“Open houses only attract tire kickers and thieves.”
“No, open houses are always successful and work every time.”
These are some opinions about them; as you can see, it’s another controversial topic as there are many in real estate marketing.
For some, they are successful, and for others, they aren’t. And depending on which side you are on, you will identify with certain opinions.
But what about more fact-based analytical data? Can you say they are generally successful?
A well-organized and previously promoted open house event can give you a showing-to-sales conversion rate of 5% compared to a showing-to-sales conversion rate of 10% for individual showings.
They can be successful and attract serious buyers, but at the same time, they sell fewer properties and attract fewer serious buyers than other methods.
Open houses are prone to be used in different TV shows because they are events and are easier and less boring to film than individual showings.
So, motivated by such shows, you might consider doing one as a real estate professional or individual seller to increase your chances of a sale.
But looking at some facts and numbers, some pitfalls and fallacies are involved.
In this article, I will look deeper into real numbers, clarify the readily available anecdotal evidence found online, and cover how to do an open house.
What Is an Open House?
An open house is an offline marketing event where a seller or a realtor opens a property for sale to the public.
The aim is obviously to generate as many serious buyer leads as possible.
Everyone can just drop by at any time (not precisely any time, but during the open house time frame) and take a tour of the house.
This event is usually promoted beforehand, but signs are also placed in the neighborhood and at least on the property so drive-bys can notice it.
A well-prepared open house has additional elements to make a good impression, such as staged rooms, snacks, brochures, or other print material about the property for sale.
It often benefits real estate agents to get the word out about their business and make their seller clients happy.
People visiting could become future clients for other business opportunities.
Is an Open House a Good Idea? [Anecdotal Evidence & Statistics]
Different real estate websites have different opinions about the effectiveness of open houses.
This one, for example, claims that it won’t do much if the home is not located in a trendy neighborhood with busy streets nearby.
Potential buyers passing by and taking a tour might return later to buy, but this could have happened even without an open house event.
Very often, the only participants of an open house will be people living close by and are likely “tire kickers” and just curious.
Another effect that probably reduces the positive impact of an open house is that most potential buyers work with a real estate agent and will do primarily private tours.
Another group of not-so-serious potential buyers is participating in open houses, namely the first-time home buyers.
They often use those events to get inspiration and see if a neighborhood suits them.
But this also means that the open house is unlikely to lead to a sale.
The least serious group of buyers, who don’t deserve to be called that way, is made of shady people or thieves who can take advantage of an open house situation and leave with the newest Alexa voice system under their shirt.
This website even goes so far as to call open houses a waste of time for the seller and unnecessary in the digital age.
In this new age where social distancing is or at least was widespread, the author might even have a point there.
He also confirms more or less the arguments mentioned above from the other website.
One of the coinciding arguments is that real estate agents benefit the most from open houses because they can generate further business but are not directly related to the sale of the particular property the open house event takes place for.
Zillow is more optimistic about open houses, trying to inject some statistics.
According to them, they work to underpin this statement because 72% of sellers in urban areas, 63% of sellers in suburban areas, and 47% of sellers in rural areas do open houses.
But this doesn’t prove they work, and the article later falls short in showing statistics about the effectiveness.
Here, the author only mentions that it’s hard to say what percentage of home sales can be traced back to an open house event and that many realtors agree that open houses are effective.
So, up to this point, I showed you only more or less anecdotal evidence and different opinions that lean toward open houses not being a good idea, effective, or not conclusive of being directly a causative agent of property sales.
One statistic I found during my research was by the National Association of Realtors.
According to their study published in 2019 as ‘National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,’ only 6% of buyers found the home they purchased following a yard sign or an open house sign (source).
For sale by owner, methods used to market homes were in 24% of the cases open house events, according to the same study.
According to an individual statistic published in the Realtor Magazine by a realtor couple, 20% of potential buyers looking for low- and mid-price points use open houses to decide which property to buy the next weekend.
