By: Dian Hymer
Public open houses have been a mainstay of the home-sale market for decades. During the peak market years, buyers often wandered through an open house and bought it, even though they had no intention of buying. Impulsive homebuying is rare today.
Open houses still can be used effectively to draw prospective buyers to your home. To eliminate open houses from your marketing strategy because you find them inconvenient or risky could be a mistake.
On the other hand, you can overuse open houses and generate a negative image about your home. Too many open houses can cause the listing to become shopworn.
Some sellers have homes that are not prime candidates for open houses. These are usually high-end properties that might be vulnerable to theft. They should be shown to qualified prospective buyers by appointment only. Most listings do not fall into this category, although all sellers should keep valuables out of sight while their homes are on the market.
HOUSE HUNTING TIPS: For most sellers it's a good idea to develop an open-house strategy that will maximize exposure to your property without overexposing the property to the market. It's usually wise to have a Sunday open house the first week a listing is on the market.
This is when your home is most marketable. Serious buyers, who've already seen all current listings that might work for them, wait for new listings to come up and want to see them as soon as possible.
A public open house gives buyers an opportunity to look without having to wait to make an appointment with their agent. Often, they have already seen photos of the listing online that look appealing.
A public open house isn't the best way for buyers to see listings that catch their eye because it may be packed with other buyers and neighbors who are curious about current home values. But, at least buyers can determine if the home is interesting enough to schedule an appointment to return for a private showing with their agent.
How often you have your house held open depends on current market conditions in your local market area. If it's taking months for homes to sell, you may want to consider having your home held open to the public every two or three weeks after the initial one or two open houses, when there ought to be high demand if your home is in a desirable location, in good condition, and priced right for the market.
Sellers often wonder if their home should continue to be held open after an offer has been accepted. This depends on whether the sale is contingent upon the sale of the buyers' home. If so, you should consider having open houses until the buyers have an accepted offer on their home.
Your contract should include a release clause that entitles you to accept other offers and be released from the contingent sale offer if those buyers haven't sold their home.
Continuing to have open houses after you have accepted an offer that is not contingent on the sale of another property can annoy prospective buyers who are under the impression that the listing is for sale. The word goes out that the home is open even though it has sold.
This can boomerang if the sale falls apart and you have to put your house back on the market. It's difficult to rekindle enthusiasm about the listing if it has been open every week even though it was pending.
THE CLOSING: It's better if the contract is not contingent on another home selling to hold off on open houses so a new Sunday open house will have a positive impact if the deal falls apart.
Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years' experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist, and author.