NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- In targeting open houses, homebuyers are usually are thinking about price per square-foot, their budgets and school districts. They're not always thinking about the minor repairs, staging, cucumber water and Costco cookies. But, these are standard features of today's open house -- and while tire kicking, you may not fully appreciate the level of effort exerted by Realtors.
Still, if these are the trappings of today's open house, says Leslie White, a Realtor with Redfin in Washington, D.C. who represents buyers, a knowledgeable broker is the most effective enticement.
"Certainly opening a house to the public will help the seller literally get exposure, and I think about how the open house reflects on the listing brokerage," says White. "It's not about sushi and candles, but rather, 'Do they have a good agent 'sitting on' the open house, who can answer actual questions and is professional about things?'"
Open houses are a basic function of the profession: a cattle call, a wide net, a smile and a stack of business cards -- all to drum up interest and connect a square peg to a square hole. As they say, all it takes is one buyer.
"Open houses help provide exposure and are particularly valuable the first weekend," says Dan Galloway, a Redfin Realtor who represents sellers, who points to a 2012 Redfin analysis, which found that homes that have an open house within the first week are 13% more likely to sell than homes that do not.
The goal, says Galloway, is front load the selling process with as many potential buyers as possible via an open house. "An open house provides that ease of access, but I'd argue it's even more important to make your home available for showings at the buyer's convenience," he says. "Be as accommodating as possible to buyers who want to schedule a tour."
Amending "all it takes is one buyer," you could also say: all it takes is another Realtor.
"Open houses are training and recruiting platforms for new agents, or agents who do not yet have listings of their own," reported Chicago-based Realtor Chrystal Caruthers in a recent Realtor.com article. "Yes, they exist to sell homes," she says, "but they also exist to sell brokers."
Outreach, then, is a two-pronged approach, to potential buyers and reps--and all the mimosas or garrulous greetings still don't matter as much as the simple quality of value.
"Sure, putting on music can prime someone's senses to help them remember your home fondly, but none of the pageantry can substitute for a well-presented home at an attractive price," says Galloway.
The gimmicks also don't stack up against the shifting tides of taste. White reports that some outdoor space trumps the open plan fad these days (although a kitchen that's not entirely closed off from the living area is still desirable), and ample storage space trumps the large-bedroom preference inherited from the boom-time aughts.
White points to a two-minute rule, too--or, in other words, it's the first two minutes of a house experience that usually determine the level of interest.
"Getting in the front door, general condition and smell can really cause people to turn around and leave-if you open a basement door and a mildew smell knocks you back, that'll do," she says.
Maybe those scented candles are a good idea, after all.