Is A Real Estate Open House Necessary To Sell Homes?

Does A Real Estate Open House Work?

Does a Real Estate Open House Work?Do real estate open houses work to sell a home? When you are trying to sell your home, it is natural to pull out all the stops. It may be the biggest sale of your life, and you want to do everything you can to make it happen. This may mean renovations, hiring a reputable Realtor and maybe even a public open house. But, you should be aware that when it comes to putting on a public open house, you might be wasting your time. With less than 2% of homes selling from open houses nationwide, the efforts of you and your Realtor may be better spent elsewhere. Yes, you read that correctly, a mere 2 percent of all homes are due to a public open house!

On any given weekend, you can probably drive around the surrounding neighborhoods and discover numerous open houses. Some Realtor’s make putting on a Real Estate open house part of their selling strategy, and many sellers are glad to jump on board with any effort that may help sell their home. If you spend some time in these open houses, though, you will eventually realize that most of the people walking through the door are anything but targeted buyers.

If you are lucky, a Real Estate open house draws lookers, but often they are the wrong type. Some of these may include:

  • Your Neighbors You may love your neighbors, or you may have never spoken two words to them. Either way, you can expect your open house to draw them in. They are probably curious to see how you live and perhaps to compare their homes with yours. Your open house also offers up an incredibly convenient diversion on a lazy Sunday. They are not prospective buyers, but an open door is too hard to resist – especially when it’s right across the street. Real Estate open houses are notorious for having the busy bee in your neighborhood stop by.
  • The Dreamer The fact that your home is listed for $500,000 does not mean the people walking through the door can afford this amount. Because there is no pressure to buy or any screening process, many of the people who come to look will not have the finances to afford your home. Everyone has the right to dream of a nicer, bigger, better home, and your open house gives them the chance to do just that. If you don’t mind unqualified buyers strolling around your place then, by all means, have an open house but be forewarned you can expect these people to show up.
  • Burglar - Open HouseThe Burglar Every open house may not draw in potential criminals, but you should be aware that leaving your home open all day to strangers could attract burglars. If you are lucky, and the open house has decent attendance your Realtor is not going to be able to watch every person at all times. It creates a ripe environment for someone to lift some of your valuables. Additionally, it also allows people to look around your home unsupervised and to devise the best way into your home when nobody is there. If you do hold an open house, make sure to make a thorough inspection of your home after it is over to ensure all possible entrances are secure.
  • The Idea Person This person is on the hunt for ideas for his or her home. Your counter tops, bathroom designs, and paint choices are all collected for future home renovation ideas. The more expensive your home, the more likely this person is to show up. They may even pretend there is interest in the home. The idea person loves visiting a Real Estate open house!
  • The Professional Looker Much like the garage or yard sale shopper, this person spends many Sundays out looking at houses. Homes can be impressive, and it is a free way to do something fun. Your “Open House” sign will draw these people in without fail. These guys may tell you right away they are not looking for a home but saw the sign and thought they would just come in and take a look.

So when people ask do open houses work? My answer is always the same – they are completely unnecessary to sell a home. An open house is almost always one big waste of time for the seller.

Who Benefits From An Open House?

Realtor - Open House The real advantages of an open house are for your real estate agent. This, of course, is something that many Realtor’s will categorically deny. They may even tell you at the listing interview that a public open house is a big part of their marketing activities. Real Estate agents that talk up open houses want you to believe they are necessary. They will try to convince you that if you don’t have them your home will not be selling anytime soon. Don’t buy it!

While it is possible that a buyer will swing by your house on a Sunday and realize it is perfect, the odds are not for this happening. Most of the time the open house is more of an opportunity for your Realtor to drum up potential business. Some of the benefits to your Realtor include:

  • Meet the Neighbors Being a successful Realtor requires making connections, and an open house is a potential place to do this. There is an excellent chance your neighbors will stop by for a chat, and this allows the Realtor to establish rapport with them. When they want to sell in the future, your Realtor will be one of the people they might consider, especially if a connection is made.
  • Meet Buyers Just because the unqualified buyers that come into your home cannot afford your property does not mean they are not potential buyers of other properties. The Realtor is probably selling multiple homes, one of which could be an excellent fit for the visitors to your open house. While selling your home is unlikely, an open house is the perfect prospecting activity for a Realtor.
  • Look Busy Many of the things a Realtor does to sell a home happen behind the scenes. Real Estate open houses are one way for a Realtor to look like he or she is working hard for the seller. You see how much time your Realtor spends prepping your home and talking to those that come through the house, and you feel better about paying them for their work.

