It's Time For Realtors to Stand Firm on Not Doing Open Houses

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Showcase Homes

Every year I order the results of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Survey of Home Buyers and Sellers. I am particularly interested in How the Buyer Found His or Her Home in the last year because that determines where my marketing efforts will go to sell the homes that I list. Because the numbers pertaining to open houses are so dismal, it is no longer a category in the survey results. I do understand that open houses were more successful before personal computers and the internet but now, approximately 90 percent of buyers begin their home search on the internet. Thirty six percent will find their home on the internet, another thirty six percent will find their home through the help of a realtor, twelve percent from a yard sign and six percent from a friend, neighbor or a relative. That covers ninety percent. Another five percent, will purchase new construction from a home builder or the builder's agent.

So why do some realtors continue to do open houses? I find that generally two types of realtors continue to do open houses despite the numbers. The first category is the realtor who has not adapted to the internet. He or she refuses to accept that it is here to stay and plans to retire in the next few years, so why bother? The other category is the new and inexperienced realtor. Both categories of  realtors have just a few listings and hope to acquire some buyers from the open houses. The reality is that qualified buyers who are looking for a home such as the one listed by the realtor will find it from the top sources listed above and either call the listing agent or have his or her own realtor schedule a showing.

Open houses are also a HUGE security risk for the sellers and the realtor. We all have been notified by our Boards of murders, robberies, rapes, etc. that have occurred at open houses. Let's face it. A realtor has no control over who is coming through the door at an open house. By doing so, you are leaving the door wide open to those who have motives other than buying a house. Besides those who intend to do harm to a realtor, you invite nosy neighbors, people looking for free food or a bathroom, and burglars to see what the seller has inside the home for him to take when no one is home.

At every list appointment that I have, I advise the seller prospects about the facts of open houses. Almost all of them, after being given the facts,, respond with "That's great. We were worried that you would want to do open houses and we are not comfortable with idea." Since I have been doing this in listing appointments, I have never had a seller insist that I do open houses. If I do, I will pass on the listing. A seller who refuses to accept the facts, will probably be difficult when it comes to the many other things that come with selling a home such as pricing, taking care of the home, etc.

I sell approximately 85% of the homes that I list. I am not a "mega" lister. I am interested in the quality of the seller and his or her home they want to sell and its price. When other realtors are doing open houses, I am doing things that are much safer and productive like showing homes to buyers who contact me through the internet or yard signs or just having some me time.

Posted by

Lee Morof
Associate Broker/Attorney
RE/MAX Showcase Homes, Birmingham, Michigan
Call:  248-514-2640


Re-Blogged 16 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. David Okada 12/27/2009 03:07 AM
  2. D B 12/27/2009 03:38 AM
  3. Ann Dail 12/27/2009 06:10 AM
  4. Jim McCormack 12/27/2009 07:15 AM
  5. Don Shurts 12/27/2009 10:04 AM
  6. Gail Robinson 12/27/2009 10:18 AM
  7. Jamelah Jackson-Alam 12/27/2009 11:31 AM
  8. DeWayne & JoAnn Hess 12/27/2009 12:32 PM
  9. Susan Emo 12/27/2009 12:46 PM
  10. Jack Fleming 12/27/2009 01:06 PM
  11. Shelly Fisher 12/28/2009 01:39 AM
  12. Missy Lettinga 12/28/2009 03:08 AM
  13. Lyn Sims 12/28/2009 03:57 AM
  14. Tony Barker 12/29/2009 01:43 AM
  15. Jeff R. Geoghan 01/11/2010 08:53 AM
  16. Brian Schulman 01/11/2010 11:31 PM
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Jack Fleming, Weichert, Realtors

Lee I have to disagree. I have gained many sales generated through Open Houses. I sit them not to sell the parrticular house I'm sitting. If 10 buyers walk into my Open House I know only one of them can buy it. So I concentrate on gaining them as buyers or sellers for other listings.

I explain the the sellers the chance of a buyer walking in is about 1-2%. But it does give the home exposure on the market. There are some agencies that do little or no advertising. Their websites are weak and they have no internal support mechanism. Every Open House I sit is advertised on the internet and in local papers. I use a lot of directional signs in the neighborhood. It also gives me an opportunity to connect with potential sellers and buyers in the neigborhood. It's cheaper than sending out postcards and I always get appointments.

