Yesterday came news from COMPASS California Broker, Kathy Mehringer, that the CDC would be issuing new rules around face masks for those of us who are vaccinated, declaring that masks can be discarded both indoors AND outdoors except for venues with large crowds in sustained atmospheres (ie: concerts, plays, sports stadiums, etc.). AND while the Association of Realtors (AOR) was quick to suggest that Open Houses could soon resume, COMPASS strongly suggested that we show continued restraint by following the guidelines for "Shown Properties" as published by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). In other words, the current Covid protocol does NOT lay the groundwork for the traditional Open Houses.
(In case you were interested.)
Shown Property Guidance from the CDPH:
Really? No paper? Someone should let the US Postal Service know because they've been delivering mail to my mailbox throughout the pandemic . . . .
Be that as it may, most Agents would be thrilled if we never returned to Open Houses (placing the A-frames and picking them up at the end of the day is a grind), and I would have been one of them. After almost two decades of spending nearly every weekend in someone else's house, smiling, shaking hands, and explaining the charms of a particular property and its surrounding community, it's become abundantly clear that the Sunday Open House isn't a tool we need AT ALL to sell a property. In fact, sales have never been brisker, despite the fact that physically showing houses has been a frustrating exercise in jumping through hoops, juggling appointments, sending out entry waivers, masking up, collecting CB codes, and wiping down surfaces. In short, it's been a royal pain!
Let's face it, even before Coronavirus, the INTERNET and Google Earth had already rendered the "Open House" an outdated practice; a fact most Agents were reluctant to share with their Sellers who weren't always keen on the idea of opening their home to strangers. Given that properties CAN easily be seen "virtually" and that the pandemic has only sharpened these online tools, why have Sunday Opens at all? (Good question.)
Moreover, the unspoken truth is that Open Homes have always been the vehicle that allowed Agents to meet unrepresented Buyers, and more importantly, potential Sellers who were thinking of moving and wanted to see the Realtor in action. (The nosey neighbor who just wanted to compare their properties was a bonus.) Additionally, Sunday Opens gave the "newbie" a place to gain experience and meet potential clients - manning Opens was the price of admission. The house got exposure, and so did the showing Agent. It was a win/win.
And while I won't claim I miss Sunday Opens, (I do miss Brokers' Tours) what's evolved in their place is much more taxing. Having to meet every Buyer to personally show them a home they've identified online means that our weekends (and weekdays) are largely consumed by private viewings - most of which will never meet the criteria - and then chasing the required paperwork to get our Buyers inside for an extremely truncated showing. Meanwhile, the next group waits impatiently outside for their turn. In the most extreme cases, the appointments are limited to 15 minutes, and stressed-out Buyers are forced to come to a decision to spend $2 million on their "dream house" in less time than it takes to get a cup of coffee at Peet's.
However, what Sunday Opens DID provide was the opportunity for Buyers to see and to REJECT homes, which in turn, gave them market context. Without that, Buyers are essentially purchasing in a vacuum and that's a whole other experience that doesn't really benefit anyone. (Can you say "Buyers' Remorse?") Open houses also validated a Buyer's choice. If other people liked the house - as witnessed up close and in person - it became a far more inviting proposition. To put it in CDC terms, BIG purchases are more easily accomplished in "the herd." Psychologically, it matters!
So bring back the Sunday Open, even if it means we have to limit the number of people inside the house, hand out antiseptic wipes instead of flyers, and ask them to show their vaccine card. On balance, we all need them.
Hey, if the post office can deliver mail, we can surely figure out a way to safely resume public showings.
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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.