And 30% of all potential buyers in the luxury property segment go to open houses to decide which house to buy the coming weekend.
Their statistics come from more than 1,000 houses sold and thousands of coaching calls conducted.
But what about actual sales conversion rates, so we have something to compare to online marketing methods?
It wasn’t easy, but I found some conversion numbers about open houses.
But take them with a grain of salt since the stats might not be that representative, and the author follows a particular strategy to organize such an event.
So, they are likely highly optimized and thus achieve above-average results.
On average, six people come to visit the property per open house.
After 90 days of 2 open houses per week, 72 leads could be generated.
The total number of generated potential deals after 90 days was 5.
Maintaining the average of 6 people (corresponding to online traffic) per house would mean 72 visitors after 90 days and a (foot) traffic-to-sales conversion rate of 7%.
After six months, a total of 14 potential deals could be generated.
A total of 6x4x6=144 visitors would mean a (foot)-traffic-to sales-conversion rate of 9.7%.
Provided the same number of open houses per week was maintained, it is claimed that 288 leads and 29 potential deals could be generated after one year.
With two open houses and six visitors on average per week, this would be a total of 576 open house visitors and a (foot)-a traffic-to-sales-conversion rate of 5%.
So, you can see that the sales conversion rate averaged out over the year and probably comes closer to representative data.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear to me from the source if these deals actually closed because they were labeled as “potential” deals.
In the real estate industry, the traffic-to-lead conversion rate of Facebook Ads is 10.68%, and that of Google Ads is 3.9%.
Assuming you convert the generated leads with a closing rate of 27% to sales, the traffic-to-sales conversion rates would be 2.88% for Facebook Ads and 1.053% for Google Ads.
This is a rough and undifferentiated estimation, and you actually should apply different lead-to-sales conversion rates for each marketing channel.
Because, for example, via Facebook Ads, on the one hand, you get better traffic-to-lead conversion rate than for Google Ads.
Still, leads often have a lower quality than those from Google Ads, where a potential lead is more often searching already for an existing need.
In the Google Ads scenario, the potential customer is in a more advanced customer journey stage.
I covered the customer journey in my real estate content marketing strategy article here.
So, let’s just settle with an average of the two numbers from above, which would be 1.9665%.
This number makes the open house (foot) traffic-to-sales conversion rate of 5% look pretty good.
So, up to this point, the traffic-to-sales conversion rates of open houses look pretty good compared to digital marketing methods, provided they are organized and carried out in ways that increase the chances of success.
At a second glance, this 5% is kind of misleading.
Because people coming to an open house, strictly speaking, can’t be considered ‘cold traffic’ and are already a bit further advanced in the sales funnel.
But the above digital marketing traffic to sales conversion rates refers to cold traffic.
In the next section, you will learn why this is when we dig deeper into how to do an open house event to have the highest chances of success.
How to Do an Open House
What Goes Into the Preparation of the Open House Pre-Launch?
On the one hand, you prepare a dedicated page on your website or another provider, such as leadpages, or where you have the basic property information and media, such as professional pictures and videos (including video tours).
It’s also a page where you capture leads confirming event participation.
Following up if some leads don’t show up is also important.
To be able to create high-quality media for advertising the event and have the property ready for the event itself, you will want to do the following:
For Advertising the Event (Pre-Launch):
- Have the most critical rooms staged
- Have professional pictures and videos taken (optionally 3D video tours)
- Create an event lead capture page
For the Event Itself (Launch):
- Open window coverings, blinds, drapes, and every lamp and overhead fixture turned on.
- Ensure no vehicles are in the driveway and ask neighbors to avoid parking in front of the house.
- Have some seasonal house photographs ready, showing how the property looks during different seasons of the year.
- Avoid air fresheners, but use flowers instead.
- Organize snacks and refreshments for the date of the event.
- Have print materials ready, such as brochures, four-color flyers, pamphlets, and brochures with information about financing options, inspection reports, evidence of major repairs, etc.
