by Mary Ann Eckberg, MilitaryByOwner staff writer

It’s a relaxing Sunday afternoon in the neighborhood. Colorful balloons dance around a front yard “Open House” sign. A fragrant bouquet of cut flowers graces the fireplace mantle in the spacious living room, while the welcoming scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafts out from the updated kitchen. The house is impeccably clean. The “honey do” list of chores, for optimum curb appeal, is complete. Packets of information about the local market and how this property compares are stacked neatly on an end table. Your home is ready for a buyer to walk in the door and fall in love!

But in the Internet age, is hosting an Open House worth it?

With the prevalence of online marketing in 2015, some think open house preparations are not worth the time and effort. According to a 2014 report from the National Association of Realtors, 43% of homebuyers initiate looking for a home by searching online. Websites offer listings with excellent photos and professionally produced videos. The NAR report also states 50% of home buyers are following the trend of “there’s an app for that!” by using a mobile website or application in their home search.

Meanwhile, others insist that hosting an Open House remains a positive opportunity to appeal to potential buyers and gain marketing exposure. The increase in online searches for properties has made the need for an Open House more relevant than ever. Buyers wish to view properties they’ve found online, then venture beyond photos and virtual tours and see the layout firsthand. Attending an Open House may help a buyer narrow down exactly what they are looking for.

With this in mind, there are several points to consider when hosting an Open House.

  • Be “show ready.” With potential buyers and agents regularly hunting through online listings, it’s a good idea to keep the home ready to show. Agree to open the home to interested parties as quickly as the requests come in. A “show ready” home will prove that you, the seller, are motivated and willing to work with interested parties.
  • Allow time to browse. A buyer should never feel rushed when at an Open House. They’ll want the full experience: a casual tour of the rooms, time to make notes or take measurements, the chance to picture their own items in your space. Set a leisurely vibe that allows buyers to move through the home at their own pace.
  • Listen and learn. It may feel strange to have others milling through your home, pointing out details and offering opinions. By gathering feedback from potential buyers, a seller may gain a sense of what is most appealing to others and what changes could potentially be made. Constructive criticism may be just the ticket to a quick sale!
  • Embrace trends. Use a variety of different social media platforms to market the home. The more visibility, the better! Check these quick social media tips to get started.

Be aware that when a seller opens their home for an Open House, they may invite in a colorful list of characters who have no intention of actually buying the home. However, even if they’re only stopping by for curiosity’s sake, they may pass on word of your home to an actual buyer! Some of these might include:

  • Those looking “out of their league”: With no pressure to buy and no screening process, an unqualified buyer may attend an Open House to dream of what they could aspire to own.
  • Curious neighbors: Maybe they want to view the interior layout. Maybe they want to view their own property from this one. No matter why, these visitors are neighbors passing through for a lookie-loo.
  • Family ties: Someone in their family previously lived in this home and they decide to stop by to enjoy a trip down memory lane.
  • The “Sunday hobby” or the “Pinterest expert”: Especially in higher-priced markets, an Open House may attract the curious visitor who browses nice homes for Sunday afternoon entertainment or those who tour dream homes looking for unique home improvement or design ideas.

Sadly, a drawback of an Open House is the risk of being a target for theft. A seller often has no prior knowledge about the people who are walking through their home. Are they casing the property? Are they looking to grab jewelry, small electronics, or prescription medications? We recommend that you remove all valuables from the home or keep them locked in a safe. With personal security in mind, a seller may also remove photos, addressed mail, and any items that could give away personal information. Enlist the help of friends or family to ensure there’s no section of the house left unmonitored, for safety’s sake.

Along with potential buyers attending an Open House, the event may attract other real estate agents. Curious to see the details of the property firsthand, the agents may then report back to their buyer clients. With confidence that your home has made a good impression, this “word of mouth” may continue to market the property.

When selling a home, one of the goals is to make a good first impression. If hosting an Open House accomplishes that goal, it may be followed by a successful home sale!

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