Open houses can be a great tool to garner interest and sell a home quicker, but only if they attract the right crowd. All too often, foot traffic into a listing is made up of nosy neighbors and uncommitted buyers. To avoid wasting sellers’ and their own time, real estate agents are increasingly shunning the open house and only showcasing the house online.

“It is a well-known fact that open houses do not sell homes,” says Doug Miller, executive director of Consumer Advocates in American Real Estate, a non-profit focused on improving the financial literacy of home buyers and sellers. “Open houses serve one purpose only, to provide free networking opportunities for rookie agents to meet buyers looking for other homes and to meet other sellers.”

Instead of relying on open houses, real estate agents are putting most of their efforts into marketing online. According to experts, about 90% of home sales are found on the internet. “Sellers should always select a highly qualified broker from a smaller firm and insist upon a thorough marketing plan,” says Miller. “It should include all the top real estate websites like Zillow.com, Trulia.com, and Realtor.com. The best way to sell a home is through the internet. Almost all buyers start their search there.”

D-List Attendees

Open houses are often touted as the best way to bring numerous buyers into a property within a small period of time and get it sold quickly, but realtor Mike Puckett, argues just the opposite happens.

“To me, this is part of the marketing scheme that many realtors like to tell their potential clients,” Puckett, who works at Sycamore Group Relators in Indianapolis, says. “…the owner has to leave their home for two hours and quite often, no one shows up.” 

According to realtor Joe Spake, the attendance list at an open house tends to include curious neighbors, people who view open houses as an afternoon activity and serious buyers who knowingly can’t afford the house. “Sometimes you’ll get other agents dropping in for a quick preview,” he adds.

Open Season for Thieves

In addition to wasting the seller’s time, open houses can also pose a security risk. After all, these are strangers walking through personal spaces and home owners’ risk items getting stolen or broken. Miller claims it’s well documented that theft and even violent crimes occur at open houses.

“Publishing an open house is an invitation to criminals and provides a unique opportunity for criminals to case a home for a future crime or commit a crime while someone else distracts the onsite realtor.”

Since open houses are usually only hosted by one agent, Miller says it’s impossible for that him or her to know what’s going on in the house at all times. To reduce the chance of theft, experts recommend removing valuable form the house, set up video recording devices and require a realtor to have enough people in the house to monitor all visitors.

Make the Most of an Open House

Experts recommend limiting the number of open houses and avoid scheduling them at the same time as major events like holidays or a football game to increase their effectiveness.

For instance, Indianapolis-based Puckett knows that if the Colts are playing, he won’t be able to garner much traffic at an open house. He also advises de-cluttering and making sure a home is well-lit before inviting in potential buyers. Hanging a sign up five days ahead of the open house listing the details can also increase interest. 

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