Everyone has their idea of a perfect weekend. For some, that perfect weekend includes visiting open house after open house, getting a peek into the lives of others and perhaps getting their hands on some free cookies.
Although open houses might be great fun for curious neighbors and “is-the-grass-greener” looky-loos, do they offer any value to sellers? Maybe, but there are also likely to be better options in our technology-driven day and age.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2018 Technology Survey found that 53% of home buyers used open houses in their search — considerably fewer than the percentage who used websites, mobile apps, or a real estate agent. If you’re contemplating selling your home, you don’t need to also worry about hosting a successful open house. You’re more likely to get traction on your home by embracing the Internet and social media and by making sure your property puts its best foot forward.
Why Open Houses Aren’t Worth It
If your goal is to sell your home, you probably aren’t going to find a buyer through an open house. NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers showed that just 6% of buyers ended up buying a home they found through an open house. An open house usually isn’t worth the time and effort required because in many ways it doesn’t mesh with the rest of the steps involved in home buying and selling.
For one thing, the majority of buyers — 89% according to NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers — work with a real estate agent. They’re likely to book private showings of a house through their buyer’s agent rather than attend an open house unaccompanied.
There’s also a lot of vetting of potential buyers involved in the home buying process. Even if someone attends your open house and decides that your property is the one for them, they’ll need to go through several steps before they can start the buying process. They’ll need to get preapproved for a mortgage unless they plan on paying in cash. If a potential buyer hasn’t started that process, it could delay your sale, which might not work for your timeline.
Visitors Rarely Buy
If a person is serious about buying a home, they find a real estate agent, get preapproved for a mortgage, and make lists of what they need in a property. When a person isn’t serious about buying a home, they visit open houses.
People who tend to visit open houses fall into distinct categories. There’s the neighbor who wants to see how the house down the block compares to their own. There’s the passerby who’s drawn in by the promise of free donuts or cookies. And there’s the real estate agent who wants to scope out the competition.
Few, if any, of those people are going to end up seriously considering buying your home.
COVID-19 Pandemic Risks
If the thought of having to vacate your house for a few hours so that nosy neighbors and competitive real estate agents can poke around your personal items isn’t enough to convince you to skip the open house, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might be.
Although home sales are still happening despite the pandemic, people are a little less inclined to visit open houses. If a prospective buyer wants to look at a home, they now need to make an appointment for a private showing in most places. In the interests of contact tracing, buyers and agents need to provide accurate contact information. Gone are the days of a looky-loo popping into an open house and leaving the agent with a fake name and email address.
Open Houses Are Great — for Realtors
Although an open house isn’t likely to bring a serious buyer and usually doesn’t offer much benefit to home sellers, the tradition is great for one person: the listing agent. An open house is often a free marketing event for the seller’s agent. Not only do they get to show off a house, they also usually leave the event with a long list of leads. Even if the people who drop by and leave their real name and email address aren’t interested in buying right now, they might be in the future and the real estate agent will already have an in with them.
How to Sell Your Home Without an Open House
So if you’re going to skip the open house — for pandemic-related reasons or more general ones — what can you do instead to market your home and get it to the front of people’s minds? The more you do to promote your home, the more likely you’ll be to get offers at asking price or higher.
Digital marketing and the Internet make it easy to get people’s eyes on your property, even if they aren’t spending their Sunday afternoon walking through your living room.
1. Use a Multiple Listing Service and Listing Websites
If you’re working with a real estate agent to sell your home, they should be part of a multiple listing service (MLS), a network that gives brokers and agents access to information about homes for sale in a particular area. There are hundreds of MLS networks across the U.S., and the information found on them is different and much more comprehensive than the information available on websites such as Zillow or Trulia.
If your agent puts your home on an MLS, it will likely also appear on Zillow, Trulia, and similar websites. The more places your home-for-sale listing appears online, the more likely you’ll be to find a buyer without an open house.
Are you selling your home without a realtor, for sale by owner (FSBO)? Then your situation is a little different than someone who’s working with an agent. You’ll need to list your property on an MLS yourself, usually for a fee. You can also list it on real estate websites such as Zillow, as well as on community websites like NextDoor and Craigslist.
2. Create a Social Media Page for Your House
Social media can be an effective and free marketing tool when you are trying to sell your home. You have a few options when it comes to promoting your property on social media. You can make a post about your home, including photos, and share it on your personal profile, on either Facebook or Instagram.
