Foyer

Timing, preparation and concerns about your home security all come into play as you consider whether an open house will help sell your home. (Getty Images)

When launching a new property onto the market, an open house is usually standard procedure.

An open house invites people to tour a home that is for sale. A listing real estate agent often schedules two different types of open houses: a "broker only" open house to other agents, during the day on a weekday, and an open house that's open to the public, typically on a Sunday. Usually, an open house lasts about 1.5 hours with the goal of attracting a buyer who is out and about looking at other homes for sale in the area.

But in the era of the internet where listing a home for sale online presents extensive photos, floor plans and videos, is this traditional format still effective? And if so, for what types of properties does it work best?

Here are some key questions to consider when thinking about whether an open house is the best strategy for your home:

  • Does an open house logistically work for you?
  • How does asking price factor into an open house?
  • How often should you hold an open house?
  • How can you keep your home safe and clean during an open house?
  • Do you need bells and whistles for an open house?
  • How can you prepare for an open house?

[Read: 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home]

Does an Open House Logistically Work for You?

How flexible are you and what does it take to vacate your home? Young children or pets at home are considerations when scheduling showings and open houses, especially those on a Sunday when kids are not in school.

Perhaps regular open houses work best when you're hoping to allow many people to see your home on your terms during a scheduled block of time. It might be easier to clean the house and make it look perfect for a scheduled showing as opposed to multiple impromptu appointments. The hope is, with an open house, the home will be seen by many potential buyers in one shot.

This begs the question of quantity versus quality – are those who drop by really homebuyers ready to make an offer? Keep in mind, a serious buyer will most likely want to return for a private showing to review the property at length and more thoroughly.

How Does Asking Price Factor Into an Open House?

Homes at entry-level prices for the local market usually attract first-time buyers. Many of these buyers are at work during the weekday and spend their time looking for homes on Sunday afternoons after a slow morning or meeting friends for brunch. Weekend open houses are convenient for this type of buyer, especially as she is figuring out what she wants and needs in a home, though a visit during an open house won't necessarily lead to an immediate offer.

On the flip side, many high-end, luxury properties attract a more private client who prefers to view properties discreetly on his or her own terms. A public open house may attract those just looking for sport or curiosity, whether they're your nosy neighbors or people who aren't really interested in buying. For both reasons, homes at the high end of the price range are less likely to host public open houses.

[Read: 7 Online Tools to Help You Estimate Your Home’s Value]

How Often Should You Hold an Open House?

How many open houses are a good idea? Most ready buyers who have been waiting and watching the inventory flow usually appear, if interested, within the first two weeks of a property being listed for sale. After that, regular open houses may attract a general flow of weekend lookie-loos, as many buyers wander from open house to open house for fun. They may just be curious, but an open house format provides a no-pressure platform to look.

After those first couple weeks on market you can typically stop holding open houses, as the buyers who are interested in the property and that have a more deliberate plan to assess the house will likely make an appointment to tour the place.

How Can You Keep Your Home Safe and Clean During an Open House?

Agents do their best to monitor visitors, but all personal belongings should be put away. It may seem obvious, but jewelry should be secured – preferably in a safe. Items such as mail and newspapers with the owner’s identity on an address label should be hidden for privacy. Remember that people do like to snoop, so you can expect cabinets and closets to be opened.

To keep the house clean, many sellers prefer that visitors remove shoes or wear shoe covers to protect carpets. Discuss your preferences in advance with your agent.

Do You Need Bells and Whistles for an Open House?

Some real estate agents advertise coffee and donuts at open houses to entice traffic. Realize that strangers will be eating and drinking in your home. While it may encourage people to stick around longer, the chances food and drink will help sell your home are slim.

How Can You Prepare for an Open House?

The open house is showtime for your property and you can only make one first impression. Make sure the home looks fantastic. If there is a leak in the roof or the heat stops working, it's better to cancel the open house than make excuses for something that is fixable and minor, but creates worry and doubt.

[Read: What’s Dragging Down the Value of Your Home?]

