About half of the territory I work is rural in nature. For you city folks, that means that the homes can be a mile apart and are located on a dirt road. A lot of the homes I list are at least 30-40 minutes from a city and require a map and compass to reach.
So the question is: Is it a viable business proposition to hold an open house for a home in a rural setting? My tendency is to say no, but there is a caveat to that response. The truth is, with gas prices near $4.00 a gallon, selling in a rural area is a challenge. Getting buyers to come to an open house is as well, since it can mean a significant investment for them in time and gas. The most successful open houses I've held in rural areas are in country developments in which there are a several homes for sale and all of the agents hold an open house on the same day. That can take a bit of coordination and, heaven forbid, require that we talk to other agents (said with a smile), but the results can be rewarding, especially if everyone offers some kind of food (if you feed them, they may come).
What about solo open houses in a country setting? If it is a spectacular property and you have ample time to advertise, it might be worth trying. Otherwise, your time and money might be better spend marketing the property using virtual tours and Web-based advertising. Nothing, and I mean nothing, works better in a rural area than Web-based marketing. This is especially true for higher-priced homes
A case in point is a home I had listed in a small town northwest of Ann Arbor. This home was a beauty, but was in a price range in which there was a seven-year inventory of homes available. Yes, SEVEN! Only one or two homes sell over $300K in this town each year and there are about seven on the market right now in that price range. I had a full-blown virtual tour created, complete with lots of stills for the home and posted everything on www.realtor.com as well as the local MLS. The folks who purchased the home were living in Egypt at the time and found the home via the Web. They viewed all the photos, all the tours, and asked for a few others as well. Ultimately, they purchased the home having only walked through it one hour before the closing.
Now, it would not have been possible for them to view the home at a open house and the same is true for many of our buyers now. Time, money, and complicated lives prevent many of our buyers from wandering the country around on a Sunday afternoon. Most rural buyers are only viewing homes after previewing and prequalifying them on the Web. The same can be said for all buyers, but it is especially true for those in rural areas. The upshot of this diatribe is simple - I believe it is better to market rural properties well on the Web than via open houses. Any thoughts from other rural agents?
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