- Physical signs and the exact information about the location of the property so that people don’t have to drive around the neighborhood and look for your house as if it were a needle in a haystack
All the above points directly related to the actual event are not necessary for the pre-launch phase, but many of them help improve the online presence so you can better promote the event.
Advertise the Open House Event About 5-7 days Beforehand (Pre-Launch Advertising)
This is still the pre-launch phase.
Now is the moment to create buzz about the open house event in different steps.
You can get some inspiration for that by looking at a digital product launch’s approach, which consists of a so-called pre-launch sequence.
These are different pieces of content published on your website/blog, promoted to an email list you have already built, and/or separately advertised on pay-per-click advertising channels, such as Facebook Ads (ideal for promoting events).
The content for the sequence itself is basically a type of sales letter with different episodes related to each other.
The first pre-launch content can be education-based and related to the property.
You can get some inspiration about education-based content from my article about real estate content ideas.
You would show an opportunity for change or transformation in the digital product space.
When it comes to a property, this could be some benefit about the location, where you show, for example, a nearby hiking trail or some oasis of peace, a walkable neighborhood, etc.
The second piece of the pre-launch content is another education-based piece where the transformation is further shown.
Here, you would ideally show some local residents who can now enjoy a new lifestyle in this neighborhood, after a stressful lifestyle before having to drive for each little thing, but now can walk everywhere nearby.
What you use for this depends on the benefits the house might provide potential buyers.
The third piece of pre-launch content is a harder sale on the actual property and the open house event, where you can provide more concrete information about the property and the event itself.
These pieces of pre-launch content are ideally created in a video format because of all the conversion benefits video can give you (covered already in this article)
If this sounds like too much work, you could also just do the third piece of content and promote the event.
This can also be done in text format via email.
However, you will create more buzz and anticipation when using the other two pieces of the pre-launch sequence.
On Which Marketing Channels to Promote the Pre-Launch for Your Open House?
Most of the property listing websites are not suitable for optimal pre-launch promotion.
Here, you will just advertise the open house event with all the necessary information.
Property listings and similar pages you can use for that are, for example, the following ones:
- Your standard multiple-listing service websites
- Nextdoor, where the event can be posted on its event calendar
But, actually, the most suitable advertising channel to cover the pre-launch and launch phase, as already mentioned above, would be Facebook which is generally pre-destined for promoting events.
Now, we can take a better second glance at the supposedly 5% (foot) traffic-to-sales conversion rate.
To get a better picture, you must also factor in the traffic-to-lead conversion rate of Facebook event ads.
According to some answers on Quora, the average traffic conversion rate for Facebook events is 1%.
For regular Facebook ads, it’s 10.68%, and for the other property listing pages, the self-reported traffic to lead conversion rate ranges between 2% and 5%.
Now, things don’t look so rosy anymore when we consider conversion rates required to increase the chances of success of an open house, such as traffic to lead conversion rates of Facebook Ads and property listing websites.
The average of the above numbers from Facebook event Ads (1%), and the property listing pages (2% and 5%), is 2.66%
Applying the closing rate of 27%, you would have an actual cold-traffic-to-sales conversion rate of 0.72% for open houses.
How to Make the Open House Event Itself Memorable: 10 Ideas
There are things you should always do when hosting an open house event, let’s say the standard things.
And then, some things could enhance the event and make it more memorable.
Ordered from standard to more extravagant and memorable, here are ideas you can consider…
1) Greeting the Guests
This should come as no surprise. It makes a better impression and sets a more welcoming tone when you greet the participants or guests of the open house event you host.
You can introduce yourself by greeting them and telling them you are here to answer their questions.
When you offer refreshments and /or snacks, you can also mention where to find them and additional material about the property you have prepared.
2) Using Sign-In Apps to Track Your Lead Gen Performance
Without using a sign-in app for your open house, it will be difficult, if not almost impossible, to track new leads that were generated or the ones you already generated or had in your database that appeared at your event.
So it’s a good idea to use one.
