Some sellers question the value of having their home held open to the public. A common complaint is that open houses mostly attract neighbors who are looking for decorating ideas or who want to keep up on property values in the neighborhood.

While it’s true that open houses attract neighbors, this is not harmful to the marketing of your home. In fact it can help a lot. Neighbors often know people who are interested in moving into the neighborhood.

A neighbor who casually walks through your home during an open house–with no particular agenda–could turn out to be the ultimate buyer. Recently, neighbors attended a public open house in the desirable Crocker Highlands area of Oakland, Calif. They weren’t really looking for a new home. But, they were starting to feel cramped in their present home.

The neighbors scrutinized the house carefully and then called their real estate agent. They ended up buying the house. It’s impossible to say if they would have bought it even if they hadn’t attended the open house. But, their real estate agent was not aware that they wanted to move, so she might not have told them about the property.

There’s no way to know in what way a listing will sell before it goes on the market. A real estate agent might introduce the buyer to the property. Or, the buyer might find the listing on the Internet, in a newspaper ad, or at an open house.

That’s why it’s important that your marketing plan covers it all. A plan that relies solely on the Internet won’t reach people who aren’t tech-savvy. A plan that relies only on open houses won’t reach buyers who are gone every weekend.

Broad-based exposure will make more buyers aware that your home is for sale. Generally, the more interest your agent can generate for your home, the higher the ultimate selling price.

There are certainly listings that aren’t suitable for public open houses, like a house full of valuable art. But, in most cases, you’re curtailing your market exposure if you don’t have your home open.

HOME SELLER TIP: To get the most out of public open houses, they should be used strategically. A listing that’s held open week after week without a sale can become shopworn. You don’t want your home to be known as the listing that’s always held open but never sells.

It’s a good idea to have your home held open when it’s new on the market. This is when it’s most marketable.

Last year, the home sale market was so hot that well-priced listings in low inventory markets often sold after only one or two open houses. Now, with rare exception, we’re facing a market with more inventory and longer marketing times.

If you’re home doesn’t sell quickly, you and your agent should establish a reasonable open house schedule. You want good market exposure, but not over-exposure.

Some agents like to hold listings open after the seller has accepted an offer. While there’s always the possibility that someone will want to make a backup offer, you might be better served by holding off on another open house until you find out if your accepted offer is going to close. Then, if the deal falls through, you can start fresh with a new open house.

THE CLOSING: By using open houses strategically rather than indiscriminately, you have a powerful marketing tool to use when you want to get the word out that you’ve adjusted the price or that your home is back on the market.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers,” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.

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