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Are open houses still relevant in real estate?

by Kelly Leighton on

Do you still host open houses? Do you find they help your business?

Across Pennsylvania, some Realtors® still find open houses beneficial to their business, while others cite changing technology as a cause for a decrease in the popularity of open houses.

“In the Pittsburgh market, due to low inventory, the best approach if the home is priced right and in good condition is to list on the MLS on Wednesday or Thursday and have no showings until the open house on Sunday. What this does is create tons of interest,” said District 10 Vice President Preston Moore. “Then on Sunday, you will have 10-plus couples at the open house and multiple offers. By Monday, the home is sold and the seller has only been inconvenienced five days and everybody is happy.”

While technology has allowed people to see properties from the comfort of their own homes in minutes, Moore doesn’t think it replaces open houses. “It has made the buying process easier for the buyers. Now, they have a good idea what is being offered before they show up, meaning very few surprises and less wasting time on homes that don’t fit their lifestyle,” he said.

“Buyers primarily find homes on their own now,” said District 8 Vice President Adam Conrad. “Gone are the days where a real estate agent loads buyers into their car and drives them around to view the choices the agent has made. Actually, the opposite is true now. The buyer sees the properties online, chooses which homes to view and provides a list to the agent. With this in mind, you can imagine why it’s important to have open houses. The buyers are seeking out homes and getting ideas of which types of homes they might like and the area they would like to live.”

Conrad added, “You only need one buyer. But it’s nice to have more than one buyer bidding on your home. Open houses create ‘buzz’ and activity on a home as more people visit the property in person. If you do have the open house, you can quickly get feedback from buyers who can be surveyed on the home when they stop by.”

District 3 Vice President Eric Rehling said he resorts to open houses if the property isn’t selling. “Our strategy has been to hold an open house if our initial pricing didn’t generate the right interest or offer. We use the open house as a tool for a refreshed marketing push at a different price point. The market now moves so briskly, the need for a new price point and refreshed marketing push hasn’t been there in abundance,” he said. “With the market and the technology available today with Google Earth, the ability to post virtually unlimited pictures, video, etc., it is hard to justify the need for an open house. We will do it on occasion, but on the whole we find many sellers adverse to the idea of an open house.”

“The market is much more efficient and transparent. Buyers can get a great feel for the home from their phone or computer. I 100% agree there is no substitute for walking through a home. It’s just the tools today allow a buyer to gain enough information to cross homes off their list that they wouldn’t have been able to eliminate years ago. There is just as much ‘shopping’ going on. The difference is more pre-shopping online, so the actual walking through homes is limited to those that more closely match the buyer’s desires. The days of the open house being the main conduit to help buyers notice a property is on the market have passed us by,” he added. “With anything, I think it goes in cycles. While technology has definitely reduced the impact and need for an open house, I think the drop off for us is more about the market. When the market slows, I feel our open houses will tick up again. When listing a home it is all about how using the right marketing tools for the situation. Some marketing tools are good in brisk markets and some are good in slower markets.”

District 1 Vice President Heather Petrone-Shook likes to host open houses, even if it means just neighbors stopping by for food.

“I feel that as a listing agent, I get to possibly give the buyers a different perspective on the house than their agent might not be able to. A few times, while hosting my open house listing, I overheard a buyers’ agent tell their client incorrect information about the house and or the area. I offered the correction to their agent to make sure they had the correct information to give to their client,” said Petrone-Shook. “Sure, you can view a house or take a walking tour of the inside or street but let’s face it, sometimes the photos make less desirable houses look fantastic and fantastic houses look less desirable. Buyers still like to get their own eyes, and sometimes the eyes of every family member and friend within 50 miles, on the actual property.”

If you stop by one of Petrone-Shook’s open houses, you’re in for a sweet treat at least. “I like to bake cookies. Not only does it make the house smell delicious, but there’s also a snack for the buyers to nibble on while they think over one of the largest purchases of their lives.”

To save time, she admits she may use the Tollhouse cookie dough from the store. “Don’t forget to set a reminder timer. Nothing distracts buyers like burnt cookie smell.”