It's just another sales strategy. Last month I did an additional $600,000 worth of business from a buyer/seller I met at an Open House last year. BTW the Open House I was sitting when I met them was the result of another Open House a few months earlier. That seller/buyer gave me $1,000,000 in business.

Maybe you shouldn't be doing Open Houses. If you think they are a waste of time then they probably are. I don't SIT an Open House. I WORK an Open House. There is a difference.

Dec 27, 2009 06:22 AM #201
Nancy McNamee
Keller Williams Realty - Roseville, CA

Each to his own.  People need to do what is comfortable for them and works for them.  Personally, I have been suceesful with leads that I have received at Open Houses and I've even sold that particular house in more that one case.  Are they a bust sometimes, yes.  But I'm willing to take a chance. 

I don't generally do an Open House by myself and I have a pretty good record of having people sign.  I follow up with eveyone who signs in and can pretty much tell if we have made a connection or not.  Face to face works better than other means for me.

Dec 27, 2009 06:27 AM #202
Robin Gilman
Remax Executive Realty - Holliston, MA

Hi Lee.  I have to say, that I am not a Realtor that matches the profile of either of the "two types of Realtors that still do open houses" but I do strongly believe in them.  I am consistently successful ranking for the past several years among the top 25 REMAX agents in New England.  Each and every year I can contribute at least 25% of my business to open houses.  I will either sell the home or meet a viable buyer but either way, why would I not want to do them?  I do insist that my sellers lock up all valuables because I will agree with your comments on safety issues.  I believe in them so strongly that I will try to book two each Sunday for a 2 hour period whenever possible.  In most cases I see 10-25 people.  The more eyes on a home, the better chance of getting it sold.  Even if it is just a "nosey neighbor" sometimes they are the people that know a buyer for the home.  My sellers appreciate my efforts.  I find that the majority of buyers (first timers certainly) start out going to open houses.  Many are shopping not only for a home but sometimes for a buyers agent.  They meet many agents at these open houses and a good agent that engages them in conversation and impresses them with knowledge of the home, the area and real estate in general, may well be an agent they decide they would like to work with.  I have had many phone calls from buyers saying "I met you at such and such open house and would be interested in working with you as my buyer agent.  Sometimes many months after the initial meeting.  (I love those calls). If I meet a buyer for the home at the open house, and they wish to purchase this home,  I of course represent the seller and remain a sellers agent.  If however this home is not right for the buyer, I have found that many "unattached buyers" are ripe for building a buyer agency relationship.  For those buyers that attend the open house but are represented by a buyer agent, I will follow up with the agent whose name they gave to encourage dialoug about the house and potentially get them back in with the agent.  I builds rapor and relationships with agents who send their buyers out to open houses.  The long and short of it is that if I can say that 12 transactions a year came directly from conducting open houses and most years I can...I will keep looking forward to them!

Dec 27, 2009 06:31 AM #203
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

To me its strictly a LOCAL issue.  In my own territory, the variations are dramatic.  There are some areas where open houses do absolutely, zippo, notta.  And there are other locations where they come in in droves.  Some areas fall in the middle.  I have found that densely populated areas in desirable neighborhoods attract a lot of traffic.  Please note that the area I work turns on a dime as far as neighborhood.  You can be in a major down town center one minute and go one mile and be in a small suburban village or even near a big park where the population is sparse.  The more remote the neighborhood, the less traffic I get.   I don't think that its any accident that areas like Manhattan still have a lot of open houses.

Dec 27, 2009 06:45 AM #204
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

To me its strictly a LOCAL issue.  In my own territory, the variations are dramatic.  There are some areas where open houses do absolutely, zippo, notta.  And there are other locations where they come in in droves.  Some areas fall in the middle.  I have found that densely populated areas in desirable neighborhoods attract a lot of traffic.  Please note that the area I work turns on a dime as far as neighborhood.  You can be in a major down town center one minute and go one mile and be in a small suburban village or even near a big park where the population is sparse.  The more remote the neighborhood, the less traffic I get.   I don't think that its any accident that areas like Manhattan still have a lot of open houses.

Dec 27, 2009 06:45 AM #205
Chrysti Tovani
eXp Realty, LLC. - Sacramento, CA
Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Great post!  Excellent use of title to stir up a lot of conversation.  Kudos!