The goal of an open house is to make your home available to a potential buyer at a time that works for you, and when buyers are traditionally out shopping. If you're still unsure an open house will be beneficial to you, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Will the buyer for my type of property want to come to an open house format?
  2. Do I, the seller, want to have strangers wandering through my home?
  3. Do I really need to do this to sell my home?

The realistic answer to most, if not all, of these questions is, "No, probably not." You may still opt for an open house and consider it a useful marketing tool, but it's unlikely you'll get an offer directly from an open house.


10 Secrets to Selling Your Home Faster

Ensure a quick sale.

Upscale modern house for sale

(Getty Images)

Selling your home quickly not only allows you to move on with your life, it also means fewer days of keeping your home in pristine condition and leaving every time your agent brings prospective buyers for a tour. According to real estate information company Zillow, the best time to list a home for sale is on a Saturday between May 1 and 15; homes listed during those times sell six days faster and for 0.7% more than the average annual home price. But how fast your home actually sells, and at what price, depends on factors beyond timing. Here are 10 secrets to selling your home faster, no matter when you list it.

Updated on March 20, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Pick a selling strategy.

Pick a selling strategy.

African American neighbors greeting each other over fence

(Getty Images)

Before putting a for sale sign in your yard, it's important to pick the selling strategy that will work best for you. The for-sale-by-owner option may be best if you feel confident in your ability to market the home and negotiate. If your time is better spent on other details, a real estate agent could be best. If you need to sell the home quickly, you may want to inquire with an iBuyer, an entity that can make the deal close faster than the typical homebuyer. You should feel confident in the selling strategy you choose, and avoid switching from one to the other while your house is on the market. Buyers could be turned off by the constant changing of circumstances.

Invest in a professional photographer.

Invest in a professional photographer.

Close-up of a man photographing with a camera

(Getty Images)

According to NAR's 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 44% of recent buyers started their search online. Of those, 87% found photos very useful in their home search. If your listing photos don’t show off the features of your home, prospective buyers may reject it without even taking a tour or going to the open house. Hiring a professional photographer and posting at least 30 photos of your home, inside and out, is a good way to attract buyers. Photography is often free for home sellers, as shoots are often conducted at the expense of real estate brokers as part of marketing the property.

Clean everything.

Clean everything.

Not prepared to miss a spot!

(People Images/ Getty Images)

Nothing turns off buyers like a dirty house. Hire a company to deep clean if you can’t do it yourself. “When the (home) is on the market, no matter what time of day or night, it should be clean and neat,” says Ellen Cohen, a licensed associate real estate broker with real estate brokerage Compass in New York City.

Key places to clean while your home is on the market include:

  • Kitchen countertops.
  • Inside cabinets and appliances.
  • Floors and room corners where dust collects.
  • Shelves.
  • Bathroom counters, toilets, tubs and showers.
  • Inside closets.
  • Windows, inside and out.
  • Scuffed walls, baseboards and doors.
  • Basement and garage.

Depersonalize the home.

Depersonalize the home.

Modern living room

(Getty Images)

Remove all your family photos and memorabilia. You want buyers to see the house as a home for their family, not yours. Remove political and religious items, your children’s artwork (and everything else) from the refrigerator and anything that marks the house as your territory rather than neutral territory. The same goes for any collections such as figurines, sports memorabilia or kids' toys that can make a buyer think less about the house and more about you. Family photos can be replaced by neutral art or removed entirely – just be sure to remove any nails and repair nail holes where any hanging photos used to be.

Let the light in.

Let the light in.

Sunlight through a bedroom window.

(Getty Images)

People love light and bright, and the best way to show off your house is to let the sunshine in. Open all the curtains, blinds and shades, and turn lights on in any dark rooms. If the natural light situation is lacking in any room, strategically place lamps or light sources throughout to set the mood. And while your house is on the market, open all curtains and turn on lights every time you leave your house for work or errands in case you get word that a buyer would like to tour the space before you get home.

Be flexible with showings.

Be flexible with showings.

