Do open houses work?

by Vanessa Roman08 Jan 2015
When I started my career in real estate, I remember asking a very successful agent in my office what advice he had for new agents. One of the secrets to success he shared with me was to host open houses.
Back then, open houses were one of the tried, tested and true methods of selling a home and meeting potential new clients. Every weekend I would work in properties around the city, learning the ins and outs of each home and their individual neighbourhoods. I met a huge variety of people during those open houses; from the nosy neighbours and open house junkies to first-time lookers and potential homebuyers who later became my new clients. I built my business on hosting open houses and not being a ‘secret’ agent.  
Today many new real estate agents question whether hosting open houses is an effective sales strategy. A recent industry analysis suggested open houses only account for five percent of sales and instead just attract the neighbours and "lookie-loos" out for some free weekend entertainment. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard industry types turn down open house requests by opining, "Less than one percent of homes are sold during traditional open houses.” I have never read a legitimate study proving how many houses are sold in Canada as the result of hosting an open house, but in my personal experience they are still on my ‘to do’ list as an agent.
Technology has changed the way we buy and sell property; most people use the Internet to start the search for a new home or to check out the competition before deciding to list their home for sale. It only makes sense that agents would also change some of their sales strategies to suit the new online demand. But buying and selling property is still very much a people business and I believe there are valuable opportunities for consumers and agents in connecting at open houses.
The looky-loo type of house buyers do exist at open houses. But that shouldn't be used by agents as an excuse against open houses and that shouldn't deter the public from going to an open house for home décor ideas, market research or to assess the skills and knowledge of a potential agent. There may be people who are just attending an open house for a laugh or to pass the time, but for every one of those types, in my experience, there are more attendees who are genuinely looking for a new home or ways to improve their own before listing it for sale. Those are potentially new clients and that is always worth the effort on your part as an agent.
Adapting sales strategies to meet the changing demands of the online market is one aspect of real estate success, but so is connecting with people. Open houses are a great way to do that because you never know when your next client is going to walk through the door.
Vanessa Roman is the host of HGTV's Reno vs Relocation. She is also a licensed real estate agent who divides her time between Halifax and Toronto.

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