Dec 27, 2009 06:48 AM #206
Gary Davies
Remax - Chilliwack, BC

Well, I'm firmly on the Open House "side", and I used to hate Opens!  Over half my business this year came from clients I met at Open Houses, and I'm a President's Club Realtor because of it!  I'm not a big Internet fan, but I'm smart enough to know it's because I don't do it PROPERLY! :), and if Opens aren't working for you, it's the same reason.  If you are focusing on selling the house at Open Houses, you don't get it!  There are houses you will sell at an Open House (rarely), but the focus should be on meeting prospective clients, gettting their information, and following up!  I use an immediate personal note that I write that day, and then a follow up call, and follow up mail info on a regular basis.  Take your laptap of you like, and work on your website in your spare time!  There's nothing better than getting a call from a client who came through your Open 6 months ago, and is calling you to list their home!  Because you are the ONLY Realtor who made any personal contact with them and kept at it!  Like some of the earlier comments, I can't believe how many Realtor's use statistics to "prove" their point of view, but skip the parts that don't fit in! :)

Dec 27, 2009 07:02 AM #207
Kathy Schowe
California Lifestyle Realty - La Quinta, CA
La Quinta, California 760-333-8886

Our team uses Open Houses as a tool to appease the seller, and aquire buyers--also you receive alot of good feedback on Open Houses from other agents and the public.  I do them periodically to work on my skills--  Kathy

Dec 27, 2009 07:07 AM #208
Jim McCormack
Nashville Short Sale Specialist - Jim McCormack - Edge Advantage Realty, LLC - 615-784-EDGE (3343) - Murfreesboro, TN
Nashville Short Sale REALTOR - Stop Foreclosure

Great post.  I stopped doing open houses several years ago.  They are worthless.

Dec 27, 2009 07:14 AM #209
Michael J. Gallo
Florida Luxury Realty - New Port Richey, FL
Florida Luxury Realty - Gulf Home Sales Team

I can not get behind you on this.  Yes, the chances of an actual sale from the Open House is Slim, the marketing potential fo rthe agent is there.  open Houses do not need to be a total bust.  I worked mortgages for years and as part of my lead generation I attended Open Houses.  I captured many many clients through attending open houses and built solid relationships with Realtors at the same time.  If you do not want to do them, dont and if the seller wants them...Dont Take The Listing.   A Properly executed Open House is evident when you are at one.  Sell Yourself....not so much the house.  People who are loking for Agents attend open houses....potential buuyers and sellers are walking through the door.  Granted, You need to properly advertise the open house and offer some "goodies".  A tray of cookies is worth capturing a lead to me. 

Newbies Can Build their Database from Open Houses.  They are NOT worthless. 

Dec 27, 2009 07:27 AM #210
Patricia Paul, GRI - Long Realty Co, Tucson, Arizona (520) 548-

Not only have I sold my own listings while sitting them open, I have picked up numerous buyers and sellers in the process, which have resulted in a string of multiple transactions for more than a few of them.  Open Houses are obviously not my only marketing approach; I take full advantage of internet opportunities and social media networking.  Let's face it, we should use a combination of tools that are available to us.  When market conditions change, we need to be flexible with our marketing plans.

Favorite thing about Open Houses:  Picking up new clients

Least favorite thing about Open Houses:   Putting out/taking down the metal signs! (Especially when it's 100 degrees outside!)

Observation based on experience:   Most buyers come walking up in the final minutes, as you are trying to lock up!

Dec 27, 2009 07:31 AM #211
Darcy Eggeman
RE/MAX Parkside Affiliates - Olympia, WA


True I am a fairly new agent 3+ years, but I do open houses and in the last three years have picked up 4 buyers - all who closed on a home, and 1 listing.

Dec 27, 2009 07:33 AM #212
Alyse "Aly" Sands
Village Real Estate Services - Nashville, TN

I have to agree with you, Lee.  I've done some open houses recently at a seller's request...even though I've discussed that they usually don't yield a buyer.  I've actually held open houses with the seller sitting with me as long as they agree to allow me to do ALL the talking to the guests. The time serves as a meeting and a bonding visit and I'm not by myself.

