Open Houses

I suspect there isn’t another area of Real Estate life that get’s discussed more than the basic weekend Open House does. If you’re a buyer or a seller that statement may surprise you somewhat. Every Monday morning Real Estate offices everywhere have meetings where activity at Open Houses is always discussed…and often that discussion is hilarious (One of these stories are coming in a minute!). I’ll bet most people think an Open House is something eagerly anticipated by agents since there’s so many of them every weekend. Surprisingly, many trainers discourage Open Houses as a marketing vehicle because they feel it’s a waste of the agent’s time and the national statistics show that relatively few homes are sold that way. I’m sure plenty of buyers see it as sort of a necessary evil since they’re constantly assaulted by some agent who wants to convert them into buyer clients for themselves too.

I have many Real Estate agent friends in other parts of the country who absolutely hate Open Houses…for the simple reason that nobody ever shows up! They’ll sit in some property for 3 hours alone and catch up on some reading. I started in early 1990, in the post Loma Prieta Quake–Pre 1st Gulf War market. It was dead! I used to do Open Houses because it gave me a good opportunity to watch a game on somebody else’s TV without having to disturb my wife…and I rarely got disturbed either! 5 people was typical. I had 60 people at my first Open House on Orion Lane in Foster City in January of this year…a slower time than right now. In this area, right now, Open Houses are important.

Among other things, this area is the home of some very sophisticated buyers. It’s common for buyers to find new listings online on their own, then search Open Houses via the SF Chronicle’s Open House Guide or through and do that often before many of the local agents have even seen these houses. It used to be that an agent was the first person to expose a buyer to a house…now it’s common for a client to see it first and tell their agent about it! Realtors around here go on tour on Tuedays so we can catch up on all the new listings that we couldn’t see over the weekend…cause we were busy holding something open! This has become a permanent part of the buying experience now regardless whether or not the market has slowed.

Open Houses can be occasionally crazy too. This is my favorite Open House story…and believe me I’ve got lot’s. A young lady in my office was holding open a vacant and staged condo in Redwood City awhile ago when a man came into the busy Open House, looked around and asked if he could use the bathroom. “Sure” my friend said. The man proceeded to enter the bathroom, takes his clothes off and took a shower! My friend banged on the door “What do you think you’re doing!” she shouted. “I was dirty” he replied! Fearing insanity she called her father in law, who lived nearby, and some friends, who came over (I guess it was a long shower!) and everyone managed to get the shower bandit to leave. Apparently he used the stagers towels. “Was he really filthy?” we all asked? “No” she said…”he was wearing a sport coat and jeans”. Go figure!

Because of all the myriad reasons I’ve mentioned here on the Blog in previous posts I believe that Open Houses are a really important marketing tool for both sellers and buyers. (Just be clean when you come into mine, OK?) All you need to do to determine the future of this Real Estate market is to go out this Sunday and see some. It’s highly likely that you’ll see lots of people milling around. At certain well priced listings in good locations you’ll see 100 people at least at a Sunday open House. The truth is that the lions share of buyers are on the fence about writing offers because they’re nervous about the economy and home values. Two years ago I was getting 300-400 people at the Open Houses on my listings. When the green light comes back on in the minds of these buyers the market will ignite again. Why? Because the buyers are out there…they just lack the kind of confidence they had in 2004.


  1. How do realtors feel about people showing up at open houses purely for curiosity sake? I wonder what percentage of Open House attendees are not in the market at all but just wanted to see how their neighbor’s house is or how it’s decorated.

  2. Maybe the two biggest reasons agents like to hold an openhouse are 1.(if you’re a newer agent and you’re holding someone else’s listing open)you want to meet somebody who you can aquire as a buyer client and 2. (if it’s your own listing you’re holding open) You want to meet neighbors who may want to sell too sometime in the future. I always love meeting the neighbors! Every once in awhile they’ll disclose something to me about the house, or the seller, that’s been strategically omitted by that same seller!

  3. There’s a house on the market here in Foster City that has held an open house every Sunday for the last 7 consecutive Sundays, including Easter Sunday. What do you think about this as a strategy?

  4. Sometimes the only way to generate traffic to a house is via the Open House. I would suspect that there are some reasons why the house hasn’t sold, in spite of the many Open Houses…like the price is too high (there’s several of those listings right now in FC), or there’s some issue with the property or it’s location that’s preventing an offer. Easter Sunday? It wouldn’t be me holding it open, but I’m sure that didn’t prevent anybody from making an offer…something else did.

  5. Love the picture, but am scratching my head trying to see the connection. Herding cats??

  6. When you’re holding an open house and someone takes a shower, or a buyer put’s his hand through a glass window pane, or someones’s child throws up in the master bedroom, or someone comes in with their dog on a leash, or two prospective buyer’s cars run into each other in front of the house and a loud arguement ensues…I couldn’t think of a better illustration than herding cats…at least at the busier open houses. Maybe the humor’s too lame?

  7. I like the cats!

  8. Thanks for the post Jim.

    Great story…thanks for sharing…I’m getting ready for an Open House of my own right now, hopefully no one will need a shower

  9. Thanks for the blog – good story! Open Houses are the “cloud” that hovers over all Realtors on Sundays, huh? Hahaha

  10. Wow! A hundred people at an open house? I thought a couple of dozen was a lot! I have gotten a lot of business from open houses- I do them at least twice a month, usually more. Vacant homes can be a safety concern, espeically for women doing the open house alone- in ANY area. When I am holidng a vacant house open, I try to make sure my husband knows where I am at. Never had a problem, but ya can’t be too carefull!

  11. Wow! A hundred people at an open house? I thought a couple was a lot! smile

    That is time I spend …. thinking! Most of the time. I wish I could get a couple dozen or a 100… I would declair VICTORY if that happened.

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