Back in the day of the MLS book, before the modern era of internet Listing Services, the open house was the only way a person could actually get into a home or sometimes even know a home was for sale. Homes were actually sold to people driving by when the old, “Honey stop the car…” was spoken. For years open houses were also a great tool for a Realtor to pick up new clients. It would go something like this: Mr. and Mrs. Seller agree to have an open house. The agent puts out the yard signs and passersby and neighbors, stop in to look. The agent gets names of these folks and some of them turn into new clients. Maybe a neighbor wants to sell, or maybe a buyer needs an agent to help them. Either scenario however, seldom yields an offer for the seller. As a result more and more sellers chose to forgo the disruption of their Sunday, instead of allowing their Realtor to hold an open house. The thinking being, “Serious buyers have their own agent already; only looky-loo’s will show up at the open house .”
Then a few years ago things started to change. Suddenly the need for an open house as a tool to sell the house was heightened because of what I affectionately refer to as “Free Agents.” These are the 30-40+ year olds who are tech savvy and able to access most of the information about available inventory from sites on the internet. Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia and online broker Redfin, being the sites of choice for most of these new potential buyers. Realtors would publish the open house date online and the “Free Agents” would show up. They didn’t want an agent and didn’t feel the need for one. After all, they could get all the information they needed online and the open house filled in the missing part about getting into the home. They didn’t need a Realtor; a Realtor would just try to sell them something anyway. Thus, the open house became more of a selling tool than it had for many years.
Fast forward to this wild housing market we have today. I visited an open house on a new listing this past weekend. You would have thought they were giving away the secrets of the universe or something because there were so many people in attendance. And not just “Free Agents” but real estate agents with their clients. Why? It was a new listing. The strategy being, put the new listing on the market on a Thursday or Friday and hold the open house on Saturday and Sunday so that come Sunday night the agent and the seller can navigate through the 10 or 15 offers to select one. It’s not usually necessary to counter offer because in many cases, because the strongest offer is so strong you can just accept it. It will be over asking. It will allow the seller’s agent to select the services of his or her choosing. It pretty much will give everything to the seller because in this market every buyer is raising their hands saying, “pick me, pick me,” like kids on a playground. However, for the agent holding the open house, there are so many people through, it’s almost impossible to get names and leads from that open house today. Lead generation and working with “Free Agents” has become and near impossibility. To quote an agent I met on Saturday, “This is crazy.”
And so it is, with this market today. Homes for sale are so scarce that a listing and the open house are the new, old way of doing business… and those “Free Agents?” They better have a Realtor who knows the ropes because they will be left outside looking in if they think they can do it on their own.