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Top 6 Ways to Sell Your Home Without Hosting an Open House

By Dan Rafter

house for saleHolding an open house has long been part of the home-selling process. The problem is, open houses no longer work – and real estate agents know this.

A survey conducted by Inman News reported that 62.6% of real estate agent respondents said that the now discontinued Realtors Nationwide Open House Weekend provided them with an opportunity to market themselves to potential buyers and sellers. However, only one out of every five respondents said the event was a good way to connect buyers and sellers. Essentially, this means that many agents rely on open houses only to sell themselves – and not their clients’ homes.

Why Open Houses Work Against You

The biggest problem with open houses is that they so infrequently attract the right kind of buyer (i.e., one who is working with a real estate agent and has already been pre-approved for a mortgage loan). Instead, open houses often attract those who aren’t even sure if they are financially able to buy a home.

Many real estate agents won’t work with buyers until they’ve supplied copies of their most recent paychecks, income tax return statements, and bank account statements to a mortgage lender for mortgage pre-approval. Lenders look at this information and determine how much money they would be willing to lend to the buyer. These buyers are then pre-approved for a set amount of mortgage dollars, and typically avoid looking at homes they can’t realistically afford.

Buyers who are not serious enough to gain pre-approval for a mortgage loan won’t find many real estate agents willing to take them on official home showings. These agents rightly consider it a waste of their seller clients’ time. And since anyone can attend an open house – even potential “buyers” who’ve never called a real estate or loan officer – a majority of attendees are nowhere near ready to make an offer on a home.

Open houses also present potential privacy and safety issues. An open house requires you to open up your home to complete strangers, even when the odds of one of these visitors eventually making an offer are extremely low. Letting pre-approved buyers tour your home with a real estate agent is already an invasion of your privacy – but at least during scheduled individual showings, there’s a decent chance the potential buyers will make an offer on your residence.

selling a house online

Best Ways to Sell Your Home

Because of the growing impact of the Internet, open houses are even less useful today than they were a decade ago. Fortunately, there are plenty of effective marketing tools that you and your real estate agent can turn to when trying to sell your home.

1. Create Online Listings
First, you need your agent to list your home on as many websites as possible – from Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com, to the website of your local real estate company. According to the National Association of Realtors, 90% of buyers rely on the Internet during their home search to find their new residence. In comparison, only 53% of home buyers rely on yard signs to find new homes, while just 27% use newspaper ads. Listing your home on Craigslist can also be a good option, as it allows you to target your local community.

2. Post Plenty of Photos
Getting buyers to view your home’s online listings is only part of the battle. You also want to give them plenty to look at. Include at least four photos, but preferably many more. To ensure that the photos are professional, hire a photographer, or have your real estate agent take them.

Also be sure that these photos highlight your home’s best features. For example, if your kitchen is newly renovated, or your master bathroom is exceptionally large, showcase those areas with plenty of photos.

3. Offer Virtual Tours
A virtual tour is a series of still photos of a home linked together in a single video, allowing potential buyers to view the inside of a home from the comfort of their own computers. When online visitors click on your home’s virtual tour, they are presented with a series of shots of your residence’s best features – anything from the large backyard, to the renovated sun room, to the spacious living room.

Your agent should arrange this service for you. Some agents pay for the creation of virtual tours, while others might pass the charge of creating one onto you. Different virtual tour providers charge different prices, but most charge about $100 to $150 for a standard tour, with four to six shots of a home. Additional shots can increase the price.

4. Offer Video Tours
A video tour can be an even better method than a virtual tour to showcase your home. As you may expect, a video tour is a continuous video of your home, often narrated and set to music. These too are designed to highlight your home’s best features, with the added advantage that the narrator can quickly sum up all the reasons why your home is perfect for buyers.

Like virtual tours, video tours range in price, and you can expect to pay between $100 and $200 for one. However, you need to remember that quality is the most important factor – a bad tour with poorly lit rooms, grainy images, and an uneven or inaudible soundtrack can quickly turn off potential buyers. When vetting professional tour companies, request referrals from past customers, and check out samples of their work online.

5. Hunt for Niche Buyers
Some properties appeal to a small, select group of buyers. If your home is one of these, it’s important to identify the niche buyers who would be most interested in buying it, and advertise your property on websites catering to them. For instance, if you’re selling a lakefront home, advertise on websites and blogs targeted toward fishermen, retirees, and boaters. If you’re selling a home that comes with horse stables, advertise on the top blogs and websites devoted to equestrians.

6. Enhance Your Listings
Though it costs more, it may be worthwhile to prominently feature your home on sites such as Realtor.com (enhanced listings) and Zillow (featured listings). Both promise to give your house much more exposure. The cost to upgrade your listing varies by site, and may depend on metrics such as how many views your listing gets. Your real estate agent can provide more details.

selling a house online

Final Word

Sundays provide precious free time. Don’t waste them by turning your home over to a real estate agent and nosy neighbors. And don’t worry about your real estate agent pressuring you to schedule an open house – chances are, he or she will be relieved that you are an educated home seller, one who no longer believes in the myth of the open house.

What additional tips can you suggest to help sell a home?

Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter has written about real estate and mortgage topics for more than 15 years. During this time, he's written for the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Consumers Digest, Business 2.0 Magazine, BusinessWeek Online, Mental Floss, and dozens of other trade publications.

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