Ask the Agents #24: How important is an open house?

Question: How important is it to have an open house?

Answer: Very. It’s the best way to get the most traffic through your home. And even in our age of the online video tour, there’s nothing quite like letting potential buyers into your house to let their imaginations begin to percolate. Let’s review the two kinds of open houses.

Brokers’ open house – Most real estate companies plan their neighborhood brokers’ open houses all on the same day. That makes it convenient for an agent to visit several homes in the same area in the same afternoon. In River Oaks, for example, brokers’ open houses are typically on Tuesdays; West University/Southampton, the Museum District and Bellaire are usually held on Wednesdays; and Tanglewood and Memorial are on Thursdays.

The brokers’ open house is meant primarily for fellow brokers and agents who might be scouting for their clients. You could think of it as B-to-B marketing. For Cameron and Teresa, it’s not unusual to hit five or six River Oaks open houses on any given Tuesday afternoon. It makes us better informed when working with our buyer clients to find a new home – we spend time visiting houses, including the dogs, so our clients don’t have to – and it helps us inform our seller clients what their competition is.

Sometimes we visit a brokers’ open house and discover something so splendid that we call our client immediately to see if they can pop over for a look themselves. If not, we set up an appointment to visit privately in the near future.

Public open house This is the kind you have probably visited on a Sunday (or Saturday) afternoon. These open houses are advertised online and in the newspaper and are open to all. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of looky-loos, who make visiting open houses their regular Sunday afternoon hobby. (It doesn’t hurt that many agents offer sweet treats or even a glass of Champagne to visitors.)

Public open houses can be especially useful in River Oaks, because sometimes people are not actively looking for a new home. But they hear that a special vintage house they have liked for years, say, on Inwood Drive is having an open house and they drop in anonymously without getting an agent involved. We’ve seen that casual and discreet beginning lead to a sales contract. Additionally, weekend open houses are useful to two-career families who cannot make appointments during the week to look at homes.

There is nothing inherently wrong with public open houses, and it’s a great way for someone to see your house and fall in love with it. Some sellers, however, don’t like the idea of strangers wandering through their home, opening closets and, sometimes, using their bathroom. We respect their desire for privacy.

Since April 2020 when Covid-19 practically closed down the city, we’ve seen fewer public open houses. In the River Oaks market, sellers, buyers and agent seem to have gotten out of the habit.

We are always happy to hold our sellers’ homes open, but it’s a decision to be made entirely by the client.