The Open House Trends on Their Way Out, According to Real Estate Agents

published Dec 7, 2022
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Open houses are one of real estate’s most longstanding traditions. Traditionally, a “for sale” home opens up to the public for a couple of hours on the weekend. Then, potential buyers and Nosy Nellies alike parade through the property and have the chance to pepper the listing agent with questions, often with a glass of champagne in hand.

Real estate agents, though, are split on whether the open house remains relevant in today’s market. When it was a buyer’s market, it was customary to hold an open house the first Sunday after the property hit the MLS, says Bob Nyswonger, a Cincinnati area-based Realtor with Comey & Shepherd. “The buying climate today has become so competitive, scheduling an open house on a weekend is moot — the property generally is under contract before Sunday rolls around,” he says. 

On the flip side, the open house still gives potential buyers “a feel” for the house that can’t be entirely replicated in virtual tours. While it’s debatable whether the open house has become obsolete, it’s undeniable that some traditions have changed. Here are four open house trends that are on their way out, according to real estate experts.

Finding Your Agent at an Open House

As little as 10 years ago, most buyers hit the open house circuit when they were thinking about buying, says James Gallagher, a Pennsylvania broker and a real estate coach. 

“This enabled real estate agents to meet unattached buyers who were months (if not years) away from buying and secure them as clients,” he says. “Buyers who are writing offers come with their agent to a private showing. Buyers who come to open houses are usually six to 12 months from actually buying.”

Now buyers go on Zillow, Realtor.com, and other websites and stay online during the early part of the buying process, Gallagher explains. Many never even go to one open house during their home search. “They rely more on referrals from friends to find a Realtor instead of meeting one at an open house,” Gallagher says.

Drop-In Open Houses

Pre-pandemic, it was quite common for open houses to be exactly that — open! That meant showings attracted not just serious buyers with pre-approved letters in hand, but also a slew of looky loos or curious consumers who might be interested in buying, but with no immediate timeline in mind.

However, during the pandemic, the open house became an “appointment only” affair in an effort to control crowd size, says Michael Shapot, a New York City-based real estate broker with Keller WIlliams. It also drew more serious buyers, and, now, he says, the reservation requirement is here to stay, he says. “The days of recreational open house visits are over,” Shapot says. 

Privacy

If your home has a cool feature like a bookshelf that leads to a secret room or a basement you’ve converted into a neighborhood bar — and it’s on the market — there’s a good chance it could go viral. TikTok swelled in popularity during the pandemic and homes with standout features could end up in a video or Instagram reel. 

“Most of the time, high-ticket houses like luxury homes with great designs and unique architecture get the most views,” says Randall Ureña, a licensed real estate broker at The Real Estate Blvd.

Going viral can be a great thing as it can help your property get lots of views, he says.

Charcuterie Grazing Tables 

In The Before Times, open houses were a little more lavish, with snacks set out and bottles of wine flowing. But charcuterie grazing trays have been replaced with individual snack cones, says Roseanne Galvan with Shamrock Realty in Northern California. 

“And, sadly, bottles of wine have been replaced by mini bottles of water,” she says. “Nobody lingers anymore — just grab and go.”

That is, if there are even snacks at all. “I have seen only one house in three years with food, and they were packaged cookies with company branding on them,” says James Burton, owner and broker at Century 21 Marathon in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.