Another option is to find a real estate agent who’s social-media savvy and have them create posts about your property on their business’ page.
You can also create a dedicated profile just for your home, sharing photos of it and creating posts full of important facts, such as the year the house was built, the age of the HVAC system, and the average monthly cost of utilities.
Giving your home a social media presence using some basic keywords and content will help to draw in digitally-savvy buyers.
3. Work With a Stager
Even without an open house, interested buyers are still going to come see your home in person. Before that, they’ll most likely look at pictures of the house online. Whether you are still living in the house or not, it’s worthwhile to invest in home staging to make it look attractive to potential buyers.
You can hire a professional home stager to arrange your furniture and tidy up your home or you can take a DIY approach. Staging usually involves the following:
- Decluttering. Another word for decluttering might be depersonalizing. Pack away personal touches, such as family photos and your kids’ trophies and certificates. You can have some decorative items out, but keep them limited and simple.
- Arranging. Ideally, a staged home will have some furniture but not too much. For example, in a bedroom there might be a bed, nightstands, and a dresser, but not bookcases and a desk filling up all the available space.
- Going Neutral. Give your home’s walls a new coat of paint, preferably in neutral colors, such as greige, ivory, or white. Keep the furniture colors neutral as well. A pop of color might be fine, such as a patterned throw pillow, but don’t go wild.
- Boosting Curb Appeal. Update the plantings in front of your home; give the front door, facade, and porch a fresh coat of paint; and make sure the mailbox isn’t dented or damaged.
4. Capture Your Home at Its Best
Photos can make or break your home’s online listing and its social media presence. If you aren’t comfortable with your photography skills, your best bet might be to hire a professional photographer — preferably someone who has experience taking pictures of properties for sale.
Should you decide to take your own photos, there are some tips to keep in mind.
- Use a Tripod. A tripod holds the camera still and steady for you, allowing for clear, focused images.
- Get the Lighting Right. When you shoot in a particular room of your home depends on the direction the room faces and the amount of natural light available. You may want to take several photos at different times of day to see which works best.
- More is More — Most of the Time. The more photos of you have your home, the better. Try to get at least one picture of each room. Aim for quality over quantity, though. If you can’t get a flattering shot of a windowless powder room no matter what you do, it’s better to leave it out.
- Use a Wide Lens. Using a wide-angle lens lets you capture more of the room in the photo.
- Compose the Photo. Taking a picture is more than just lifting up a camera, looking through the viewfinder, and pressing the button. The best photos are composed, meaning the photographer took the time to carefully consider what’s in the image. Play around with taking pictures from different locations in each room and while holding the camera at different angles.
5. Create a Virtual Tour
A virtual or video tour of your home can help buyers feel like they are inside the property without them having to leave the comfort of their couches. You can go about creating a video tour on your own, by walking through the house slowly, narrating what’s in each room.
Making a virtual tour can be a bit more complex, depending on the path you choose. In some cases, a virtual tour is simply a slideshow of photos of the home. In others, it’s more of a 3D simulation that lets buyers feel as though they are actually inside of the home. Some real estate agencies use 3D virtual tours as a selling point, so it can be worth your time to ask your agent or to seek out an agent who uses them.
6. Make the Most of Yard Signs
In this digital-first age, a yard sign might seem as out-of-date as an open house. But don’t dismiss the value of a yard sign just yet. It can be a helpful marketing tool, depending on the information you include on the sign.
One option is to include your property’s social media handle on the sign or to create a QR code for people to scan as they walk by the sign. The code can bring up your home’s listing website or link to one of its social media profiles. You can also include a phone number on the sign, which you can use to direct calls to your realtor, yourself, or a recorded voice message describing the house and its features.
7. Trust Your Realtor
If you’re working with the right real estate agent, they should be someone you trust. Part of trusting your agent means taking their advice and suggestions seriously. If they recommend listing your house for a certain price based on comps and the potential appraisal, it’s best to follow that advice. The same is true when it comes to marketing your home. Your agent can be a reliable source of tips and tricks to get your home on and off the real estate market as quickly as possible.
Remember, your agent is part of your team. When your home sells quickly and for the highest possible price, they win too.
The open house isn’t quite extinct just yet, but it’s nearly there. Save the in-person showings of your home for people who are genuinely interested and serious about buying, and let the curious looky-loos browse your house photos and details online.
You’ll save time and energy and won’t have to worry about baking batches of cookies when you skip the open house entirely.