Open houses are beyond passé — they feel dirty. At one point, there certainly was a need and a reason to do them, but in this climate, with all the technology available to both agents and their clients, they’re pointless and wrong.
They’re no better than waiting around on the street corner for someone to procure your services, much like what goes on in the red light district.
To be clear, I have no problem with agents who do open houses, it’s more the practice of doing them. To me, doing open houses isn’t a showcase of the service I offer sellers; it’s order-taking.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to do them myself back in the early 2000s, but that was a different market, and I hadn’t fully developed my business model yet. When I realized I wasn’t doing anything for my sellers, I stopped doing them.
Why open houses aren’t effective
I don’t have cookbooks in my kitchen. If I need a recipe, I simply Google “roasted Brussels sprouts”. When I need to declutter, I don’t have a yard sale. I post my stuff on Facebook Marketplace, and it’s sold within an hour.
Why would I want to spend my time hauling my unwanted crap out to the front yard and wait outside all day on the off chance that someone wanders past my yard-sale signs, finds their way to my house and actually wants what I’m selling?
I wouldn’t, and most buyers won’t venture out to waste their time when they can find what they want at the tap of their phone. Homebuyers are included in that crowd.
Data from the National Association of Realtors backs that up. According to the 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 44 percent of buyers looked at properties online as the first step in their search, and only 4 percent visited open houses.
Arguably, that only covers the first step in the process, so let’s look at frequency throughout the process.
Still, digital avenues win.
Which begs the question, why are we still wasting our time, money and resources doing them?
Why agents do open houses
As I see it, there are two major reasons that agents do open houses: to pick up clients and because they have nothing better to offer.
Agents do open houses because they pick up unrepresented buyers and, eventually, sellers. They use their sellers’ house as a marketing vehicle to bring in consumers — nosy neighbors, tire-kickers and young couples who want decorating ideas.
Is this an effective method of finding business? For some, yes.
Is there anything wrong with this business model? No. But let’s be honest, you’re not doing open houses for your sellers.
What I do
Personally, I’m an upstreamer. I don’t chase consumers and ask them to do business with me. It feels dirty.
In my process, my sellers do a lot of work to get their home ready for the market. We do a pre-listing inspection before we go live. Depending on their needs, we declutter, paint, landscape, clean up, stain the deck, fix minor repairs like that leaky faucet. When sellers follow my recommendations, we get results.
I work with an amazing marketing team including a kick-ass professional photographer who does video and drone.
When I go on listing appointments, I make it clear to my sellers that I don’t do open houses. Many are thankful. Who wants unqualified strangers tracking mud through their home?
And when I come up against sellers who disagree, I simply explain that I only spend my time doing activities that will have the highest probability of producing buyers for them, and I show them the NAR stats. The conversation usually ends there. If not, I shake their hand, explain that we’re not a good fit, and wish them the best of luck.
Aside from finding business, there are some agents who conduct open houses because they have nothing else to offer their sellers. They are order-takers (you know the ones I am talking about).
They do whatever the sellers demand of them. They aren’t in control of their business. This is the agent who puts the home on the MLS and waits. And when they don’t get results, the sellers demand open houses because they just don’t know what else to do or ask for. This is often followed up with a price reduction and unhappy sellers.
An agent who runs a successful real estate business has skills, methods, proven results and checklists in place to help sellers reach the goal of selling their home in the timeframe that the sellers need.
It’s time we stopped catering to consumers and letting them drive the bus of our business. We are the professionals. Our profession has a bad enough reputation already. Maybe we should stop chasing consumers and instead give them massive value when they become our clients. Maybe they would respect our profession more.
Why it feels dirty to me
When I was in Amsterdam walking around the red light district, the women in the windows were marketing to my boyfriend. “Don’t you wanna come in for awhile?” was their tagline.
That’s what prostitutes do. They stand on the street corner, waiting to offer their services to the mass public, hoping the right buyer walks by in need of a professional.
Most of the general public has no interest whatsoever of doing business with them, but there they are, walking up and down the street, attempting to capture that small percentage who wants to hire them.
Now, I don’t know much about how prostitutes find their clients, but I do know where to find homebuyers — and it ain’t at open houses.
Tomorrow: In the future, an open house without the house
Stacey Duvall is the CEO and principal broker of Stacey Duvall Real Estate in Louisville, Kentucky.