— We take our content seriously. This article was written by a real person at BREL.

(Updated: February 2020)

Real estate agents have long debated the value of open houses. Do they work? If you’re selling your home, is it worth letting your agent host an open house?

At BREL, we have strong beliefs about the importance of open houses and feel they are a crucial part of an overall marketing campaign to attract as many Buyers as possible. Below, we share some important open house tips to get the most out of your open house.

Expect your weekends to be taken over by open houses.

Open houses in Toronto are most common on Saturdays and Sundays, between 2-4 PM, though we sometimes see them start earlier or end later. Some agents host ‘twilight’ open houses on Thursday or Friday evening too, in order to give Buyers additional opportunities to see your home. Twilight open houses work best for unique or extremely in-demand homes or when there are many competing homes hosting weekend open houses at the same time.

Be ready for looky-loos.

Open house attendees run the gamut from curious looky-loo neighbours to serious Buyers to REALTORS to real estate addicts who’ve turned open housing into a hobby. A good agent knows how to spot the potential Buyers and where to focus their selling efforts. Note: it’s not unusual for people to bring kids to an open house, and I’ve seen more than a few try to enter with dogs.

If your agent says open houses don’t work, you might want to question their motives.

Statistically, 6% of houses sell to people who attended an open house, but to be frank, our stats are a lot higher. In 2019, I’d estimate that more than 40% of the Buyers who bought the houses we listed for sale attended one of our open houses – that’s a lot of potential Buyers to miss if you decide not to have one. Point is: our job is to sell your house and we want every opportunity to do it. We want to expose your home to as many people as possible and want the opportunity to tell everyone – including Buyers already working with agents – how great your home is.

Make sure your agent is actually trying to sell your house, not just any house.

Unfortunately, many agents see open houses as an opportunity to find Buyers who don’t have agents. In fact, I’ve seen agents who have actual print-outs of competitive listings, and are trying to sell those to the people who’ve come to see your home. Not cool. Make sure your agent knows that you want them to focus on meeting Buyers to buy YOUR house, not someone else’s.

Make sure the agent hosting your open house is familiar with your house or condo.

There’s nothing worse than when the agent hosting the open house isn’t familiar with your property or neighbourhood.  Insist on having an agent who is familiar with your home host the open house so they can answer all the questions.

Your agent needs to advertise the open house to bring in traffic.

Toronto open houses are usually listed on the MLS and realtor.ca, but it’s important for your agent to advertise your open house to a greater group of potential Buyers. Signs on the street are effective at increasing attendees, though they’ll also bring in a disproportionate number of curious neighbours. We’ve had great success increasing our open house traffic with targeted digital and social media marketing.

Make sure your house is Instagram-ready: floors washed, beds made, litter box cleaned, no dishes in the sink.

No excuses, this is your opportunity to shine. A successful open house may bring in dozens of potential purchasers and it’s to your benefit for them to see your home at its absolute best. (And no, as the agent hosting your open house, I don’t want to wash your floors for you, though I have, and I will. It’s really that important.)

Related: 100 Mistakes Home Sellers Make

Put away your valuables and anything you don’t want people to see.

Curious buyers will open your kitchen cupboards and your closets and unfortunately, it’s often not possible for us to be physically present with every person during their entire visit. Lock up valuables – or better yet, take them out of the house entirely.

Leave the house.

Nobody wants to go through your house when you’re there, and statistics from the National Association of REALTORS show that Sellers who stay home for showings and during open houses sabotage their sale – and that means lower prices and a longer time on the market. Open houses often run late as last-minute guests often sneak in 10 minutes before it’s supposed to end, so leave the house 30 minutes before it’s set to begin and plan to return no earlier than 30 minutes after the scheduled end time. Don’t forget to take your dogs with you!

The most important open house happens on the first weekend your home listed for sale.

Ask your agent how many open houses they are planning to organize. The first weekend is always the most important, though these days, it’s good practice to host a few more if your home doesn’t sell right away. There is a diminishing return over time because most ready Buyers see homes for sale in the first days or weeks after it’s listed for sale, so don’t be surprised if an open house in week 4 only yields a few potential Buyers (or none). And sometimes, having a dead open house is worse than not having one at all. But as a general rule: more open houses are usually a good thing.  

Don’t video the guests at your open house.

It’s natural to be curious about what people will say about your home, but video-recording open house guests will work against you. No Buyer wants to be watched and your goal should be to make them feel at home – not nervous and suspicious. If you must record, be clear and disclose it with a sign.

Not all condominiums allow open houses – and they aren’t always popular.

If you’re selling a condo, note that many condominiums in Toronto forbid open houses or require someone in addition to the agent to greet potential guests at the main entrance. If your condo doesn’t allow open houses, make sure to hire an agent who provides a 3-D virtual tour to help people experience your space from their computer or mobile device, and one who invests in off-MLS marketing to attract potential Buyers to book a private showing.

If your building is open-house-friendly, set your expectations accordingly – condo open houses attract far fewer people than open houses in actual houses.

Agent Open Houses can be effective.

Long ago (before the internet), it was common for real estate agents to organize ‘broker caravans’ and visit properties for sale during open houses organized specifically for agents (usually from 11-2 PM on weekdays). With HDR photos, video and 3-D tours, agent open houses and caravans aren’t nearly as popular as they once were, but can still be a good way of showcasing your home to busy agents. Note: condo agent open houses don’t tend to be well-attended are pretty rare.

So do open houses work in 2020?

They can – if they’re done right. Getting the highest price for your home depends on exposing it to as many potential Buyers as possible – and open houses are one way to do that. Great real estate agents recognize that hosting an open house is part of a comprehensive traditional and digital marketing strategy.



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