Per the National Association of Realtors, just 4% of buyers visited open houses. This statistic goes against the common belief that opening a home to the public for a few hours on the weekend will draw foot traffic that will translate into a sale. Here's why open houses have become a less powerful selling tool.

The Internet has killed most of the benefits that open houses used to offer. 

The Internet Is Killing Open Houses

Thanks to the Internet, the days of driving around from one open house to the next are over. Buyers do most of their research online, narrowing down their options before they even contact a real estate agent. There are a ton of websites and mobile apps that give buyers a plethora of homes to search through. Buyers can even be alerted when new homes go on the market, or if a house they are eyeing has a change in price or goes into contract. Many of today’s buyers hire a broker to get access to the home on their schedule rather than during an open house.

Key Takeaways

  • Most buyers don’t visit open houses, and instead, using the Internet to browse homes and narrow down choices. 
  • Open houses cost money, such as food and drinks, and may benefit real estate agents more than the seller—acting as a way for the agent to meet prospective clients. 
  • The risk of theft is a major downside of open houses, where visitors may loot jewelry and electronics, or scope out the location for a future break-in.

Open Houses Cost Money

Time is money and the longer it takes to sell a home the more costs will incur, including the cost to host open houses. There’s candles, cakes, and drinks, for starters. Those little things may not seem like a lot but can quickly add up. The air conditioning or heat may have to be on longer which means a higher utility bill. Don't forget the time, cost, and stress of keeping the house in show-ready condition and getting the kids and the pets out of the house. 

Real Estate Agents Benefit More

Open houses are supposed to draw buyers but often all they do is bring a real estate agent new clients. That’s because unrepresented buyers often go to open houses, which means potential new business for an agent. And even if they don’t like your home, they may like the other homes your agent is talking about during your open house. That creates an awkward and questionable situation which may sour a relationship with a broker.

Curious Neighbors Might Be the Only Visitors

Opening a home to strangers over the weekend can be a big hassle. You grudgingly agree to the open house, rework your entire weekend or weekends only to find it's only curious neighbors checking out your home. Lots of people who aren’t in the market go to open houses out of curiosity or to get ideas for their homes. And while it may be a fun way for them to pass the time, for you it’s a big waste of time. Remember that serious buyers can contact your agent directly to get a showing. 

Theft Risk

One of the risks of an open house is that your belongings may get stolen. Since anyone can go to an open house, it’s not impossible for thieves to attend one in hopes of stealing cash, jewelry, electronics, or prescription drugs. They can also use it as a way to scope out your home for a future break-in. While there isn't any hard data on the number of thefts that occur during open houses, some police departments around the country have issued warnings to homeowners and real estate agents about the risk of being robbed. 

The Bottom Line

Rewind a couple of decades and open houses were one of the few ways buyers could see homes for sale. Today, the Internet makes it easy for buyers to search and view homes online. As a result, the open house isn't such a winning proposition anymore. Not only does it take time and some money, but you are also taking a risk in opening up your home to strangers. Add data that doesn't support the effectiveness of open houses and it may make more sense to your efforts elsewhere.