DO I NEED TO HAVE OPEN HOMES TO SELL MY HOUSE?
I get asked all the time, “Do we have to have open homes?”
The short answer is no. You don’t.
I like to ask my clients how they personally feel about hosting an open home. For various reasons, some people just don’t feel comfortable having them. For some it is not practical to have open homes prior to selling their house.
Recently, I sold a property that had been for sale with another agency for over 90 days. It was tenanted. Access to the home and property was difficult and its presentation was not ideal. So instead of hosting open homes to show it, I did private inspections for highly qualified buyers, only. I showed six buyers and was able to sell the property for A$1.13 mil.
So of course, properties can be sold with simply offering private inspections. In fact some agencies operate with no option to host open homes and use private inspections exclusively.
The bottom line for me is what the client prefers. Once I know what the client’s goals are and what they are comfortable with, I go from there to develop a plan.
But what is truly best?
SENDING THE RIGHT MESSAGE TO BUYERS
While I always give my clients the choice, if the decision is left to me I always prefer to hold open homes. When you advertise a property with open homes, you send a message to the buying public that the house is on the market. As a seller, providing an open home to buyers shows that you are doing everything you can do to make buying your home as easy and straightforward as possible. You also make it clear that you are prepared for a sale. Nearly any buyer loves open homes.
MAKING IT AS EASY AS POSSIBLE TO BUY
Advertising open homes makes buying a home easier for potential buyers. Buyers see the time, book it into their calendar, and can just show up. This is markedly simpler compared to private inspections where they would need to contact the agent, request a time, wait to see if that time will work for everyone, only to have the agent meet with and watch them as they inspect the home. It could be worse, like in the U.S. where the agent shows you every corner of the home saying “And this is a bedroom”. Ha!
All of this scheduling and the buyer still has to worry if the agent will remember to show up or if they will be late, then making them late for another inspection.
BUSY OPEN HOMES MOTIVATE BUYERS
When a buyer attends an open home that is very busy, they may be more likely to make an offer more quickly. With a full open house, buyers assume that all the other attendees want to make an offer, too. So it adds a little pressure and motivates them to make a move sooner. A busy open home brings in more potential buyers as it eases the process, but it also helps to maximize the price and encourages more urgent offers.
SO WHAT CAN A SELLER DO TO SUCCESSFULLY HAVE OPEN HOMES?
1. MAINTAIN THE GARDENS AND GRASS THE DAY BEFORE YOU HAVE THE OPEN HOME
This point sounds so basic, but plenty of people don’t do it. Nothing beats the street appeal of a fresh cut, green lawn and well-manicured landscaping. An appealing outside draws more buyers inside.
2. TURN ON ALL THE LIGHTS
When we arrive, if the lights are not on we, as real estate agents, will run around and do that. If you sell through a good agent they will have a busy Saturday as they will have open homes scheduled back to back. You can help them out by having all this already done for them, more lighting is always better for potential buyers.
3. TAKE YOUR DOG WITH YOU
No pets in the house when you have an open home, please. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals. I have 6 dogs, 6 cats, 7 goats, 21 chickens, 14 birds, and 2 horses. But with animals in an open home, you run the risk that they will bark or be scared which negatively impacts the buyers’ experience.
4. HAVE THE POOL FILTER RUNNING
Have you ever sat with a glass of wine and watched the water move on a pool? Its zen-like and it makes buyers want to buy. Just don’t blame me if you come home and buyers are having a swim.
5. HAVE SOME SOFT MUSIC PLAYING
My agency will bring our own speakers with music, but if you are not selling through us, be sure to ask your agent if they will be providing this. Put on some soft popular music to make the buyers feel at home and create a pleasant atmosphere.
6. TURN ON ALL THE AIR CONDITIONERS
Qld is hot, that is no secret. This is your chance to really show off everything your home has to offer, including how well the air conditioning works at making the home dreamlike to live in and sets their mind at ease that everything works properly.
7. HAVE THE PLACE SMELLING NICE
Did you know that buyers buy emotionally and smells play a massive part in how people feel? You can throw in a tray of cookies or light candles, either way a great smell is something no buyer can resist.
8. THROW ALL YOUR “STUFF” INTO THE GARAGE
Oddly, buyers are not that interested in garages. Sure they all want one, but once you’ve seen a few you’ve seen them all. So put anything you have lying around in your garage against the wall. It’s better for you make the garage look a bit messy than to have any clutter in the rest of the home.
9. TELL YOUR NEIGHBOURS WHEN YOU PLAN TO HAVE AN OPEN HOME
Recently, I was selling a home and every weekend the neighbour would work in the garden, mowing the lawn. I ended up asking if he would be OK to do this at another time. Loud music, parties, lawns being mowed, cars being revved are all things you’d want to ask your neighbors to avoid if at all possible when you have an open home. These sounds can impact whether a buyer wants to live on that street.
