A reader asked how often an agent should hold open houses for a property. He specifically asked about broker open houses, but both broker (agent, technically) and public open houses are worth some comment. Broker open houses are essential – there’s no substitute for actually going inside a house, gauging the quality of its construction, the exact noise level of the street outside, the “flow” of the house and so forth; you get none of that from merely reading the Internet listing.
But, of the 1000 real estate agents in town, probably only 100 can be bothered to go out and examine the inventory on Tuesdays (North Street and west) and Thursdays (east of North Street). What are the other 900 doing? God knows, but I certainly wouldn’t want to use their services if all they can contribute to my knowledge is what’s already on Realtor.com. A good broker open house is one that draws 30-40 agents. You’ll never get full attendance of the 100 because, not surprisingly, those 100 are our most successful agents and they are often busy conducting their own open houses. So I’d suggest holding 2 open houses in the first 2-4 weeks, just to give everyone who’s going to come a chance to see the property. After that, every 6 weeks is probably not a bad idea – we don’t like returning to a property but if something’s happened; a price drop, or a new buyer for that price range, we can be lured back for a refresher.
Public open houses are, if not a scam, not really going to do much to sell your house. You’ll draw nosy neighbors, a fair bunch of lookers and, very rarely, an actual customer. I think only 1% of viewers at a public open house end up buying that particular house, so your odds aren’t good. On the other hand, agents like the events because our success rate in selling visitors a house other than yours is much better than 1%. There are buyers, after all, mixed in with the mere lookers – they just may not like your house. I’ve been known to bring my notebook computer to an open house and, if a couple clearly isn’t interested in the house I’m showing, I’ll pull up other choices in their price range. And because I’ve usually seen all those houses and am familiar with them, it gives me a chance to show off my knowledge. Good for me, tough luck for you – sorry.
So you can have a public open house every weekend, if you wish (your agent, who often is busy on weekends showing other customers around town, may be reluctant, but we can usually find a new agent willing to cover, in the hope that she’ll find a new customer). Given the low odds of success in this endeavor, I think once a month is a more realistic schedule but, especially in a dead market, when the only hope of unloading a property is to keep slashing its price and the seller won’t do that, we all tend to adopt the professional politicians’ mantra, “when in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout”. A public open house is the moral equivalent of that.