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

REALTORS have been conducting open houses forever, and yet for the last few years, they haven’t been particularly effective. Sure, agents continued to host them because it was an opportunity to grow their own businesses (don’t get me started), but we weren’t often seeing open houses translating into selling the actual house that was being open-housed. It worked maybe 15% of the time. 

Enter 2019 and a new trend: Open houses are working for the Seller again!

This year, I’d estimate that 75% of our listings were discovered by the eventual Buyer at our open house – usually, without their agent present.  

What’s going on?

While it’s impossible to know for sure, my gut tells me:

  • Buyers want control – With more information and data at their fingertips, many Buyers are choosing to take control of their property search, vs being at the mercy of their agent’s schedule. We still think private showings with agents are critical before making an offer – but open houses can allow a Buyer to test new neighbourhoods and price points.
  • 2019 Buyers aren’t that motivated...many Buyers are repeatedly starting and stopping their home searches, and open houses are an easy way for them to ebb and flow into and out of their house search, without commitment.

The good news: Most Buyers are still choosing to work with an agent they trust and not just making an offer with the listing agent. Read: Should You Buy With the Listing Agent?  to understand why that’s important.

Below, our pro open house tips for Buyers and Sellers.

Maximizing Your Open House Experience as a Buyer

  • Open houses don’t just happen in Toronto on Sundays – Saturdays are almost as popular and twilight open houses (in the evening and usually targeted to the nearby neighbours), are increasingly being held too. Check realtor.ca or the listings your agent sends you for open house dates and times. 
  • Wear slip on/slip off shoes – and socks!
  • If you’re already working with an agent, be upfront about it. It’ll lessen the sales pitch, and if they receive an offer, the listing agent can contact your agent, so you aren’t left out of the loop.
  • When you’re asked to sign in, don’t lie about your name (yes, we know a lot of you do that). Signing in is a security method for both the agent and the Seller. BUT! You and I both know a lot of agents use your information to spam and harass you, so be very clear with them if you don’t want to be contacted by them.
  • Ask plenty of questions – it’s incredible how open some agents can be during an open house. 
  • If you don’t love the house, leave the feature sheet behind – it’s better for the environment.
  • If you’re open housing with your kids, don’t let them out of your sight. An open house isn’t an invitation to jump on someone else’s bed or go through the toy box.
  • Remember: it’s possible that the Seller has a video camera recording the open house…so watch what you say and do.
  • If you love the house:  tell your agent right away. They’ll schedule a private showing to visit with you, where they can do their job and due diligence. 

Always make your bed and tidy the house!

Optimizing the Open House: for Sellers

  • Hold your agent accountable: 
    • Ask when your agent is planning on hosting open houses and how many they are planning. The first weekend is always the most important, though these days, it’s good practice to host a few more if the home doesn’t sell right away. While there is diminishing return over time (and sometimes having a dead open house is worse than not having one at all) more is usually better.
    • Make sure their top priority is selling your home – not meeting new potential Buyers to grow their business. 
    • What type of advertising are they doing related to the open house? Have they advertised it on realtor.ca? (That doesn’t happen automatically and shockingly, a lot of agents don’t know how to do this). Are they promoting it on social media?
    • Who will be hosting it? If it’s an agent other than them, does the person know the details so they can answer questions?
    • If you’re selling a condo, note that many condominiums in Toronto forbid open houses. Hopefully, you’re working with an agent who is providing a 3-D virtual tour and doing lots of off-MLS marketing to bring in potential Buyers who can schedule a private showing to see the home themselves. If your building is open-house-friendly, set your expectations accordingly – condo open houses attract far fewer people than open houses in actual houses. 
  • Leave the house and don’t plan to return until at least 30 minutes after the scheduled end time. Open houses often run as the last minute rush of potential buyers sneaks in 10 minutes before it’s supposed to end
  • Prep the house before leaving – make the bed, put the laundry away, clean the floors and the litter box. Open houses and showings are your chance to show your home at its very best. 

Open houses are back, and the BREL team couldn’t be any more excited about it.


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