Quite honestly there are also some weak agents that just don’t know how to explain in person what I am telling you about open houses quite openly and honestly right now. Many Real Estate agents will agree to do an open house for fear that if they say NO, you will hire a different Realtor instead. Sad but true! An exceptional Realtor who sells a ton of homes will never give you this advice.

In fact, I will go out on a limb and tell you there are very few Realtor’s who have ever sold triple digit homes in a year who have open houses as a marketing strategy. There are far more productive things an agent can do than wasting this kind of time on a Sunday afternoon.

When conducting a listing interview with a potential seller client, I explain right up front about open houses and the expectations of results they deliver. I also explain that I do not personally provide this service. If a seller can not be convinced it is not necessary and wants one, there are usually a few agents who will be happy to oblige.

After all, there are agents who have very little clientele and need open house opportunities to drum up business. Does a Real Estate open house sound like they work so far? Hopefully, you are realizing by now that an open house is completely unnecessary to sell a home!

Why Real Estate Companies Push Open Houses

Do you often wonder why you so see many open house signs all around town on a Sunday afternoon? There is one word that will answer that question for you. It’s call BRANDING! Real Estate companies love to push their agents to do open houses. If you own a Century 21, Coldwell Banker or any other real estate company for that matter, who wouldn’t want to have free advertising splattered all over town? There are plenty of people that will hire a company to do business with just because they have seen their signs. The hiring of the company doesn’t necessarily take place immediately but over time if a sign becomes ingrained in your mind you may end up calling them.

The owner of the real estate company can be doing his or her own thing on a Sunday while an army of agents is out promoting the business name via an open house. It makes little difference if the home sells that day or not. An open house creates a perception that the company is “working for you.” Keep in mind that the whole point is whether or not an open house is necessary to sell your home, not whether the agents needs to be showing you they are doing something for the money they earn. I can think of a lot better marketing activities than sitting in an open house for 2-3 hours on a Sunday.

A Couple of Exceptions To The Open Home Rule

Builders Showcasing Their Product

There is one circumstance where having regular open houses does make sense, and that is a builder showcasing his product in a new development. Having Real Estate open houses for a builder is different than trying to sell a resale property because the builder needs to showcase their designs, options and the level of quality in their product.

Builders quite often have “model homes” whereas a buyer you can walk through and see what the builder offers. Typically you will be able to see the different models he can build for you for X amount of dollars, along with all the including options and any upgrades that are offered.

A public open house is a perfect way of doing this. A large number of people can walk through, and there are fewer security issues as most of the contents in the home are just larger pieces of furniture and not the type of items someone scoping the joint would be looking to heist.

Hot Sellers Market

No Showings Before Open HouseAnother potential strategy where a public open house can benefit a seller is when you are in an extreme seller’s market. If your local Multiple Listing (MLS) board allows it one of the better strategies you can employ is to list a home for sale at the beginning of the week.

In the showing instructions, you let everyone know that the home can not be viewed until the open house on Sunday. What does this do for a seller? It creates a situation that is ripe for a bidding war.

By listing the home early in the week, all the buyers who are actively looking and would otherwise be scheduling showings with their agent are not able to see the home until the open house. The house gets exposure, and the excitement builds until everyone can view the home all at once on Sunday. Of course, when the market is really hot, and there are tons of people trampling over one another in the house, it sets up the perfect condition for a seller who in many circumstances will receive multiple offers. Will this work in a buyer’s market – not so much.


Does having an open house make it convenient for a buyer to look at homes? Sure without question. The looker/buyer does not have to call a Realtor and schedule an appointment. Open houses create a situation where potential customers can go at their leisure during a specified window of time. Some buyers who are in the initial stages of looking may feel like they don’t want to waste a Real Estate agents time. Some buyers who are in the early stages of looking may not be comfortable committing to working with a particular Realtor either. The open house allows them to look at homes in a noncommittal fashion.

For Sale By Owner

Another circumstance, where an open house may be of benefit, is when a seller has opted to try to sell their home as a for sale by owner property. While going For sale by owner is typically not the best way to sell a home, there are some that can not afford to pay a Realtor. For some sellers who are not around during the week for regular scheduled showing an open house allows them a better opportunity to get foot traffic through the home. There are probably a few Realtor’s snickering right now, as they know this is the kiss of death – Going for sale by owner and then to top it off not making it convenient for a buyer to look at the property.

Real Estate Open Houses Are Rarely Necessary

Are Real Estate Open Houses Necessary?The bottom line is you do not need to have an open house to sell a home. The reality of an open house is that almost all of the benefits go to the Realtor and few to the seller. There is always an off chance that the open house will result in a sale, but it is not likely. Much of what makes a home sell for a good price happens behind the scenes and is what keeps a good Realtor putting in so much work for his or her clients.

