Sellers often think of open houses as opportunity time. They expose a listing to buyers who might not otherwise see it.
At the peak of the housing bubble, this was frequently the case. In many places there was so much demand and so little inventory that sellers could price at or below market price, put up a yard sign, have a Sunday open house or two, and then hear offers. With competition, bidders established market value, often at a price significantly over the list price.
According to the 2010 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyer and Sellers, today’s buyers rely most heavily on the Internet and their real estate agent to find a home for them. Eighty-nine percent of buyers use the Internet to find a home, and 88 percent of homebuyers use real estate agents.
Buyers who can afford to buy in this market are usually working and haven’t the time to screen the entire inventory of listings that might work for them in person. The Internet is an easy way to select the listings that appear to have potential. After a few outings with a good real estate agent, your agent will know your wants, needs, like and dislikes, and can screen new listings as they come up. This saves a lot of time.
Yard signs are still a good way to catch buyers’ attention. Buyers tend to drive around in areas where they hope to live looking for new listings. Yard signs are sometimes put up with a "Coming Soon" rider before the listing shows up on the Internet.
The survey reported that 57 percent of homebuyers used yard signs as a resource in their home search, while 45 percent said they attended open houses and 36 percent look at print ads. However, today’s buyers generally start their search online and then contact a real estate agent.
Although public open houses aren’t as effective as they were several years ago, this doesn’t mean they should be dropped from the marketing plan for your home. However, they shouldn’t be relied on at the expense of neglecting exposure to the real estate community and the Internet, which should include quality photos and accurate information. These are going to be the two most promising sources for buyers of your home.
Some sellers don’t like to have public open houses because of security concerns. If you choose not to have your home held open to the public, you should have it held open for real estate agents on the appropriate tour day for your area.
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: It’s a good idea to have your home open on the first Sunday or two after it is listed. If you don’t receive serious interest right away and it looks like it’s going to take time to sell your home, use open houses strategically.
Avoid having your home held open week after week. Your home then gets the stigma of the home that’s always open but not selling. Treat the open house as a special event. For instance, if you lower the price, have another public open, and another open house for agents.
It can work against you if you make your home too easy for buyers to wander through without their agent. Today’s buyers are looking for the right house that will suit their housing needs for 10 or so years. However, no home is perfect. If a buyer walks through your house alone at an open house and doesn’t like a particular feature, she’s likely to cross the listing off her list and keep looking.
THE CLOSING: When buyers see a listing with their agent, they have an opportunity to discuss their objections with a professional to see if there is some way to make the home work for them.
Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide."
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