Do Open Houses Sell Homes?

What's Really Going on at an Open House

Real estate agent holding open a door behind an "open house" sign in front of home

Getty Images/Steve Debenport

An open house doesn't hurt a home's chances of selling, but whether it's actually the pivotal factor that sells the house is debatable. It's not unthinkable to make a sale at an open house, but it is unlikely for a few reasons.

It's unlikely that the open house will draw much of a crowd unless the seller's home is located in an extremely popular neighborhood with busy streets nearby. It's possible that a buyer who cruised through might come back later to buy, but that probably would have happened even without the open house.

Are the Visitors Active Homebuyers?

Most buyers who are seriously shopping for a home are working with real estate agents. They'll contact an agent when they make the decision to buy a property, and they'll get listings from their agents as new properties come on the market.

Their agents take these active homebuyers to look at homes. They get private tours. They've generally already seen the house by the time it's held open.

Agents will sometimes put homes on the market with instructions that no showings will be allowed before the date of the open house, but this happens more in seller's markets. It's not the norm.

Typical Open House Guests: "Lookie-Loos"

In some neighborhoods, the only people who go to an open house are those who live nearby. Lookie-loos from outside the neighborhood might just love checking out other people's homes, and they'll spend their afternoons doing just that.

Agents hope that neighbors will come by so they can talk to them and find out if they're interested in selling their own homes.

Some agents go to great lengths to showcase an open house. You might see colored helium balloons and ribbons attached to the "for sale" sign out front. The agent's personalized real estate signs are often set up at major intersections to direct traffic and to get the agent's name out there in the public's eye.

Some visitors might be people who are drawn in by all this. Again, they're just curious. They're not necessarily in the market to buy a home.

Other Agents

Agents with whom the seller didn't list might stop by to see how the agent who did get the listing has prepared the home for sale.

Other agents who didn't have time during the week to see the home might stop by to introduce themselves and to check out the property to determine if it fits the criteria of any of their clients.

First-Time Homebuyers

Many first-time homebuyers start by touring open houses to figure out which neighborhoods they might prefer and what kind of house they might want to buy. It gives them good ideas for when they're ready...which is probably not now.

These visitors are generally on reconnaissance missions.

Thieves—The Worst-Case Scenario

What better way for a burglar or thief to case a home than to attend an open house? They can examine the goodies they might want to stuff into an empty pillowcase in the middle of the night, as well as look for signs of security.

Tuck away certain items of property if you're contemplating opening your home to the public. Yes, your agent and others will be present, but they can't be in all rooms at once.

You'll obviously want to remove anything that's valuable, but don't overlook things like prescription medications and any paperwork that includes your identifying information, particularly Social Security numbers.

These things have a way of "walking off" during open houses.

So Who Benefits? The Agent

Most real estate agents hold open houses for two reasons: to build the agent's own business, and to make the seller happy.

Open houses are prime opportunities for agents to meet people, and their business depends on people. Visitors could be prospects for other properties somewhere down the road. Agents get the opportunity to meet future homebuyers who could become clients later.

When potential buyers pop in who aren't interested in that particular home, the agent is hoping to impress them enough that perhaps they'll be willing to work with them to find and buy another property.

The Bottom Line

The National Association of Realtors cites a 2019 study that shows that open houses might not be all bad news. These homes sell for $9,000 more on average, and they spend about a week less on the market...but no connection has been proven between the open house event and the sales.