5 Tips for a Successful Open House

Ellen Miller
Written by Ellen Miller
Updated September 1, 2016
Top-rated real estate agents say open houses are more effective for buyers than sellers, unless the house is in a high-demand, low-supply market. (Photo by Ellen Miller)

Hosting an open house is one way a Realtor can market your home that's for sale.

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While open houses rarely lead to a sale, except perhaps in exceptionally hot housing markets, they can be a part of a complete marketing plan. Brokers who are highly rated by Angie's List members offer these tips on how sellers can get the most from an open house:

1. Be realistic

Unless you're in a high-demand, low-inventory neighborhood or market, don't be surprised if an open house attracts a handful of visitors at most.

"The turnout at open houses is very low," says Realtor Jen Geisinger of her Minneapolis market. "Less than 1 percent of homes on the market will ever sell to someone who walked through an open house."

2. Timing is everything

It's best if open houses coincide with the home's market debut.

"The best time to have one is the first weekend, when it's the new kid on the block," says Beth Smith Shuey, a real estate agent in Charlotte, North Carolina. "After it’s been on the market a month or so, it’s kind of old news."

It's also to be aware of what else is out there that will compete for buyers' time.

"In Indianapolis, you may as well forget getting anyone to an open house during the Colts' season," notes Realtor Mike Puckett.

3. Make sure the house is ready

Real estate agents agree that an open house property should be in good repair, uncluttered and spotlessly clean. Also, if the home is occupied, it's wise to secure anything that might attract a thief.

"Take the precaution of removing valuables and prescriptions and anything private," says Brett Clifton, a real estate consultant in Seattle. "There are lots of stories that happen across the country, regularly, where somebody pilfers through drawers, looking for jewelry or prescription drugs."

4. Clarify expectations with your real estate agent

To be most effective, the hosting agent should:

• Have the right personality and background. "The agent must be smiling, welcoming, very knowledgeable about the house and the neighborhood and the schools," says Realtor Barbara Lymberis of Perfect Harmony Properties in San Jose, California.

• Market the open house in a variety of ways, including websites, flyers and signs directing visitors to the home.

• Share highlights about the home to visitors.

• Never promote competing homes for sale.

5. Soak up the input from open house visitors

An agent and the homeowner can learn a lot about a property's strengths and weaknesses from visitors' responses. Plan to confer with your broker to see if he or she learned anything that might expedite a sale.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on January 22, 2013.

What do you think about open houses? Share your opinion with us in the comments section below.

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