Far more important than the promise of an open house is the reputation of your real estate agent. You can hold an open house or not, but it is more important to focus on the number of sales your agent completes each year, and how he or she is viewed in the industry. A good agent knows how to sell homes and is someone you can trust, even if you do not see what he or she does on a day-to-day basis.

The biggest take home message about real estate open houses is this – It is really silly to think that a ready willing and able buyer is going pass up scheduling a showing with a Realtor on your property if they are interested in seeing it!

Folks don’t ever be foolish enough to believe that a buyer who is in the market to buy a home is going to say to themselves “if they don’t have an open house this weekend I am buying elsewhere!” Difficult to believe right? That’s because it doesn’t work that way. Do open houses sell homes? Hopefully, by now you have figured out the answer is very rarely!

Other Real Estate Open House Resources:

Use these additional resources to understand why an open house does not work to sell a home. The benefits to an open house go to your Realtor who needs them to prospect for business!

About the author: The above Real Estate information on do Real Estate open houses work to sell homes was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 29+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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  1. says

    Completely agree with you here, Bill. In my observation and experience, the people strolling through an open house are not target buyers at all. I see many dreamers and professional lookers, and have been one myself from time to time.

    Would another exception be a developing area? This might coincide with “Hot Seller’s Market,” but in my town there has been a boom of bio tech and tech companies and a large influx of highly paid engineers. I often see them filing into the model homes down the road.

  2. says

    Hilarious images Bill!! I heard a recent agent that held a group open house and invited local venders to sit at each one so it was an all afternoon community event. 2 of the 5 houses got offers that day. I think you have to be creative but so many sellers still want that open hosue just because.

    • says

      Thanks Theresa I have a lot of fun writing my articles and putting together imagery that works with the post. I have been selling Real Estate for the past twenty six years and watch countless Real Estate agents do open houses. Of course 99 percent of the time the home does not sell and if the agent has not done a good job educating the seller about open houses there will be disappointment. In my time in the business I have come to realize open houses are not necessary to sell a home. Serious buyers always call to schedule an appointment.

  3. says

    I can’t convince my sellers that an open house is futile. We do it now to appease them only,. Our buyers agents may get a lead here or there but that’s really the only reason. Sellers can;t figure out why their home doesn’t have an offer after an open house. I need to direct them to this post.. LOL

    • says

      Linda it is interesting that you are not able to convince them. Every time I explain to the seller the type of people that will be wondering through the open house they say thanks but no thanks. Most sellers that hear a detailed explanation about the effectiveness with open houses will usually listen. It always helps to hear it from a third person so I would definitely show them this article.

  4. Peter Lake says

    A house just sold here in Marblehead for $3.2 million after the buyers went to its open house.

    I find them useful for a “friend of a friend” — someone who knows someone else that ought to see it.

  5. Marc says

    I agree yet also disagree with you. While yes less than 2% of homes for sale sell from open houses, they still sell. I’ve sold a home from an open house and so have both managing brokers/owners of my team. When 20% of the Realtors in any given state produce 80% of the business for the state it’s no wonder the stats on open houses are so low.

    Personally I’d rather hold an open house than a broker open. At least with open houses potential buyers will come to the house. Our job as listing agents is to sell a home. To do so we bring the largest pool of buyers to that home. This is done through many different forms of marketing and one of which happens to be open houses.

    Sure the common stereotypes exist. Sure they help the agent find new potential clients. But they also bring buyers to houses. By discrediting all potential buyers you’re really saying I can’t sell your home, it’s going to have to sell itself. Please don’t take that harshly. I agree it’s rare selling a home with an open house but you’re discrediting yourself, your seller, and potential buyers by not holding them open.

    • says

      Marc do you hear what you are saying? “I sold a home from an open house before.” That really sounds encouraging – let me work every Sunday as my New Years resolution. The point of the article is that it is not necessary to hold open houses in order to sell real estate. How am I discrediting myself or my seller by not holding an open house? I hove sold nearly every property I have ever listed WITHOUT an open house.

      What you are not considering is the fact that I market my properties intelligently. I would much rather focus on things that work than things that don’t. Anyone who believes a ready willing and able buyer is not going to schedule a showing to see a home is a fool.

      Think about this intelligently because many Realtors don’t know how to sell – why would you focus on the 2% when you could do a much better job on the 98% that does cause homes to sell?

  6. Richard Allen says

    Bill- In most cases I have found that the open house is a big waste of time not only for the Realtor but especially for the seller. Some give up their weekends to get the home ready and then eagerly wait for my phone call Sunday night for the results of it. I dread making that call because I know it’s going to be a big let-down for them.

