It's good news that many of us are vaccinated and as a result, life is slowly beginning to open up and return to what's clearly, the "new normal." (My brother-in-law seems destined to stick with masks and social distancing for the foreseeable future, and that's okay too; whatever floats your boat and reassures.)
But no sooner were restrictions lifted, than many Agents began to once again host Open Houses almost immediately.
For the record, I'm not opposed to Open Houses; I think they serve an important function, which is why Jill, Sarah and I will all be manning (womening) three separate listings this coming Sunday, but it's important to point out that Sellers don't actually need Public Opens to sell their homes.
What we learned during the pandemic - while navigating cumbersome restrictions that ONLY allowed for private showings, and also limited the participants and exposure - is that properties NEVER sold FASTER or for MORE MONEY than they did with our hands completely tied behind our backs. Let me repeat that: during the past 16 months, properties have never sold faster or for more money - without flyers, without MLS sheets, without handouts, without A-frames, and WITHOUT a single open house to be found!
So why return to the world of Open Homes?
Good question and the answer is because Buyers need them. Absent Public Opens or Brokers' Tours, Buyers were only able to look at a few houses before submitting an offer, and in many cases, that left them essentially purchasing in a vacuum, which tended to create a good deal of second-guessing and insecurity. It also meant that Agents were forced to show properties individually to every Buyer on their roster, which frankly, was a scheduling nightmare and totally exhausting.
Sunday Opens create context and allow the Buyers to self-edit and refine their search. In short, they educate the buying public and free up the Agents to meet at the properties that are more likely to be real contenders - instead of multiple "maybes" - and that's a much more efficient use of our time.
That being said, I think the practice of holding Opens on both Saturday AND Sunday defeats the other reason to host these events, which is to create urgency and demand. As much as Buyers may hate the competitive process of purchasing a home, they'll quickly eliminate properties that seem to have been overlooked. (How come nobody wants that house?) Buyers want and need validation from the herd and its confirmation that's very much on display at Public Opens. ("I can't believe how sweet this house is! Did you notice all the natural light?") Agents like a popular Open and it turns out, Buyers need them as well.
Consequently holding a house open on both Saturday and Sunday dilutes the viewing audience, thus the demand. (It doesn't actually follow that twice as many Opens produce twice as many visitors.) It also limits the showing hours that Agents can take their prospective Buyers to the house for private showings on Saturday when most Buyers are available and ready to focus on the task at hand. (Even during Covid, Buyers tended to view properties on the weekends.) Moreover with better tools such as websites, Matterports, videos, and a host of other marketing props, hosting an Open house for three hours seems fairly outdated and often redundant.
So now that we've had a sustained break from the demands of Open Houses, let's agree to stick to Sunday Opens only, because frankly, Sunday is enough, and working smarter just seems to make far more sense. (Don't you think?)
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.