It’s not just because of tracking your lead generation performance but also because of having the opportunity to follow up with participants afterward.
You could use one of the following apps for this:
3) Having Handouts, Brochures, and Home Inspection Reports Ready
Now, is it also beneficial to have handouts, brochures, and home inspection reports ready during your open house?
Let’s take a closer look.
Handouts & Brochures:
- Information at a Glance: Brochures provide essential information about the property in a condensed and easy-to-read format. They’re like your property’s mini-resume, telling potential buyers exactly what they need to know.
- Memorable and Tangible: In the digital age, having something physical to hold can leave a deeper impression. It’s a physical reminder of the property long after the open house is in the past.
- Brand Building: Well-designed brochures reflect your professionalism and attention to detail, enhancing your brand image as a realtor.
- Bonus Info: Apart from the property details, brochures can also highlight the neighborhood and local amenities, giving potential buyers a better sense of the lifestyle the property could offer.
Home Inspection Reports:
- Transparency: A home inspection report shows that you have nothing to hide. It suggests to potential buyers that they can trust you and the property.
- Saving Time and Effort: Prospective buyers may appreciate the availability of a home inspection report, as it saves them the time and costs of getting one done themselves.
- Identifying Issues Early: If there are any issues, it’s better to know about them early. This allows you to address them before they become deal-breakers.
- Negotiation Advantage: If your property is in great shape, a home inspection can underscore this and potentially increase your negotiation power.
4) Live Stream Your Open House Event
I know…an open house event itself can be stressful in itself.
Still, pulling it off and at least live stream parts of it can give you additional marketing and lead-generating benefits.
You aren’t just limited to those who can physically attend.
With a live stream, potential buyers from across the country or even across the globe can join in.
It’s a game-changer for out-of-town clients or anyone with a tight schedule.
You also want to mention this during your pre-launch advertising for the event.
Streaming your open house on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube exposes your property to significantly more people.
This can lead to higher engagement and more potential leads.
Recordings of this you could also redistribute afterward so you create additional real estate content.
Save Time and Resources:
By live streaming, you’re essentially conducting multiple showings at once.
This can be a huge time-saver for you and prospective buyers.
The video material you create you could also use afterward for inquiries from potential buyers you get or your property listing page.
Viewers can ask questions in real-time and get instant answers.
This direct communication can help them gain a better understanding of the property. It can make the experience more personal and engaging.
You may also take advantage of entertaining situations, which can serve as social proof. How so?
For instance, when the viewers hear a physical participant confirm your replies by also commenting on it in the back or shortly into the camera.
The live stream can be saved and shared for those who couldn’t attend or want to revisit certain aspects of the property.
This extends the lifespan of your open house beyond the event itself.
5) More Than Just Refreshments
Refreshments add a touch of hospitality and warmth to your open house.
It’s the little details like these that can make a great impression.
But what should you serve?
Here’s a list of suitable, crowd-pleasing refreshments for your next open house:
Coffee and Tea: Offering a range of hot drinks, including coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, is a great starting point. It’s comforting, familiar, and appreciated by almost everyone.
Water: Bottled water, both still and sparkling, should be readily available. You could even add a bit of pizzazz by offering infused water with lemon, cucumber, or mint.
Soft Drinks and Juices: A selection of soda, iced tea, or freshly squeezed juices could be a hit, especially on warmer days.
Small Bites: Think of bite-sized appetizers, like mini quiches, stuffed mushrooms, or cocktail sandwiches. Remember, they should be easy to eat while touring the property.
Cookies and Pastries: Sweet treats, like cookies, brownies, or mini muffins, are usually a hit. After all, who can resist the comforting smell of freshly baked cookies?
Fresh Fruit: A bowl of fresh, seasonal fruits can be refreshing and healthy.
Cheese and Crackers: A simple cheese and cracker platter can go a long way. Add some grapes for a classic touch.
But the headline was “more than just refreshments,” and here comes the extravagant tip: local flavor.
