2008 May 22nd

Should We Close the Door on Open Houses?

Open Houses Don’t Sell Condosbuildingsmall.jpg

There is a myth in the real estate business. It’s one that’s been around for a long time. It’s especially entrenched in urban areas like here in Hoboken. Sellers put their Hoboken condo on the market and think that their agent should hold an open house every weekend until the property sells. They believe that a buyer is going to walk through the door, fall in love with the property and pull out their checkbook. Selling a condo at an open house is a rare event. There are people who make a recreational activity out of visiting weekend open houses. It’s something for them to do after brunch – to check out their neighbors’ condos and pick up some decorating ideas and renovation tips. The vast majority of visitors to open houses are not in the market to buy a condo in Hoboken. So should agents be firm and tell the sellers to get real and stop holding them? Probably not.

Buyers Want to Window Shop

There is no doubt that today’s buyers start their search on the internet, especially young, smart, sophisticated Hoboken buyers. Nonetheless, pictures and even video only go so far. There is nothing like the real thing, baby. Being able to walk into a property at ones leisure is a nice opportunity for a buyer to window shop without feeling obligated to an agent, without having to make an appointment in advance and without the fear of pressure from a possibly pushy realtor. Going to open houses is a great way for a buyer early in the buying process to test the waters.

Sellers Want to Know

An open house lets your agent get an idea of what the browsing public thinks of your place. Now, most people have some social grace. They are not going to walk in and say “what an awful property”. If your agent is perceptive and can read body language and make people feel at ease they should be able to get a pretty good idea of what most people like and don’t like about the unit. A good agent will communicate that information back to the seller so changes can be made where possible. It also adds credibility to what the agent may have been trying to tell the seller from the start. If the fuschia curtains just don’t work in the living room it may help to convince a stubborn seller when the seller hears it more than once.

Even The Most Committed, Serious Buyers Want Some Freedom & Flexibility

Some buyers are actively engaged in the house hunt and have been working with an agent. In Hoboken most agents know each other and work together frequently. If a buyer wants to go out looking at properties and the buyer’s agent can’t accompany them it is common for the buyer to go to open houses on the weekend alone. When they are asked to ‘sign in’ they let the host know that they are already working with a certain realtor. That relationship is (and should be) honored by the hosting agent. This gives the buyer a way to go out looking at his convenience without having to have his agent there while still being loyal to his agent. If the buyer sees something he likes, he will typically go back with his agent to see it again. He then has the assistance of his agent should he decide to move forward. But a buyer, even if working with the best realtor in town, can just stroll into an open house on a whim.

Open Houses Can Even Be Good For the Agent

Hosting an open house gives the hosting agent the chance to meet people. Any agent who doesn’t want to meet people is in the wrong business and not likely to be a very good realtor. Sure, the visitors may be nosy neighbors (who later decide to sell), window shoppers (who may ultimately be buyers) or real buyers (often accompanied by their agents). Any of these situations can be capitalized upon by a good agent as a marketing opportunity and a way to make contacts for future business. In a small town like Hoboken, every interaction is chance for a star agent to shine.

We all Like Free Food

Across the river at the high end NYC condos, open houses have become quite elaborate, catered affairs with live music and passed hor d’oevres. While Hoboken open houses are not quite there yet, it’s not a bad idea. There are certainly some open houses at which the guests are offered coffee and cookies or some other goodies. Free bagels & lox on a Sunday morning – why not?

Posted by Lori Turoff | Currently 5 Comments »

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