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b-LOG: Is This The End of The Open House?

b-LOG: Is This The End of The Open House?
Date Posted: 26/11/2020

Are Open Houses washed up? Done & dusted?

Or at least as we have known them?

COVID has provided countless doses of free perspective in all of our lives. We now realize how we took for granted the opportunity to pop downtown to catch a concert or a hockey game.

Want to jam a bunch of people into Merchant Ale House on a Friday? Let’s do it…sounds fun!

So, as we come out of COVID (soonish?), we will be confronted with choices in all directions. Do we keep the new traditions forced upon us by COVID or do we snap back to what we were used to?

Hand sanitizer at the front of a restaurant. Does it stay or does it go?

One of the casualties of COVID has been the real estate open house. A staple of the industry for decades, this Sunday (and/or Saturday) tradition has been part of the fabric of the home buying and selling process.

At its core, the open house is really a tool of convenience. It is designed to make it easier for you, the buyer, to see a home without the hassle of making an appointment to view.

Side bar Your Honour. It’s worth noting that the “viewing by appointment” option is set at the convenience of the buyer, arguably more convenient than the open house, but we won’t talk about that right now.

Over the years, many have argued that the open house is a necessary tool in the mission to get a home sold. Afterall, if 35 people come through a home on a sunny day in April, surely one of them are going to buy it right?

Statistically? Not so surely.

Let’s look at 2020. A year that will go down in infamy on so many levels.

Back to statistics, the number of homes sold in 2020 is already the 2nd highest number of sales in all-time (as of November 22nd with 38 days left to go in the year). And by all-time, I mean ever. More than 2019 or 2018 or 2017.

And this 2nd place finish was done with open houses almost non-existent.

So, if we have had the 2nd highest number of homes sold with little to no open houses, it begs the question.

Are open houses done for?

You could argue that 10 or more years ago, open houses served a purpose of some sort. Afterall, full video or 3D tours didn’t exist yet. You couldn’t do a thorough tour on your screen like you can today. It’s tough to get excited about a newspaper ad after all.

But today? What are they really for?

Perhaps they’re great for people who don’t want to obligate themselves to a particular Realtor. The Lone Rangers out there who only want to see houses on Sundays by open house. But what if there is a better home at a better price on a similar street that isn’t having an open house? You, the buyer, have missed out on it. So, is that buyer a buyer or a browser?

If you’re the buyer, are you getting the best information on a home by looking at it during an open house or by looking at it as part of an appointment booked with a Realtor?

For you home sellers, would you rather have 27 people go through the home by booking appointments or 27 people randomly strolling through your house, largely unattended, on a Sunday afternoon?

A buyer has an issue with something they think they see in the basement. At an open house, they pop back upstairs, get their shoes on and bolt.

That same scenario during a Realtor showing is handled differently. The Realtor, who knows their stuff, can speak to the concern and resolve the issue for the buyer. The showing continues.

The neighbours on the circle get talking about the open house coming up.

“Are you guys going to have a look?”

“I thiiiiink so. We don’t want to be nosy but….”

“Oh, for sure. We’re going to go have a look”

So that open house has 11 people through and 8 of them are those neighbours who live on the circle who were curious to see inside your home. Still a successful open house?

Afterall, it just takes one right?

But, what about the neighbour who has a friend who is interested?

We’d love to say we have data on this, but we don’t.

If a buyer is interested in a home and they’re willing to wait until the open house on Sunday, how motivated are they? If you were really interested in a home, would you wait 6 days to see it or would you call your Realtor or the listing Realtor to book your appointment asap?

How about the couple who are slowly falling in love with the home as they stroll the open house? They’re in the rec room, imaging their new life, only to have their dreams destroyed by the neighbourhood know-it-all Ron. Afterall, Ron knows homes and definitely knows why this home is falling over and is waaaaay overpriced.

Spoiler alert: Ron doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

Can we retrain all of you open house believers? Perhaps 2020 will shine the necessary light on the inefficient tool that open houses are.

There is little doubt that 2020 is the year where we all learned new things. Online groceries, Uber Eats, DoorDash or Skip the Dishes? Zoom and FaceTime. Virtual this and virtual that. Hand washing? Our mothers would be proud!

So, was 2020 a year where we all learned to buy and sell homes by appointment? Clearly, we managed ok. Niagara is on pace to reach nearly 8,500 sales for 2020, about 600 less than the record in 2016 (9,156 sales) but heads above 3rd place 2015 which had 7,959 sales.

Will we snap back to normal in a post-COVID world where open houses return?

We’d submit this one question for you to ask yourselves and/or your Realtor:

Given what we experienced in 2020, are open houses really necessary in selling my home?

Watch the feature length film version here:


…and thank-you to Derek Torsani for the beautiful white home photo.