Since multiple listing services first started putting listings online around 1996, the transparency of homes for sale has improved exponentially. From the virtual "fish-eye" tours of the ‘90s and oughts to sleek present-day videos, homes can be showcased to buyers with the ease of a phone app.
So why have an open house? If you're trying to sell your home, you want to employ all the ways home buyers choose a home. Your target buyer may use websites, not apps.Most buyers have real estate professionals helping them. Homes that are market-ready and staged are going to be on their showing lists. Buyers who are just getting started or who don't have an agent are most likely to attend open houses for one simple reason. Seeing is believing.
So do you want them to fall in love with your house or someone else's? An open house may help, or you may decide it's not for you.
Here are a few ideas to consider. Where and how do home buyers shop for a home?
Homebuyers use the Internet to view their choices -- at home and on the road. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), more than half of Gen Y and Gen X buyers used a mobile device during their home search in 2013. Among those who did, 26 percent of Gen Y and 22 percent of Gen X homebuyers found the home they ultimately purchased via a mobile device.
They cruise neighborhoods to decide where they want to live. As homebuyers get into the process, open houses become more important to them. Nearly half of homebuyers attend open houses and found them "useful," says the NAR.
But you're not here to educate buyers, you want to sell your home. How can an open house be right for your marketing plan? Homebuyers may use the Internet as a tool, but they usually make their choice in person. An open house sign in the yard is irresistible.
There are risks and rewards to open houses. An open house is an invitation to neighbors and strangers to walk through your home. You might not like your privacy invaded, and sometimes you might find small items missing after an open house, like drugs from the medicine cabinet, or small collectibles.
The upside is that it's a chance to seal the deal with the right buyer at a personal level. Few buyers choose a home they haven't seen for themselves.
To make your open house memorable, do the following:
- Every seller's list begins with cleaning and decluttering thoroughly so the home will show better.
- Empty medicine cabinets. Lock away jewelry, collectibles, and your personal papers, including credit card and utility bills to prevent identity theft.
- Depersonalize. Don't leave out mementoes. Homebuyers want to imagine themselves as the occupants.
- Don't leave pets on the premises. Make sure their beds, bowls and boxes are put away for the open house.
- Insist that your listing agent bring an associate to your open house. Having two people, one to show the house and one to take information from open house visitors, discourages "lookie-loos" and petty thieves.
- Don't hang around. Owners discourage buyers from making honest comments.
- Make sure your listing agent collects contact information from people who have visited your home for feedback.
- Be willing to act upon the feedback you receive. If a number of potential home buyers said they hated the paint colors, prepare to repaint.
Use the Internet and open houses together. If you make a change to the home, such as a lower price and new improvements, your agent also makes sure the open house attendees get the latest information.
And one of those may come back for a second viewing and an offer.