Open for business: Will an open house help sell your home?

File photo. File photo.

In what is still a buyers’ market, folks selling their homes are looking for tried and true as well as innovative ways to bring in offers on their property. One traditional method of inviting interest in your home is to have your agent host an open house. But are open houses really an effective tool for calling attention to your listing?

Bob Hughes, an associate broker with Nest Realty Group, is unenthused by the effectiveness of the open house. “[Sellers] think that it is a way to help sell the property, when it’s not,” he explained. “I have sold houses off of open house. But, in 22 years, I’ve only done that, maybe, twice.”

So, are open houses just a waste of time? Not necessarily. As Hughes pointed out, “It does expose the property to the market. It also exposes it to neighbors [and] neighbors know people. And neighbors know people who want to move to their neighborhood.”

Erin Garcia, a Realtor with Loring Woodriff Real Estate, agrees with him. “Getting neighbor and neighborhood traffic is key—these are the people who care most about who buys the home,” she said via e-mail. “Open houses aren’t the most important sales tactic, but for the right house and right location the exposure shouldn’t be downplayed. And, in a small town like Charlottesville, word of mouth is an effective tool.”

She pointed out that in addition to the traditional buyer-focused open house, Charlottesville and the surrounding area also have open houses specifically for Realtors. “These days, one of the most important types of open houses is the Realtor open house. In this area, they are held on Tuesdays for Realtors to preview homes for clients as well as increase our market knowledge.”

To prepare for your open house, Erin suggested: “Aside from the obvious (de-clutter, price your home correctly, superb overall marketing for the home, etc.), make sure that your house is a comfortable temperature, all lights on and shades drawn back. Simmer something seasonal a few hours prior. Do not use commercial air fresheners, as many people are allergic to these types of fragrances.”

It is important to understand that although there is potential gain to the seller, the agent is the one most likely to benefit from an open house. “[An open house] is basically designed to help us pick up clients,” Hughes stated, matter-of-factly. “I don’t do it for that.”

Some agents attempt to boost their business in creative ways. Hughes gave an example: “I went to a conference once where somebody gave out pints of ice cream [at their open houses]. And well, the tactic was that the people had to go home to put the ice cream in their freezer, so they didn’t go to any more open houses. And this guy could follow up with them and they would not have met with any other real estate agents.”

An open house might not lead directly to an offer (and all that ice cream could get expensive). In fact, you may find yourself mostly playing host to curious neighbors and passers-by. But, then again, the extra exposure might just be what your home needs.