Open house
Comments (8)


  • jack fleming    June 11, 2019 | 7:46 am

    Some where in the Code of Ethics (you may have forgotten that thing we all agreed to) it says we are committed to using all of our resources to sell the home for our clients. I host a minimum of two OHs a month and it does make a difference. First of all it demonstrates to the seller that we are willing to take our time in pursuit of selling their home. Second it allows me to send buyers to the OH if I cannot make. Not everyone who comes to the OH buys that home but they do network And that networking pays off for both buyers and sellers.

    Reply to jack fleming
  • Ed D’Alessandro    June 11, 2019 | 8:50 am

    Frankly if you don’t do open houses it’s being lazy . You have a responsibility to your seller to use all resources available even if the inventory is low . Depending on technology only ,as a selling tool makes you not relevant . It opens you up to FSBO mentality and discount uneducated on line real estate boutiques that offer no expertise … isn’t that what we are selling to begin with . Connecting and real-time communicating are the best tools …not text email and blogs .

    Reply to Ed D’Alessandro
  • Ken Murawski    June 11, 2019 | 9:29 am

    This may be a good time to recognize that as real estate professionals we all get to decide the best course of action to market/sell a home. I’m a big fan of open houses and advise my agents to do them routinely but saying that it’s the only way to do this is like saying “lets bring back the real estate books because they worked too”. Assuming that the only way to connect with potential buyer and sellers is through an open house leaves about 49 other options unexplored.

    Reply to Ken Murawski
  • Jonathan Orens    June 11, 2019 | 10:24 am

    Certainly, promising an open house or two to a seller can be very helpful in obtaining the listing – whether you believe they are necessary or not. In the old days, to spend 3 hours sitting at an open house with no activity on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon when everyone else is on the beach can be demoralizing. These days, if you are conscious about your time and productivity, and have the proper tools to be connected to your data, you can still accomplish a lot, even if no one shows up. Thus, you have effectively knocked out two birds with one stone. 1) securing the listing and 2) knocked out a lot of odds and ends on your task list. Hell, if you do find a buyer or a future client during the open house, you can consider that some pretty lucrative icing on the cake.

    Reply to Jonathan Orens
  • Al    June 11, 2019 | 9:27 pm

    I do open houses for the top agent in my office almost every Sunday.

    She clears over one million in commissions year over year.

    Keep telling me Open Houses don’t generate business?

    Reply to Al
  • Lisa Roemer    June 13, 2019 | 8:53 am

    I have a question for Preston Moore: do you go Active on the MLS with showings blocked until after the open house, or do you utilize coming soon until the day of the open house? Thank you

    Reply to Lisa Roemer
  • Ryan Thomas    June 13, 2019 | 11:20 am

    I have to admit, I have not been a fan of open houses, but reading these comments is making me reconsider. I do disagree with one comment about it just being lazy. I could say that not going door to door or making cold calls is lazy. I also think it’s a stretch to say that it’s a code of ethics issue not to do them. If we had to use “every resource available” then we’d also be in violation if we failed to do a T.V. ad or news paper or post cards or social media or eflyers or billboards, and so on. There are many different avenues to get business and to market homes. Each of us needs to decide how best to utilize our time and resources which will determine our level or success. So, not doing an open house doesn’t need to be some kind of character flaw. I really like the idea of listing mid-week and opening up showings on the day of the open house to build the potential for multiple offers. But, location is still a factor for me. I have one on 18 acres right now and very rural. I am doing an open house at the sellers request, but I will be taking my computer to work on, cause pretty sure no one will show up. If I’m lucky, maybe at least a neighbor who’s thinking of selling.

    Reply to Ryan Thomas
    • Lee Garlin    June 27, 2019 | 8:41 am

      I totally agree with you Ryan…to say it is lazy or against Code of Ethics is a stretch to say the least! We all have different business models that work, so work your business and get your seller to the closing table with as little stress as possible, with or without an open house.

      Reply to Lee Garlin

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