I started selling real estate in late 2003, about a year before Zillow was founded. At that time, Realtor.com had been around for 7 years. I remember using Realtor.com when we purchased homes in California in the early 2000’s and before we moved to Park City in 2003. However, at that time the internet took a long time to download information, photos were grainy, and people were just getting used to buying things online.
As a newer real estate agent, part of my training was to “sit” open houses as a means to attract buyer clients. You read that right. “Sitting” an open house was not designed to sell the listing. Instead, agents were literally using their clients’ homes to attract new clients. I never felt good about sending an owner out of their home for an afternoon and supervising strangers walking through the home in the hopes that I would find an unrepresented buyer who wanted to purchase the home I was sitting in or buy another home.
By about 2008, I noticed fewer people attending my open houses, and they soon became a total waste of time. But why?
As Zillow gained popularity, buyers and curiosity seekers never needed to leave the comfort of their own homes to see the inside of a home that piqued their interest. Then the market crashed in 2009 and there were hardly any buyers. My days of doing public open houses were over. When I met with sellers and told them I would not be holding public open houses, they were thrilled!
When the real estate market opened back up after the pandemic, and there were way more buyers than homes for sale, many realtors would use a public open house as a way to show the home to the maximum number of buyers in the least amount of time minimizing the disturbance to the owner. We did this, too, because it made sense. I heard about some open houses in Salt Lake City where 100 buyers walked through a home in one weekend and by Monday there were over 30 offers. In case you haven’t heard, those days are now over.
The National Association of REALTORS in their 2022 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers noted that 96% of all homebuyers used online search tools, with 60% of those searches taking place on mobile devices. In my opinion, with the exception of crazy markets with more buyers than houses, the online home tour has forever taken the place of the public open house.
Armed with this knowledge, we know the quality of the photos and the preparation required to perfectly present a home online are essential parts of a marketing strategy. But that’s a topic for another blog post. Also, it’s important to note that we still do “realtor open houses” and special events at some listings, because we feel they are effective.
Have you ever purchased a home by walking into an open house? Have you ever sold a home by holding an open house? What do you think of public open houses? I’d love to hear in the comments.