Sunday, February 24, 2008

Do Open Houses Work?

open-door-old.jpgWell first up, an open house isn't going to do diddly-squat if your house looks as bad as the one in this photo. In today's Valley real estate market, nothing will help a house that looks like this except being 50% (or more) below the last sold comparable property.

But if you've got a nice normal house that's in pretty good shape..... to Open House or not to Open House is a good question. Most sellers want them. Many sellers ask right up front how many open houses I plan to hold. Too often, an open house is the only tangible proof a seller has that their Realtor is working to sell the home at all. That's a shame.

There are several agents in my office of about 150 who swear by open houses. There's even a veteran agent who gives classes in how to effectively hold an open house. She swears that even after all these years, most of her business comes from open houses. But I suspect that's a personality issue and not so much about the open house.

She's a wonderful, old-time, small-town Arizona type. She reminds me a little of Flo from the old TV show Alice. She's got a little less attitude than Flo and doesn't crack her gum at all, but she's just as Aw Shucks down homey as you can get. Frosted white hair in a cotton candy beehive and all. I think people just respond to her personality and choose her as their agent, regardless of which house they buy.

Just for my two cents worth, I don't think Open Houses are a great idea and I don't do them except under very limited circumstances. I worry about the security of it all. Mine and the homeowner's. When you think about it, an open house is really just a big advertisement that says, "I'm in the house alone with lots of expensive/nice stuff, and I'll be here for hours."  Not the signal I want to be sending. Again, just my two cents. I'm kinda smallish and a woman, and so I worry about my safety more than your average 6 foot tall male might.

I also worry about the safety of my seller clients. Do you really want strangers walking in off the street to know what your kids look like (because you're not taking down those family photos just for an open house, are ya?). Plus there's the theft angle: I have actually had pharmaceuticals go missing at an open house. Finally, there's that little subclass of folks who just like nosing around your stuff to see what you did with the house. We call them "Your Neighbors".

Virtual tours and multiple photos can't replace the experience of actually walking through a home, but they can come pretty close. I figure that if a buyer liked the online virtual tour enough and is pretty close to being ready to buy, they'll go to the trouble of calling the listing Realtor and making an appointment.

Not to say I refuse to hold open houses. I'm doing one this afternoon as a markting blitz for a seller who emotionally must sell and fast. We priced it ridiculously low ($159,000 when the same type of home in the same condition sold in Nov 2007 for $215,000). I sent out a blitz of e-marketing about the property, emailed a reporter friend at the AZ Republic, called a bunch of Realtor colleagues, and will hold the home open this Sunday and next. We're hoping to create a little sense of urgency in the potential buyers. I've done it before and been rewarded with multiple offers. I'll let y'all know what happens this time!

There's probably as many opinions about open houses as there are Realtors. I'm pretty interested to hear what my readers have to say on the subject. To Open House or not to Open House?