Open House Motives Vary by Realtor

Unless you live next door to a realtor, or have bought or sold recently, the most common way to run into a realtor is probably at a Sunday open house.

Popular as they are, open houses are frequently misunderstood by the public. In particular, there seem to be four misconceptions:

Misconception #1. The purpose of the open house is to sell the home.

That can certainly happen, but statistically, it’s not very likely. Conventional wisdom is that less than 5% of all homes are sold as a direct result of a Sunday open house.

So what’s the real purpose?

In my case, it’s to get good feedback (see, Misconception #3).

However, for the majority of realtors hosting them, it’s to prospect for new clients. Their goal is to connect with people coming through who are just starting their home search, and aren’t yet represented (anyone coming through who does have an agent is expressly off-limits).

Misconception #2. The realtor hosting the open house is the agent getting paid to sell it (the listing agent).

Usually not. Rather, the hosting agent is typically a “newbie” standing in for the listing agent. Even if someone decides to buy the house as a result of seeing it on Sunday, the hosting agent only gets paid if the would-be Buyer doesn’t have an agent yet.

In my experience, casual lookers don’t buy, and serious Buyers already have agents.

That’s not to say casual lookers don’t eventually buy. When they do, they often use an agent they first met at a Sunday open house.

Misconception #3. Experienced agents never hold open houses.

Not true. I personally make a point of hosting the first 2-3 open houses for every home I list. My goal isn’t to prospect for future business, it’s to get the best possible market feedback.

Just as what someone says can be less important than how they say it, watching someone’s reaction to a home can be much more instructive than simply asking them what they thought of it afterwards.

Where prospective Buyers linger, how much time they spend in the home, their “body English” after they’re done — all speak volumes about their interest level.

As listing agent, such non-verbal cues help tell me if the home is appropriately priced, and if not, why. I can then make intelligent suggestions to my client about any needed mid-course corrections.

Misconception #4. Neighbors aren’t welcome.

I love neighbors! Who’s more credible talking about how great the neighborhood is: a realtor trying to sell you the house, or, someone who lives next door? I’ve hosted plenty of open houses where the neighbors who came through actually did more selling than I did! (I shut up).

Nobody is more motivated to recruit the home’s next owner. Neighbors help get the word out, leveraging my marketing budget. And perhaps most importantly, neighbors help fill up the open house, giving it that elusive buzz and energy.

Neighbors certainly know who they are, but the prospective Buyers in their midst often don’t!

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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