One summer Saturday when I was 13, my best friend and I found ourselves at my grandma’s house in the southwest hills of Portland, Oregon (if you’re not familiar with the southwest hills, this is the neighborhood with million-dollar views of Mt. Hood). Grandma wasn’t doing well and there was a lot of adult talk, so my friend and I decided to take a walk and look at the homes we would surely never, ever be able to afford. As we were walking along, we found an open house sign in front of what we thought was a HUGE, EXPENSIVE ESTATE. Anyway, being silly teenage girls with nothing else to do, we waltzed inside, met the real estate agent who was nice enough not to throw us out, and proceeded to run from one room to the next, fantasizing about living there and feeling like we had somehow tricked fate into letting us into this house and pretending like it was ours! No one was in the home besides the real estate agent, and I hope he was listening to our squeals because I’m sure we were quite entertaining. This was my first experience of an open house, and it was wonderful!
But here’s my point: serious buyers don’t go to open houses. Teenage girls do, neighbors do, lookie-loo’s and criminals, but serious buyers? They could care less. Serious Boise, ID buyers are already working with an agent and can schedule a personal tour of the home at their convenience; why would they want or need to go to an open house? And for the safety of your family, if your home is not vacant, it has no business being “open.”
According to the 2018 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, less than 7% of homes are sold due to an open house. I would even go a step further and guess that 7% was in those ridiculously fast-paced markets where the agents simply send their associates an open house e-vite and the house is sold without having to list on the MLS (think Flipping Las Vegas… Boise, ID is a stressful market these days, but nothing like Vegas!). If an agent holds more than one open house, they are either trying to build their business or appease their sellers. Here’s how it works:
Building a Business
I’m happy to hold open houses on my listings; I want to build my business as much as the next real estate agent! Open houses are a great way to get my face seen and build that name recognition, and they give me an opportunity to introduce myself to the neighbors. There is also the bonus of meeting potential buyers who may use me as their agent down the road as they grow more serious in the homebuying process. With over 5,000 agents in Boise, ID, open houses are a great way for me to break into the competition.
A lot of real estate agents don’t like doing open houses because we generally see them as a waste of time; however, it would be rare for an agent to refuse to do one at the seller’s request. In these cases, the agent would simply send out an all-office email for open house takers. And, lo and behold, the newbies jump at the chance of holding an open house in hopes of meeting someone who will eventually use them to buy a home (that’s why there’s a sign-in list at open houses, though I don’t use them with mine… it feels too aggressive.) During the busy season, I get emails almost every other day from Boise, ID agents who don’t want to hold their own open houses!
Appeasing a Seller
If a home isn’t selling as fast as a seller expected, a homeowner may get upset and question whether the agent is doing a good enough job marketing the home. This is when an agent, in order to appease the seller, may play the Open House Card to reassure their client and stay in their good graces. Sometimes an agent will pull out all the stops and do this in conjunction with print advertising, saying, “Please Mr. and Mrs. Seller, don’t give up on me yet. Let me put some ads on Craigslist, another in the newspaper, and hold a couple open houses.” Putting ads in Craigslist is another tool (a dubious one, in my opinion) to wrangle potential buyers, and no serious buyer looks in a newspaper to buy a house anymore. I wouldn’t necessarily say these agents are being dishonest by allowing their client to operate under the assumption that this marketing will sell their home, but I would say these agents, for some reason or another, cannot tell their clients the truth!
There was a home in my neighborhood of Hidden Springs, Idaho that sat on the market for nearly 90 days when other homes were selling in less than a week. The home was nice enough and priced fair, but after seeing a hardwood floor estimator pulling out of the driveway on my daily walk, I guessed the carpet was in bad shape. After a month and a half on the market, the real estate agent started holding open houses nearly every week. It got ridiculous when she held the 5th open house the freezing weekend before Christmas, balloons and all! When I see a Boise, ID REALTOR® holding open houses weekend after weekend, I can only assume it is because they have not been honest with their sellers, are “using” the listing to advertise themselves, or are simply clueless.
And it rubs me the wrong way. First, holding so many open houses reeks of desperation, the very last thing a seller wants to project; the agent is actually doing their client a disservice! Second, the agent is giving her seller the impression that the problem is not the condition or price of the house, but that the home doesn’t have enough exposure, and trust me: if the house is listed on the Boise, ID MLS, it has enough exposure! Third, it gives the home-selling public the impression that open houses are an integral part of marketing one’s home; it propagates a misconception.
What’s the harm of a misconception? Here’s a fictional but realistic scenario. Let’s say I am asked to visit a neighbor’s house to go over my marketing presentation with the goal of listing their home. I go through my whole spiel, including statistics such as the 7% Open House thing, and when it comes time to answer questions, the sellers say, “So you’re not going to do open houses?” I explain that I will do them, but an open house is not what sells a home, and we will need to take a good look at the feedback we’ve received from showings instead of resorting to holding open houses if it does not sell quickly. This goes against everything the seller “knows,” and they start to doubt my expertise. A couple weeks later, I see the house listed by another Boise, ID agent. Because of a misconception, I have lost business and my family has lost income. Consider having to take a pay cut from your job because of a generally accepted falsehood – a tough pill to swallow!
All that said, here is the bottom line: An open house CAN help in the initial marketing of a home; holding an open house the very first weekend on the market creates a buzz in the neighborhood and gives the impression that the property is a hot commodity. I love doing this bit of marketing for my sellers – it’s a great kickoff to what I expect to be a successful transaction! At the same time, I have a responsibility to provide accurate information to my clients as to why their home is not selling, and it would be unethical to hold an open house without giving my clients the full picture. If your Boise, ID home is not selling, it’s because of its condition or price, not a lack of open houses!