for someone to “case the joint” as they used to say. There may be a sign in sheet where the Realtor collects names, but is that worth anything? You really don’t know who could be walking through and why. You, your family and pets have to leave for a whole afternoon. If you work at home, like me, that is annoying, especially when you have to put away all your paperwork and clear your desk! It is likely to be a big waste of time and energy, especially in a down market where hardly anyone is house-shopping.
Nine Cons of Holding an Open House Yourself
Safety, Safety, Safety: You may be alone in your home with strangers walking through—be sure to have someone with you or nearby and ask a neighbor or friend to call or stop by to check on you! Safety first! If you have an alarm system, make sure you know how to set it off yourself if necessary. Most people are pretty harmless, you are in much more danger of having your ear talked off than anything! Holding an Open House yourself is even more work without a Realtor to assist you because you need to scrubbing the house, eliminating clutter, mowing the yard, planting bright flowers AND advertising and arranging for signage. You will need to create and print up flyers for people to have available, preferably with color photos of your home and interior. There won’t be anyone to hold your hand for this kind of detail! And, of course, you need to bake/get your own cookies! Just kidding—you don’t really need cookies to sell your house!
You don’t have that objective, buyer’s eye that your Realtor does. A Realtor will advise you to put half your books or knick-knacks in storage, get rid of the cat smell you don’t notice anymore. They may even help you move furniture or re-arrange the pictures on the wall. The Realtor of one of my friends fixed her garage door opener! Inexperience means you don’t necessarily know the best things to say and not say about your home. You are a captive audience if anyone wants to talk your ear off, ask how much last January’s gas bill was or what the 5th grade teachers are like or why you’re selling and when you’re moving. You may find it very annoying if the talker is not really a buyer. You may get direct feedback on your home that could hurt your feelings or offend you. You may just waste your time, energy and enthusiasm and have nothing to show for it.
Bottom Line on Holding an Open House
Holding Open Houses isn’t for sissies. They involve a lot of work, necessitate some precautions and come without guarantees. They can take a leap of faith, a rhinocerous hide and a big dash of hope!
Think twice before you agree to one, or decide to hold your own.
Good luck selling your house, however you decide to go about doing it!