    You make a lot of good points for not having an open house and I plan on using some of them. One I use that I would like to add to your list is: Sunday is probably the only day my family can count on spending time together. We go to church and then make plans for the afternoon. When I have explained it that way to a seller not one has said “no I want you to forget your family time and do an open house for me.”

    One intangible that you need to consider is the number of sellers who are watching real estate shows on the popular HGTV network and the expectations they now have of us because of it.

    Where did you get the 2% number? Also, in you BIO you state that you are a marketing expert with 26 years of experience. Tell us then what you focus 98% of your time on in order to sell a home. Thanks

    • says

      Richard that is an excellent point about having Sundays to yourself. In fact that is the one day of the week I try to take off myself. I work like a dog every other day of the week and deserve having one to myself. Don’t get me started on HGTV as that is the most unrealistic view of the real estate industry and especially open houses. The stats are from research that was done by NAR a few years ago.

      The vast majority of my business comes from the online visibility of my multiple websites and blogs both from search and social media. My blog is the foundation of efforts to expose my clients homes in ways that other Realtors do not. My next closest means of getting business is word of mouth and referrals followed by post card mailings.

  7. Nick Vassov says

    Hi Bill, great article on public open houses. Like yourself I’ve been in the business 27 years and have come to the conclusion open houses do not sell houses. You’re so correct in your assessment of this whole process. However it’s good to know that sometimes open houses will draw potential clients for the realtors. I in fact actually tell my sellers this at the time of the listing. So for the most part open houses do serve a purpose depending on which angle you’re looking at. But as a main marketing strategy to sell a house absolutely not.

    • says

      Thanks Nick. I think it is important to educate sellers on how effective open houses are for selling homes otherwise the seller will disappointed if there is little traffic or even little interest.

  8. says

    Good article Bill. I tell Sellers that with the media we now use such as multi-picture tours and video it is not necessary for anyone to wonder what is inside. Just go on any web site and look! Much safer and in control. Sellers rarely argue.

  9. Leslea Knauff says

    I explain to my sellers that it is HIGHLY unlikely that a buyer will come to an open house and then purchase it–although there are always exceptions to the rule. However, what I HAVE found is that if there have been a number of showings and the feedback indicates that there is interest, that having an open house may motivate a buyer who is still trying to decide to make an offer. I make sure to contact the agents who have shown the house and let them know that their buyers are more than welcome to stop by for another look. Frequently an offer will come in from one of those buyers. Is it possible that they would have bought the house anyway? Yes, but there’s nothing like speeding up the process and shortening the days on market. I consider an open house to be the spare tire in the trunk of of my marketing car–with other tools that I use to be the actual wheels!

  10. Vic Yepello says

    A Realtor talking a fair amount of trash benefits who? In my market, 25% of open houses find a buyer because it was open. Yes we can get leads. And there are weird people and instances to support your claims. But in the end, if I don’t have an offer in 21 days. I’m doing an open house.

    • says

      Sorry Vic it seems the truth hurts. I looked you up and see you are in Palm Springs. It is good to be able to know other Realtors who live in your area to check your claims that an open is successful 25% of the time. Of course they told me you are full of crap! Then I started to think about it and realized what Realtor in their right mind would wait three weeks to do an open house if they were that successful?

  11. says

    Great article! I wish I had had it when I first entered real estate in 2006. I would have had my Sundays back sooner! I agree with you.
    And as far as HGTV, even Drew and Jonathan never sell a home at an open house. The owners come home to the same line we have to endure-no offers but lots of people came through. It is on TV so it must be true, right?
    Thanks for the article. I have forwarded it to several new agents who are always asking if they should do one. This should give them leverage from here on out.

    • says

      Jerri the reality shows kill me as far as portraying what really goes on in the real estate world. I learned myself many years ago that an open house is not necessary to sell homes. They function mostly as a prospecting method for a Realtor.

  12. Ashly Nunn says

    Thanks Bill! As a new agent, I need to hear what REALLY works. I’m not about wasting time, so this is a great article for me to streamline my business starting out.

    • Steve white says

      I’m with Ashly in that I’m new to real estate and want to start out strong and with the right direction. I don’t want to waste time.

      • says

        Steve – for a new agent starting out an open house is a good opportunity to meet people. The point of the article is there is more benefit to an agent than there is to a seller for doing an open house. A real buyer will always schedule an appointment for a home they are interested in viewing.