Woman realtor talking to a young family

(Getty Images)

Buyers like to see homes on their schedule, which often means evenings and weekends. Plus, they want to be able to tour a home soon after they find it online, especially in a hot market where they're competing with other buyers. If your home can be shown with little or no notice, more prospective buyers will see it. If you require 24 hours’ notice, they may choose to skip your home altogether. "That's one less person who gets to see the property," Cohen says. Be ready to leave quickly as well – if you're still cleaning up or hanging around outside when the buyer arrives, it can make for an awkward interaction.

Set the right price.

Set the right price.

House with for sale sign in yard and open wooden fence

(Getty Images)

No seller wants to leave money on the table, but the strategy of setting an unrealistically high price with the idea that you can come down later doesn’t work in real estate. Buyers and their agents have access to more information on comparable homes than ever, and they know what most homes are worth before viewing them. A home that’s overpriced in the beginning tends to stay on the market longer, even after the price is cut, because buyers think there must be something wrong with it. "Pricing correctly on the lower side tends to work much better," Cohen says.

Remove excess furniture and clutter.

Remove excess furniture and clutter.

Self storage units

(Getty Images)

Nothing makes a home seem smaller than too much big furniture. Rent a self-storage container or a storage unit and remove as much furniture as you can. It will immediately make your home seem calmer and larger. Remove knickknacks from all surfaces, pack them away and store the pieces upon which you displayed them. Take a minimalist approach to books, throw rugs and draperies, and clear off your kitchen and bathroom countertops, even removing appliances you normally use. If you can scale down the contents of your closets, that’s even better, because it makes the home's storage space look more ample.

Repaint in neutral colors.

Repaint in neutral colors.

Couple preparing to paint living room

(Getty Images)

A new coat of paint will do wonders to freshen up your home, both inside and out. This is the time to paint over your daughter’s purple bedroom, nix the quirky turquoise bathroom and cover up the red accent wall in your dining room. Busy wallpaper can also turn off potential buyers. Your goal is to create a neutral palette so buyers can envision incorporating their own personal touches in the home. "You just want people to see the space for what it is," Cohen says. Rather than a stark white, consider neutral shades of gray, taupe and cream on the walls.

Spruce up the front of your home.

Spruce up the front of your home.

With white pillars, steps in the entry way

(Getty Images)

You’ve heard it 100 times before, and it’s still true: Curb appeal matters. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. A new or freshly painted front door, new house numbers and a new mailbox can breathe life into your entryway. Fresh landscaping and flowers in beds or in pots also enhance your home’s first impression. Trim trees and bushes, tidy up flower beds, remove dead leaves from plants, clear out cobwebs from nooks near the entrance and pressure-wash walkways, patios and decks. Leave the outdoor lights on, too, because prospective buyers may drive by at night.

Here are 10 tips to sell your home faster:

Here are 10 tips to sell your home faster:

Aerial view of house roofs in suburban neighborhood

(Getty Images)

  • Pick a selling strategy.
  • Invest in a professional photographer.
  • Clean everything.
  • Depersonalize the home.
  • Let the light in.
  • Be flexible with showings.
  • Set the right price.
  • Remove excess furniture and clutter.
  • Repaint in neutral colors.
  • Spruce up the front of your home.

Read More

Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, existing home sales, pending home sales, home prices


Wendy Arriz is a licensed real estate broker with Warburg Realty in New York City. An accomplished real estate professional, Arriz has been ranked a Top 10 Warburg Producer four years in a row in 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016. She was also named one of America’s Top Real Estate Agents by Sales Volume in the 2018 REAL Trends ranking in 2018 and 2019. Known for her sophisticated eye, discretion and sharp attention to detail, Arriz has brokered transactions and represented clients across Manhattan's luxury co-op, condo and townhouse marketplaces.

After earning a degree in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, Arriz worked in wholesale sales for several top fashion designers in New York City. While her business sense, tireless work ethic and integrity fuel her success, most importantly, she believes wholeheartedly that one’s living space should be not only an investment but also a home and sanctuary.

Arriz has resided on the Upper East Side for over 30 years and currently lives in Carnegie Hill with her husband, three children and her miniature schnauzer, Lucy.

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