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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Open Houses - marketing tool or waste of time?


While 80 percent of home buyers used the Web to search for properties, only 42 percent visited open houses last year, reports the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. That interesting statistic got me to thinking about the effectiveness of open houses. I’m about to leave for one today. I do them a lot; and, lately, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time sitting in open houses with nothing to do but think about things. Open house attendance has been down for quite some time now. In locations where I’d get 8-10 couples through on a Sunday afternoon, now I see maybe 2-3 couples, many times none.

There are just fewer people out driving around looking for open houses to visit. In fact, many of the people that I do get through open houses that I hold tell me that they saw it advertised on one of the Web sites that I post them to; so, I guess that verifies the opening statistic, too.

The rest of the story where the opening statement came from was about why agents still do open houses. There are two main reasons – 1) sellers demand them because they think the agent is “working” then; and, 2) agents usually pick up buyer clients from among the visitors. I must admit that I’ve sold two houses in the last couple of years to people who came through them during open houses, so I’m one agent who can’t say that open houses don’t sell the house. Open houses are just one component of an overall marketing program to get the house the most exposure to potential buyers.

I do have some customers who don’t like or want open houses. They have concerns about crowds of people going through and maybe not being able to watch them carefully enough. That scenario doesn’t happen very often lately; but I have had occasions where 2 or 3 couples were in a house at the same time. It’s impossible to watch all of them all of the time, so I just try to make sure that I see each group as they exit to answer questions and to make a quick check for bulging pockets. I’ve never had that happen, but I suppose it could.

I also have some customers who just live too far out in the country to make holding the house open worthwhile. It’s hard to attract people with road signs when you’re 10-15 miles from the nearest town or shopping area. The times that I have held country homes open what visitors I had were mostly people who had seen the house and the open house notice on the Internet.

So, are they worth it? To the agent; yes, if the house is in a good location. To the seller; maybe, again, if the house is in a good location for traffic. Sellers need to understand that holding the house open is not an indication of the agent working hard for them. It’s just one aspect of an overall marketing program for the house. Some marketing programs will not have this component and some will; that is up to the agent’s call. If you believe in the agent, then give them the opportunity to execute their marketing plans for your house. If it doesn’t work out, then give me a call and let me try my marketing plan. I’ll likely have open houses as a part of the plan.

And if you're out today, or most Sundays, stop by my open house. You can find out where I'll be by going to my Web site www.themilfordteam.com and click on the What's Open link or go to the My Current Listings and see what I'm holding open. See you there!

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