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What Is An Open House And How Does It Work?

Andrew Dehan5-minute read

October 19, 2022

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You’ve probably heard the term “open house” used in reference to the home buying process. But what does it really mean, and should you host one as a seller or attend one as a potential buyer?

This article will explain what an open house is, how it works and the pros and cons of hosting or attending one. That way, you’ll be able to decide the true value of open houses for yourself.

What Is An Open House In Real Estate?

An open house is when a homeowner and their real estate agent invite the general public to view the property, usually within a 1- to 3-hour window of time. During the event, the listing agent will answer questions, point out design features and record the contact information for any interested parties.

Open houses are actually a long-standing tradition that started in the early 1900s. Back then, to list a home for sale, the owner would simply put a sign in the yard. However, most sellers would have a hard time finding prospective buyers using word of mouth. Eventually, real estate brokers started to open listed homes to visitors as a way to better market the property and find serious buyers.

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How Do Open Houses Work?

Since homes can vary widely in their floor plans, interior design or finishings, it can be helpful to give buyers time to tour the property alone or with a real estate professional. While a home seller can use scheduled showings the same way, an open house allows viewers more time to imagine themselves living in the space. 

Open houses are also more likely to start a bidding war than a private showing because multiple home buyers can view the property simultaneously, which might create a sense of urgency to submit an offer. That’s why seller’s agents often recommend using this type of event as a marketing strategy to drum up interest in a newly listed home.

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The Pros And Cons Of Open Houses

Even though open houses can be very beneficial to sellers and buyers alike, some may decide to forgo this tactic in favor of private showings. Before you choose to host or attend one, you should first consider the pros and cons.

Pros For Sellers

Open houses come with many advantages for sellers which make them well worth the effort, such as:

  • Attracting a large number of potential buyers within a short period of time

  • Giving owners a chance to collect feedback from a wide range of visitors

  • Increasing the chances of receiving multiple competitive offers

  • Showcasing the home at its best without having to make numerous appointments

Pros For Buyers

Sellers aren’t the only ones to enjoy the benefits of an open house. Buyers can also use this opportunity to:

  • Get a sneak peek at a home they’re interested in without having to make a commitment

  • Figure out the size or type of house that would work best for their situation

  • Learn more about the home buying process firsthand

Cons For Sellers

Of course, there are also disadvantages for sellers that might make hosting less attractive, including:

  • It can be labor-intensive to prepare the home.

  • Owners have to leave their house in the hands of their REALTOR® or agent for several hours.

  • A lot of people may visit the home, which can create safety concerns.

  • The buyers viewing the house may not be qualified to purchase it.

Cons For Buyers

Buyers might experience the following drawbacks of open houses as well:

  • They can create a distracting and busy environment.

  • It could be hard to socially distance if the home becomes crowded.

Buyers might have difficulty choosing which events to go to since most happen over the weekend.

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Open House FAQs

If you’re still unsure about open houses, you can learn more about them by reading the common questions that sellers and buyers often ask.

Can I go to an open house without my REALTOR® or agent?

The purpose of an open house is to allow potential buyers the opportunity to see an available home without any commitment. That means if you don’t have an agent or just want to see the home on your own, you can!

On the other hand, visiting with a real estate agent can help you figure out what’s important about the home. They can also discuss real estate market trends to be aware of or ways to improve an offer, both of which can be especially beneficial for first-time home buyers.

How can I prepare for an open house?

Sellers can prepare for this type of showing in a couple of ways, one of which is home staging. Staging your house can include decluttering or removing personal items, cleaning surfaces, tidying common areas and even moving furniture around.

You should also try to make your decor as attractive as possible. For example, you can add fresh flowers, paint over scuff marks, plump pillows or remove family photographs. Your goal is to create a neutral home the buyer can envision their own family living in.

If you’re a buyer visiting a property you think you’ll put an offer on, you should take steps to prepare ahead of time too. Make sure to bring a Verified Approval Letter and any documents your buyer’s agent might need for the paperwork. You can even go a step further by making a checklist to help you compare the home to other properties you’ve seen previously.

What is a broker’s open house?

For sellers who aren’t comfortable with inviting a bunch of strangers into their homes, a broker’s open house may be a good idea. With this type of showing, only real estate professionals will be allowed to view the property.

Your agent will also use this opportunity to gauge reactions from other agents and brokers. They can talk to their colleagues about the asking price, marketing strategy and find out if anyone has clients who would be interested in the home.

Broker’s open houses are usually hosted mid-week, which may work better with your schedule. Additionally, you don’t need to worry as much about safety since most visitors will be your listing agent’s co-workers and acquaintances.

How can I find an open house to attend? 

Most open houses will be listed on the brokerage’s website and social media accounts or a neighborhood’s event page. You can even find open houses using a real estate app that allows you to search for homes with an upcoming event.

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The Bottom Line

Home selling or buying can be difficult and time-consuming. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to attract the right buyers with an open house. However, you should thoroughly research your options and the pros and cons of open houses before using this strategy. 

And if you’re interested in learning more about the real estate process, you can read about selling and buying a home at the same time to better prepare yourself for the next step of your homeownership journey.

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Andrew Dehan

Andrew Dehan is a professional writer who writes about real estate and homeownership. He is also a published poet, musician and nature-lover. He lives in metro Detroit with his wife, daughter and dogs.