“We are concerned about a lot of strangers and curious neighbors coming through our home, but most agents tell us we have to do an open house. Is it that important?”
–A longtime Santa Monica homeowner
One “open house” time that is essential is the broker’s preview period, often termed “caravan.” In most Westside areas this is scheduled for three hours on a Tuesday when the marketing of the home starts. Many agents bring their buyer clients during this time, or simply send them over when they know it will be open for previewing. In some areas, agents supplement this with an additional preview period later the same day. This will accommodate people who would like to come back for a second viewing or those who were not able to come during the regular time.
The main benefit to a seller of having Sunday open houses is that it gives greater exposure to more people, hopefully including some good prospects. Surveys have found that about 2 percent of people who became actual buyers would most likely not have seen the property if it had not been open during their Sunday drive. An open house also makes it easier for real estate agents to send or bring clients during a three-hour period rather than scheduling a time-specific appointment. Some sellers prefer to leave their house for one three-hour period in the hope that this will replace several shorter periods to accommodate some showings to prospective buyers by appointment.
There are several possible drawbacks of an open house including, greater wear on the home and the possibility of accidental damage due to a large number of people in the house. There is also some risk of theft.
There are benefits to a real estate agent who does an open house. Possibly a lot of people will be coming through in a brief period. However, the open house agent is less likely to have good quality time with any one prospective buyer when others are coming and going. The agent may be more focused on the opportunity to meet neighbors and prospective future clients rather than focusing on the sale of the listed house. Of course, that is less likely to occur if the agent doing the open house is the actual listing agent.
If you decide to have your house open
• Plan on being away for more than three hours, and take any cats or dogs with you.
• The house should be cleaned and neatened-up. Have fresh flowers to add to the appeal.
• A good level of lighting and comfortable temperature will help make the house feel more inviting.
• If there are any pet or other strong household odors noticeable, see if these can be eliminated before the open house time.
• Put away any small and particularly fragile objects that may be especially tempting to young children coming through with their parents.
• Hide away any relatively small or valuable objects that may offer a temptation.
• Please do not leave any cash, jewelry, or prescription drugs accessible.
• Check to be sure there are no potential trip hazards left exposed.
All of the above having been said, most real estate agents derive a great deal of potential business from Sunday open houses, and many buyers report that they had seen the home they later purchased during a Sunday open house. Therefore, a case can be made for having an open house. Before you decide which agent to hire to represent you in the marketing of your home, ask what they think about open houses. Find out what procedures they use and if they have a system and checklist for holding open houses.
Michael Edlen provides counseling services to prospective buyers and sellers and helps more than 40 clients move each year. Most of his business is derived from a referral base of over 900 past clients. More tips and information are available on his website, www.MichaelEdlen.com. He can be reached at 310.230.7373 or via email at Michael@michaeledlen.com.