What’s It Worth?
You spent a week de-cluttering closets, cleaning out the garage, touching up paint, and finding somewhere for the dog to go. You race home from church to throw some cookies in the oven and run the sweeper one last time. “I hope it’s worth it,” you mutter to yourself as you jog through the house to flip on every light and illuminate every lamp. A quick light of the vanilla candle you placed in the kitchen, and you’re off to your mother’s house where you’ll spend the rest of the afternoon. You can’t help but wonder, is this really worth all the fuss? Sorry to say, but NO, IT’S NOT.
Open houses have been a staple in the real estate industry for a long time. Here’s a guide to secrets your agent will never tell you about open houses.
They Aren’t Safe
Letting un-vetted people roam your home doesn’t even SOUND like a good idea, yet every weekend, sellers everywhere do just that. A Realtor can’t possibly be in every room at the same time, nor can they be both outside and inside at the same time. Visitors include children, the elderly, and the disabled. Elderly and disabled people may need help navigating stairs and rooms with lots of furniture. Children tend to make a beeline for the play set in the backyard, while parents use the freedom to browse the house at their leisure. Should the agent follow the parents down into the basement, or make sure the children don’t get hurt on the tire swing? Are you, the seller, liable for injuries incurred on your property? I’m not a lawyer, but I strongly suggest you ask one before you agree to doing an open house. Be sure to ask your agent, too. I’m pretty sure they won’t be able to answer the question at all.
Open houses are also not safe for the agent. I remember doing open houses early in my career (we’ll chat more about this in a moment). I would advertise for a week that the home would be available for a tour with me as a sitting duck inside. It was very rare to have more than one or two visitors, and more often I had zero. The news has recently been full of reports of agents being attacked at open houses and showings. Looking back, I was putting myself and my seller in harm’s way. Even if open houses were an effective marketing method, the risk just isn’t worth it.
They Aren’t for the Seller’s Benefit
When I first began my career in real estate, my managing broker told me to do as many open houses as I possibly could. Why? Because the more newspaper ads I ran and the more open house signs I stuck in people’s yards, the more I could get my name out there. I asked if anyone ever sold houses from an open house. “No,” my broker said, “but you’ll build your business with little time, money, or effort. You can just sit at their kitchen counter and write prospecting letters!” And she was right. Getting my name out there and showing that I was a hard-working agent built my business faster than anything else that I had done – but it did not sell one single home. The sellers did all the work, and I got all the benefit. It didn’t take me long to recognize that this wasn’t what was best for the sellers, so I had quit doing open houses and founded my own firm. I just didn’t think it was right to use my listings as a prospecting tool.
The other way Realtors use open houses is to prospect for buyers. Of the few legitimate buyers who attend open houses, most of them don’t yet have a Realtors. This allows the agent to create a relationship with them and pick up a new buyer client. While it is exceptionally rare for those buyers to settle on the first house they ever toured (your open house), the agent couldn’t care less. They’ll just sell them something else. The pay is the same for them, and it was a cheap and easy way to pick up a new client. You have better things to do with you Sunday afternoon – quit spending it helping your agent build their business!
They are a Great Opportunity – for Thieves
The Metropolitan Board of Realtors (MIBOR) has published SEVEN warnings and reports of open house theft IN THE LAST YEAR. Many of the reports claim that prescription drugs were the target, and no reports have been made to the arrest of these criminals. Realtors do not check ID, require identification, or verify that visitors are viable buyers. In fact, most attendees at open houses are people who have no interest in buying the home, they are just curious what the house looks like on the inside. Agents call these people “Looky Lou’s”. Is that really what you want as a seller? Do you really want complete strangers, un-vetted, roaming your home? They are nearly always unsupervised at some point, and thieves often work in pairs and separate so the agent can’t be with both of them at the same time. Cameras, jewelry, prescription drugs, and electronics – anything small enough to fit in a purse or pocket – easily walks out the door.
They are Often a Bust
You did all that work, and no one came. Your agent offers an excuse about the Colts game being on, how bad the weather was (or how nice it was, etc.) – the inconvenience of it all. When I was a rookie, I did more open houses than anyone in my office. I sat in more houses that had ZERO visitors than in ones that actually had attendees. The odds aren’t in your favor, so you’re more likely to be disappointed than pleasantly surprised.
Even with all this, some people can’t resist the urge to do an open house. Just make sure every room of your house is secure, all valuable and medicines are locked up, and you set your expectations low. Don’t leave your agent in the house alone (suggest they bring a friend or spouse, or stay with them yourself). I would love if you’re the one who beats the overwhelming odds, but make sure you’re protected in the process.
Good luck out there!