10. LEAVE EARLY
Good agents will be coming to your house from a previous open home. They will be in sales mode, ready to get your home all set and sell sell sell. It’s better for you to leave early so they can come in, get set up, and get ready for the buyers. If you choose to stay and meet the agent when they arrive to chat, it will slow them down. It’s better to chat with them another time. Open home days are our biggest, busiest days of the week.
11. DON’T COME BACK UNTIL WE TELL YOU TO
Just because you’re advertised to have your open home end at a certain time doesn’t mean that is also the time you should come back to the home. Often, when we have an interested buyer we will stay awhile longer to talk with them. If they would like to make an offer right then, we can sometimes need to stay back another 30 minutes to make that happen. It’s best to only return once you’ve heard from your agent. I’ve had sellers return before and hide in the bushes. Yes, the bushes, which makes selling the home even harder.
12. HIDE ALL YOUR EXPENSIVE BELONGINGS
It’s been a very long time since I’ve had anything go missing at an open home. Nevertheless, if you had a big diamond ring sitting in plain view you are tempting fate. Put any valuables away. Recently I had a client let me know a 1 litre bottle of scotch had gone missing. Kath, my wife, and I were horrified and a bit perplexed how anyone could have snuck something that large past us. But we happily replaced it. A few weeks later, when the owners were packing up to move, she found it. Hadn’t been taken at all. Phew!
BEST TIME OF DAY FOR AN OPEN HOME?
I find Saturday morning until 2pm works well. It’s my experience that after 2pm buyers have run out of puff. They may show up to a 4pm open on a Saturday, but they are also likely to be ready to call it a day. So, for me, 9am to 2pm is the sweet spot.
In addition to Saturdays, mid-week open homes work well too, but the best time is later, around 5pm. Often people are leaving work or can get off a little early. Late afternoon with a softer light can give a nice mood to a property, too.
WHAT’S A GOOD TIMEFRAME FOR AN OPEN HOME?
30 minutes is the sweet spot. It’s just enough time for people to come through and thoroughly inspect the home. It’s common for all the buyers to see each other and when that happens they see all the competition. Now if you have a large property with land to look at, sure 45 minutes might be needed. Keep in mind you can have a 30 minute open and just stay back another 30 minutes to allow everyone to explore.
The idea is to give people a quick look and overview, then interested buyers can make a private inspection at another time and stay as long as they want.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR AGENT DO AT THE OPEN HOME?
The single most important thing is they need to collect everyone’s name and number. Most agents are at open homes on their own. We often prefer to have 2 people there; one greeting buyers at the door to collect details and one floating around to speak with everyone. It’s all about giving buyers space to see the home they may buy.
Once the attendees’ names and numbers are collected, they should be in a position to discuss the home to all the buyers and understand if this is what they are looking for. Possibly, they could even discuss making an offer with a buyer.
HOW SHOULD YOUR SALES AGENT COLLECT EVERYONE’S DATA?
They can use a pen and paper if they would like. But most good agents will now use an app. The best apps allow agents to take a number and name, then the information would go straight into their CRM. If the buyer is already in their system then great, they should just show up on the app.
FOR BUYERS, WHY IT’S OK TO GIVE US YOUR DETAILS
Sometimes buyers are nervous to be handing over their mobile number. Please don’t be. Usually you’ll get an SMS with a link to the property. Then maybe 1 or 2 follow up calls. If you are lucky you might get an SMS to a great mortgage broker. The truth is, sales agents are just trying to help you buy a property.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR AGENT DO AFTER THE OPEN HOME?
The number of agents who fail to call buyers back after an open home is shocking to me. Yes, it still happens. If you have a good agent, they will track all incoming calls and call everyone back. For me, I even like to call everyone back on the same day. Yes, even on Saturday afternoons. When an agent is responsive, you’re a lot more likely to get second inspections and offers.
Then we update all the buyers’ information in our computer system called a CRM and then keep in touch with them over time. In addition to seeing if they have an interest in buying the home, we also ask them for feedback on the home’s price. This is extremely helpful to better understand how the market sees the value of the property to ensure our pricing is correct.
REPORTING ON OPEN HOMES
Want to dig deeper? A good agent should be sending you a weekly report on all the buyer activity, what they said, and how they feel about the price. An exceptional agent should then be meeting with you frequently, so the prices can be discussed in more detail.
So in closing “yes”, please do open homes! You’ll be glad you did when the offers pour in, your house is sold, and you have a ridiculous amount of money from the lucrative sale sitting in your bank account.