Do Open Houses really work to bring in buyers? Lately, it seems there a lot of nosey neighbors and curious people passing through to get decorating tips. Sometimes people just come in to see what values are so they can conduct research to sell their own homes. Often they see a sign and have to kill time before a errand, a sporting event or a birthday party, so they come in to look around for a few minutes.
Sunday after Sunday, we real estate agents put up our signs, tie our balloons, bring our materials (brochures, copies of schools info, pages of comparable data, business cards, music, etc) armed and ready to entertain the masses. Much of the time we are just showing people around who are curious and have no intention of buying the property. I must say I have met some wonderful people at open houses and I sold many in my day back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In fact during my first ten years in the business, I personally sat at over 40 open houses each year (my former office made them mandatory for all new agents.)
We ask people to sign in, remove their shoes, and tell us about themselves and try to find out how they heard about our open house. Most are coming from the Internet and we post our open houses on as many as 30 high-traffic websites. Often we have a friendly chat, but it is not untypical for people to be rude, use the bathroom (and leave a mess or break the faucet), make nasty comments about the house or the neighbors and it just does not help the property sell.
I held an open house recently and one woman parked herself in the living room and nursed her infant for over an hour, while talking on her cell phone, making each and every person feel very awkward as they tried to see the house. Then she laid her baby on the floor, changed a stinky diaper, asked to throw her dirty diaper in the garbage and if she could use the bathroom. Has the public completely forgotten what is reasonable behavior? I was in too much shock at this point to say no, and I feared that I would be offending this person or one of the people walking through who had not witnessed the full hour of lactation display in front of the fireplace.
I kid you not as I recall one very hot Sunday over the summer, when someone was jogging and decided to stop in and take a look around. The woman was literally dripping wet and when I asked her to leave, she could not fathom that the sellers would mind that she was leaving a trail of fresh sweat on their gleaming wood floors, not to mention the odor.
Our open houses generally last from 1 to 4 and when someone comes at 4:01, they become nasty when you tell them you must leave and lock up the house, to be on time for your next appointment. When we ask people politely to hold onto their children and not touch anything in the house they look at us cross-eyed. Does the seller really want some strange child with dirty hands to come in and play with the toys of their children?
Recently a woman ran into an open house and said she was in a big rush. Her toddler needed to use the bathroom so she put him in the powder room and said, “I’ll be right back, I’m just running upstairs.” A minute later her child emerged, after proving that 3 year old boys have bad aim, and stepped out into the hall with is pants down around his ankles. The mother was still upstairs and we had a naked child in our entry foyer greeting other visitors. Exactly what is a Realtor supposed to do at this point?
Most large agencies encourage their agents to hold open houses every Sunday so they can meet and attract some clients. They have no intention of selling the house and often they don’t even get off of their cell phones long enough to greet people who are coming in the door. Many of my buyers tell me shocking stories of how they went to an open house and the agent never so much as looked at them, let alone talked to them! It is not just the prospects who are rude, it seems some of the Real Estate agents have forgotten their manners as well.
All kidding aside, I used to believe that Open Houses made sense, but there are times when I question whether it is the right strategy.
What do you think about Open Houses? Are they working for you? Towne Realty Group will continue to schedule them every Sunday (as long as the weather cooperates) but you have to ask yourself sometimes, ‘Is this really the best way to sell a house?”