I refuse to do an open house alone.  I feel like you may as well put a sign out that says, "I'M ALONE IN A HOUSE...COME AND GET ME!".  To date, I've never sold a home through an open house and I don't think I've ever sold a home to a buyer who I met at an open house.  I know one agent who has sold multiple homes at his open houses.  I don't know how he does it but it's certainly not the norm.

Dec 27, 2009 07:36 AM #213
Debra Hubka
Benchmark Realty & Consulting, LLC - Tuscaloosa, AL

I don't really care for open houses.  I especially do not like it when traffic is slow to none.  I find my self thinking about more profitable ways I can be spending my time.  However, I will keep doing them because every once in a while a good lead comes along.

Dec 27, 2009 07:40 AM #214
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Although you might sell a house the main purpose of an open house is to connect with other buyers and sellers.  Just because they begin the search on the Internet does not mean the end it on the Internet.  At some point they need to make a connection with a real agent.

Dec 27, 2009 08:08 AM #215
Ila Josephs
Tarbell, Realtors - Ontario, CA
Ila Josephs, Real Estate Broker

I LIKE open houses! When a house is vacant, I do open houses every weekend I can. When the house is occupied, I schedule Sunday open houses at the seller's convenience - Sunday because that's the day a lot of home buyers in this area drive around looking at homes they've seen online. I've not sold a house I was holding open, but there's always a first time! However, I have closed 4 transactions this year with people I met at open houses, plus 2 others from people referred to me by open house visitors. Plus, I've met many, many home owners, one of whom is ready to sell his house. I got a listing appointment because he liked what he saw and what he heard at an open house.

True, 80 percent or more of home buyers begin their home search online. They find a Realtor by personal experience, getting a referral from people they trust, advertising, etc. Often, they take a road trip to look at the houses they've seen online and stop to talk to agents holding open houses in the area. If I'm there, and they like what they hear, so much the better for me. Probably half he prospective buyers visiting my open houses have agents. Not a problem! If the agent is there too, that's one more showing and the sellers weren't inconvenienced with individual appointments. If the agent isn't with them - well, buyers sometimes switch to a more involved agent, don't they?

Preparation is the key. Yes, I've been left sitting alone at an open house, but can't remember when I had no visitors at all and I always plan things to do during the down times. Walking the neighborhood, newspaper ads, putting up directional signs early in the morning, all help bring visitors. Follow-up is equally important. If you have visitors, get their name, address, phone number, e-mail and don't stay in touch, you have only yourself to blame if open houses don't work for you!

Dec 27, 2009 08:29 AM #216
Carol McCarthy
Realty World Select - Lake Ridge, VA

Whenever there is an opportunity to meet people, there is a marketing/selling opportunity. I do prefer only to do my own open houses. I've experienced being asked by other agents to do open houses  as a favor for them because their clients wanted them to but they had a personal obligation that weekend. This usually turns out to be a waste of my time and the money that I've spent on the snacks. However, when open houses are for my listings, and I do the marketing, usually something good happens. Either I meet a new buyer, and explain that as their agent, I will help them find the right house for them. It may or may not be this particular house. On my last open house, I was called by an agent who wanted to show my listing and was quite sure that her client would like it. She wound up bring her to the open house, which was great because all of the lights were on, there were yummy snacks and good smells, classical music playing. Also, there were others looking at the house at the same time, which urged them to put in a contract that evening before anyone else grabbed it. 

Dec 27, 2009 09:36 AM #217
Russell Benson
Berkshire-Hathaway HomeServices/Anderson Properties - Moore, OK

I believe open houses are more of a waste of time these days BUT I think they are great for new agents trying to get their foot in the door and resales in additions with a lot of new homes are still great places to hold an open house.

Like I said, new agents should be holding homes open every weekend if possible.  It gives them great experience and is a great way to pick up buyers.

Dec 27, 2009 02:43 PM #218
Like most aspects of real estate, the decision to do opens is based on many factors. By holding opens, I am prequalifying my buyers while meeting neighbors who may be 'interviewing' Realtors. If I have idle time, I'm updating my website or pulling market data. It's all about being productive. After 5 years Doing opens I find they continue to provide new client opportunities.
Dec 28, 2009 07:13 AM #219
David Laven
Keller Williams Realty Boston Metro - Boston, MA
Best post eva!
Dec 31, 2009 02:19 AM #220
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Lee Morof

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