So you can also consider featuring catering from a beloved local eatery or desserts from a popular local bakery. It gives potential buyers a taste of the neighborhood.
6) Staging with a Twist
Now we get increasingly into the extravagant and memorable ideas you can do.
Instead of generic staging, think of creating lifestyle vignettes that inspire.
A cozy reading nook, a gourmet kitchen setup, or a spa-like bath setup can stir potential buyers’ imaginations.
7) Live Q&A Sessions
When you offer a live Q&A session during your open house event, you basically have an interactive segment where potential buyers can ask questions about the property, and you provide answers in real-time.
This would also be suited for live streaming, by the way.
It could be about the home’s features, history, neighborhood, expertise, or even the real estate market.
Why do it?
Interactive and Engaging: It makes your open house more interactive and engaging. It’s a dynamic way to keep visitors interested and involved.
Transparency and Trust: By addressing questions openly, you showcase your transparency, which can help build trust with potential buyers.
Immediate Clarification: Potential buyers can get a quick clarification on any doubts about the property.
Highlight Features: You can use the questions to highlight unique features of the property or neighborhood that may not be immediately obvious.
Show Your Expertise: It’s a platform to showcase your expertise in real estate, the local market, and the property.
8) Expert Opinion
Inviting an expert to your open house involves bringing in a third-party professional who can provide additional insights about the property or related aspects.
This could be a home inspector, interior designer, local historian, mortgage broker, or construction professional.
Why do it?
Value-Added Experience: It provides a unique, value-added experience for your visitors. It’s not just an open house – it’s an educational event.
Credibility and Trust: Having an expert present lends additional credibility to your open house and builds trust with potential buyers.
Address Technical Questions: Experts can handle technical queries outside your area of expertise, like structural queries for a builder or financial questions for a mortgage broker.
Showcase Potential: An interior designer or architect, for instance, can help visitors visualize the potential of the space, including renovation ideas or decor suggestions.
Local Insights: A local historian could give potential buyers a unique insight into the neighborhood’s history and culture, increasing the property’s appeal.
It combines an open house and real estate cross-marketing.
9) Kid’s Corner
The Kid’s Corner is a designated space at your open house event where children can engage in activities supervised by a trusted adult.
At the same time, their parents tour the property without interruptions.
Why do it?
Parental Peace of Mind: Parents can focus on the property, knowing their children are safe and entertained.
This can increase their stay time and their engagement with the property.
Shows Thoughtfulness: It demonstrates that you’ve considered all potential visitors to your open house, including families.
This sends a strong, positive message about your approach as a realtor.
Highlights Family-Friendliness: If the property is ideal for families, a Kid’s Corner can subtly highlight this fact.
Reduces Boredom for Kids: A bored child can make their parents hurry during an open house visit.
With fun activities to engage them, parents can take their time exploring.
10) How to Follow Up After the Open House Event Has Ended
Let’s say your open house was a great success. Now the work is over, isn’t it?
Well, not exactly…
You are now in the follow-up stage, almost as crucial as the event itself.
This phase is about keeping the momentum going and nurturing those valuable connections you’ve made.
So, let’s dive into how you can effectively follow up after your open house event.
Immediate Thank You Message
Send a brief thank you message within 24 hours to everyone who attended the open house.
It could be as simple as an email, a text message, or even a personalized handwritten note.
For serious prospects, a more personalized follow-up is appropriate.
Reference specific conversations you had or answer any questions they asked.
This will show them you were attentive and invested in their needs.
Provide Additional Information
Did they ask about the school district?
Or maybe they were curious about the neighborhood amenities?
Send them the information they’re interested in, even if they didn’t explicitly ask for it during the open house.
Schedule a Second Visit
If a potential buyer shows serious interest, suggest a private second showing.
This will allow them to explore the property in more detail and visualize it as their future home.
Stay in Touch
If a potential buyer isn’t quite ready to make an offer, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
Keep them in your network and continue to nurture the relationship.
