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Open Houses

The proliferation of Internet listings and other online real estate information is quickly making open houses more of an option, rather than a requirement for selling a home. In 1995, just 2% of home buyers used the Internet to look for a home, according to the National Association of Realtors. Last year, 77% of home buyers shopped online.

Agents, sellers question effectiveness
For the most part, Johnson, an agent with Dilbeck Realtors and a 25-year veteran of the real estate business, doesn’t hold open houses for her listings unless sellers press the issue. Most of her sales come from her contacts with other agents and from the multiple listing service, she says.

Many agents now refuse to hold open houses, considering them a waste of time and a security threat. And many sellers now prefer to open their doors to serious buyers only.

When open houses still make sense

There are times, when an open house is not practical at all, such as if a house is off the beaten path, or in a gated community. Likewise, it might be best to avoid an open house on a shabby listing or one that requires a lot of work. It probably won’t get much traffic, he says, and agents will be reluctant to have their name advertised heavily in association with it.

But an open house can be a valuable opportunity to get feedback about what is and isn’t attractive about a house, Meer says. He cautions buyers against holding them too often, however. An open house is only worth having if it’s done properly. That involves sprucing up the house and its landscaping and advertising it well in advance.

Desperate measures
Nationwide, home sales are expected to drop 6% this year, and sellers in many markets are already dropping their prices. That may prompt more agents to turn to open houses as a last-ditch effort, Vredevoogd says, after years of avoiding them. “In a buyer’s market, if you are a seller you want to try everything.”

In many markets, that includes hiring a professional stager to make your home look brand new, or at the very least, tastefully appointed. Gail Mayhugh, a professional home stager and owner of GMJ Interiors in Las Vegas, said she has seen an uptick in her business as the once-hot housing market has cooled.

And while open houses may be declining in many parts of the country, some neighborhoods are finding them effective ways to raise the profile of an entire community, if they are all done at the same time.

See-it-to-believe-it homes
To be sure, in some cases, a house is just too unique to market without an open house. The photos on the MLS didn’t do these features justice. And getting people in from her surrounding neighborhood did help. She has now accepted an offer and has a back-up offer just in case.

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