  13. says

    Thanks Bill for speaking the truth about open houses. I see open houses as Reactive vs. Proactive. Open houses predominantly benefit the agent. Sadly, some still believe (falsely) that the agent is doing something proactive to sell the home by sitting in the home waiting, hoping and praying. And what is the likelihood a buyer driving down that particular street or area is interested in that particular home? Less than 2% (and I believe even that # is too high). And how is an open house sign indicative of what type, size, price, etc. home is being held open? It’s not.

    I always ask my sellers if my time is better spent marketing their home to billions (blog, social media, etc.) or a few dozen. The billions always wins out!

    • says

      Bruce one of the problems of our industry is that a lot of Realtors don’t have the gumption to tell the seller the reality of open houses when asked by a seller. On the slip side there are also real estate agents who will go out of there way to promote an open house knowing all the while they are doing it for their own benefit and not because they think the open house is what will cause their clients home to sell.

  14. says

    In our local market it is rare that an open house produces a sale or even a lot of traffic. We see mor weekday “broker opens” to bring the home to the attention of the professionals who are working with buyers. When asked at a listing appointment if I do open houses I tell the customer I do broker open houses to target the best possible source of buyers. I do public open houses after a reduction in price.

    There is value to a properly executed open house but as a rule, they do not produce a sale in our area.

    • says

      Mike I don’t think there are many places that an open house is truly effective for the seller. Sure there are places where open houses bring in a lot of traffic and the agent can reap clients for it but the national stats do not lie for how many times they actually sell the home being held open.

  15. says

    Who has time to traipse around the streets looking for open houses on a Sunday afternoon? I should be able to go online, locate a few properties, watch a full-motion video tour (and yes, I am a videographer) and then decide if I want to reach out to an agent for an in person view.
    With over 90% of all home searches starting online (or to put it another way, with only 10% starting the old ways) real estate agents have to accept the reality that real estate marketing is undergoing substantial changes all of which are technologically driven. Their clients are online and that’s where they need to be.

    • says

      Great point Iris. Open houses are major prospecting vehicles for real estate agents that can’t get business any other way. This is a simple means of doing so. This is why you will always have a room divided when asking about whether real estate open houses are effective or not. The vast majority of top producing Realtors would never sit around someones home waiting and hoping for their next sale to arrive. There are so many other more productive things to be doing.

  16. Debbie says

    As home sellers, my husband and I are on the opposite side of your post. Our house sits on 5 acres and is priced at just over $750,000. Our house has been on the market for 215 days and we have had 5 open houses during that period. We have had 6 broker showings. We had 4 couples show up during one of the open houses (all of which our Realtor said were “extremely interested”) but she couldn’t reach them after the open houses because of fake phone numbers & emails. All of them wouldn’t return her calls, or needed to sell a house that they haven’t listed yet).

    The other 4 open houses attracted people just driving by who were driving by and noticed the sign. The were just curious lookers. Our concern with open houses is people who stop by are not qualified, or have a house to sell or are just looking. This is very frustrating but our Realtor insists because of our price range and the market we are in “open houses are necessary to bring people in”.

    Necessary for who? Us as the seller, or her as the listing agent to scoop up more business for herself? It is now winter here in the Midwest and we have 3 large, hairy dogs that we have to put in a vehicle and drive around for 3 hours to accommodate this open house.

    Realtors – please do not insist your seller needs to hold open houses. If the house is marketed right and advertised with pictures on the internet big enough to see, perhaps the house would bring in actual real buyers, not lookiloos……Thanks for letting me vent.

    • says

      Debbie I can sense your level of frustration. There are lots of Realtors who will try to convince sellers that open houses are necessary to sell a home. They absolutely are not! You have hit the nail on the head on the people who attend open houses – your neighbors, the unqualified and those out for a Sunday drive.

      Real buyers who are serious about purchasing homes schedule appointments to see properties. Open houses are all about agents who try to drum up business for themselves whether it is a buyer in a different price point or one of the neighbors who are thinking about selling.

  17. Lauren Peters says

    Great article, Bill. As the president of a condo board in a small residential building, we restricted open houses because of security issues. In 25 years, there has not been one sale in this building from an open house. Yet, every Realtor pushes them. It is a nuisance (as well as a security risk) for other owners who have their their quiet Sunday disturbed by increased elevator traffic from strangers who have walked in because they saw a sign on the sidewalk. Serious buyers have been pre-approved and are working with a Realtor. This is not what you get at an open house.

    • says

      Lauren – I could not agree with you more. The public has been deceived for quite a long time from a set of real estate agents that need open houses in order to prospect for future business.

      Most intelligent people understand that a ready, willing and able buyer will call and schedule an appointment for any home they are seriously interested in viewing.

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