Share relevant listings or market updates, invite them to your future open houses, or send them useful home-buying tips.
My article about following up with potential buyers may help in this context.
Leverage Social Media
Post a thank-you message on your social media platforms and share highlights from the open house.
This is another form of follow-up and promotion for future open houses.
Here you could also use video walk-throughs, the recorded live stream you may have done during the event, or an additional well-made property video telling the property’s story.
What about Private Showings?
Let’s compare the cold-traffic-to-sales conversion rate of 0.72% of open houses to private individual showings to get an even better picture.
According to the National Association of Realtors, a potential buyer visits, on average, ten houses before making a decision (source).
These are individual showings and no open houses.
The odds are 1:10 that the house you are showing would be the one the potential buyer would decide on.
When we translate this into a showing-to-sales ratio or showing-to-sales conversion rate, this would mean 10%.
Similar marketing activities would also be done with similar conversion rates.
So, we don’t necessarily have to compare these metrics, but we can compare the showing to sales conversion rates.
We learned that we get a 5% (foot) traffic to sales conversion rate or showing to sales conversion rate by an ideally prepared and promoted open house.
You can see already that individual showings have better conversion rates than open houses (10% vs. 5%).
Do Serious Buyers Go to Open Houses?
Getting to one of the last sections, let’s check if serious buyers really go to open houses.
You can already confirm that some serious buyers will go to open houses by the numbers I worked out above.
If not, there wouldn’t be a showing-to-sales conversion rate of 5% (provided a well-organized and marketed open house event has been done beforehand).
On the flip side, that also means that about 95% are not serious buyers, and there are likely more tire kickers going to open houses than participating in a property tour through a private individual showing.
Remember, private individual showings can have a showing-to-sales conversion rate of 10%, meaning that only 90% are tire kickers (5% less than in the case of open houses).
This kind of makes sense. Why?
Because it is easier to filter out curious people like drive-bys, inspiration seekers, competitors, and gossipy neighbors for a private individual showing than for open houses.
This is only provided the respective real estate professional does a good job qualifying buyer leads over the phone before scheduling an individual showing appointment.
The Pros and Cons of Open Houses and a Comparison with Individual Showings
I will end this article with a little pro and con list, and a comparison table that compares open houses with individual showings so you can decide if hosting an open house is the best idea for you.
Let’s start with the pros and cons.
- You can show a house to several individual buyers at the same time, and it can reduce the overhead that individual showings can create.
- It can be more appealing to first-time home buyers, not yet familiar with the buying process.
- You can get exposure and create buzz about the respective property listing.
- It is more laid back, and there is less pressure for the potential buyer to make a decision.
- You can collect additional feedback from the visitors about the property to improve the offer.
- 20% of potential buyers looking for low- and mid-price points use open houses.
- 30% of all potential buyers in the luxury property segment go to open houses.
- The chances of a sale are lower (5%) compared to individual showings (10%).
- It will attract more tire kickers and just curious people.
- It can even attract some thieves who like some of the items used to stage some rooms.
- It can be cumbersome to host an efficient open house (a lot of preparation and pre-launch advertising).
- Only 6% of buyers found the home they purchased an open house sign.
- Here you can find a great complementary pro and con list about open houses.
How Do Open Houses Look Like Compared to Individual Showings?
|Open Houses||Individual Showings|
|Higher organizational expense||Lower organizational expense|
|5% Showing-to-sales-conversion rate||10% Showing-to-sales-conversion rate|
|More difficult to pre-qualify potential buyers||Easier to pre-qualify potential buyers|
|Higher risk of theft||Lower risk of theft|
|Higher likelihood of attracting tire kickers||Lower likelihood of attracting tire kickers|
|Higher promotional expenses, if you want above average results||Lower promotional expenses|
|Can be slightly more beneficial to attract potential buyers from the luxury real estate and low to mid price segment||Depends on the marketing strategy of the seller or real estate professional to attract certain types of potential buyer|
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.
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