Don't Ditch Open Houses Just Yet, Says Zillow Blogger Brendon Desimone, as They Turn Looky-Loos Into Serious Buyers

With the advent of photo-heavy online listings visible from anywhere, video tours, and slideshows, many Realtors have already ordered a tombstone for the Open House. But should we start eulogizing a long-held practice that can give sellers much-needed feedback and turn looky-loos into serious buyers?

That’s the argument Brendon Desimone poses in his blog post, saying that serious buyers are developed over time, and just browsing listings online won’t sell them on one particular home.

“Open houses give buyers a no-pressure environment in which to deepen their education about the local market, so they can make a more informed decision,” Desimone says. “A buyer may use an open house as a first showing of the property. But when buyers become serious about a home, an open house provides them another opportunity to spend time in the home, to get to know it better, without the confines of a 15-minute private appointment.”

I agree with some of what Desimone says, but there are so many websites out there that break down important market information, giving buyers an economic outlook on a property long before they’re ready to commit. Trulia does a great job of this with its graphic interface and easily accessible message boards that facilitate discussion about neighborhoods. Let’s use our Friday Four Hundred, 5802 Monticello, for example. To the right you can see agents and potential buyers talking about the neighborhood at length — a wonderful resource for buyer education.

Trulia 5802 Monticello screenshot

 

Of course, what you don’t get from all of this buyer education is a feel for neighborhood traffic. Is this home near a noisy intersection? How close are you to shopping? Are there other families and pedestrians nearby? That’s where an open house really provides an added benefit. Buyers can linger, walk around the neighborhood, get a feel for their surroundings.

Of course, one open house is a lot easier to manage than a gazillion individual showings, says Desimone. Agreed, but it also opens the home to people who aren’t interested in buying at all, including neighbors and thieves, as Rogers Healy recently mentioned on Fox Business News’ The Willis Report. But they do give agents and sellers an opportunity to get some feedback on a listing, Desimone says.

“A good listing agent will want to see as many buyers come through as possible to gauge their reactions to the home,” he offers. “Are people walking in and out quickly? Or are they hanging around? What questions are they asking? What are their biggest hang-ups or concerns? This is the kind of valuable information you can’t get online.”

Agreed. You won’t get a lot of feedback from buyers who shop mostly online, and a seller’s agent won’t likely be at showings, so besides critiques from stagers and other agents, this is likely the only direct feedback sellers can get.

What do you think? Is the Open House a relic, or is it relevant?