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Don't Expect Much from an Open House

If you want potential buyers to see your home, the conventional wisdom says hold an open house. Roll out the red carpet, bake the cookies, and post your listing agent at the front door. But recent surveys of real estate agents actually reveal that holding an open house is the least effective technique for selling your home, says The Washington Post.

How ineffective? A recent nationwide poll of realtors by the National Association of Realtors found that only 7 percent of all home sales were through traditional open houses. Because they know that the time spent at an open house is probably not going to lead to a sale, real estate professionals approach open houses like unpaid baby sitting-if the seller really wants one, they'll do it to appease the client. Ironically, the agent's real motivation might have nothing to do with selling your house at all. 75 percent of the agents in a new study said they use open houses to find new clients. In that study of Texas realtors conducted by Texas A&M; University, realtors also complained about having to stake out the home all day long. Then there's the crime issue. One never knows if a visitor is a bona fide home shopper or a potential thief casing the residence, or worse.

So is it worth holding an open house at all? Yes, if you do it right. The "targeted" open house is for real estate agents or other invited guests only. The restricted approach was endorsed by 59 percent of the agents in the Texas A&M; study. You showcase the listing to other brokers, preferably when the house first goes on the market.

If holding a weekly open house is a weak sales technique, then what really works? The agents in the Texas study listed yard signs, the multiple-listing service, and referrals as the top ways to attract buyers. Number four on the list was the Internet. Brokerage firms, agents, and the National Association of Realtors all operate web sites. You can't beat the world wide web for convenience and the massive quantity of listing information that can fit onto a web site.

Before you get someone in the door, the survey suggests the following: 1 - Price your home competitively. 2 - Decorate so your house "shows" well: consider hiring a decorator who specializes in low-cost home "primping" for real estate sales. 3 - Provide comprehensive information, including as much detail as possible about your home's construction and features, and neighborhood information on schools and community services. 4 - If your house is energy efficient, be sure to trumpet that virtue along with the annual savings on utilities.