There is a rumor among the public that the real purpose of open houses is about generating leads for agents — not selling the house. The mainstream press has also jumped on the myth. They say real estate agents are pulling the wool over the eyes of their clients through the pretense that open houses benefit the sellers.

It’s all a lie. Fabricated by rumor-mongers and those who claim a little time “in the industry” makes them trusted experts.

Don’t buy it for a minute, and here’s why.

Give ’em the old razzle-dazzle

An open house is, for the master real estate agent, the centerpiece of a carefully orchestrated example of brilliant showmanship. When done right, it’s epic, and the buyers come in droves. When done poorly, as is often the case, the result is an underwhelming attempt at marketing that does little more than create a few low-grade leads.

Let’s focus on the showmanship.

Marketing a home is like marketing a new Broadway play. It requires splash and flare, along with a mix of online and print promotions that get everyone to see the actor/actress (agent) on stage (at the house). Starting with a select “neighbors only” open house, you start building interest. Fantastic signage, beautiful invitations, and a little food and drink all combine to bring in neighbors far and wide.

Those neighbors will talk — a lot — to any friend or family member who might want to live there. It’s not about the buyers, per se, it’s about the buzz factor that brings in buyers.

That’s just the matinee before “opening night.” The main event is the weekend open house (possibly two weekends), the time when the so-called experts claim agents are gathering leads and not trying to sell the home. I call shenanigans on that.

The main event open house

All the ads, fliers, postcards and online posts designed to bring in the throngs of potential buyers will do just that. In fact, there will be way too many buyers to engage in meaningful conversation. A good open house has 100 or more people through it over the course of three hours.

Let’s do the math kids. A three-hour open house means 180 minutes to help at least 100 people, which means I get 1.8 minutes per person to talk to them. I’m pretty sure even Zig Ziglar needs more time than that to lock in a new client. Mathematically speaking, the idea that I’ll get a bunch of new listings or a buyer is a low probability.

The real dirty open house secrets

The real secret to why I do all these open houses is to get every possible buyer into the house and sell it.

I know you’re thinking, “That’s outrageous!” Why would the listing agent want actually to sell the home when they could simply hold the house open every weekend to get more leads?

Therein lay the second dirty secret to open houses: Holding a house open every weekend just to get leads means I’m not doing my job.

But, by all means, listen to the amateur reporters out there who, in a thin veil of impartiality, lull consumers into believing every agent has a hidden agenda.

Let’s be honest

In all fairness, the ultimate buyer for the house might come from somewhere other than an open house. However, that’s unlikely. I rarely see a home sold where the buyer didn’t show up to at least one open house.

The goal of the open house in those first one or two weekends is getting the home sold. Could I get a lead or two in the process? Sure, but the chances are slim because of the volume of people. If the home languishes awhile, then I could hold more open houses, but what’s the point?

My job as an agent is to sell the home as fast as possible for a price and terms the seller wants. Having it languish on the market just to hold open houses and get leads implies that I’m not doing my job. I’ll continue to hold it open if it helps sell the home, that’s it.

How do you use open houses to further your business? Please share your tricks in the comments section below.

Bryan Robertson is the co-founder and managing broker of Catarra Real Estate.

Email Bryan Robertson.

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