After more than a year of conducting virtual home tours due to COVID-19, the California Department of Public Health has stated open houses can be held in-person once again. Trusty, the real estate social network and home review website, has users that span from real estate agents to homebuyers to nosy neighbors and has been getting mixed reviews about the return of open houses. In a nutshell: neighbors want to be nosy, and agents don’t want them at their listings.
“When COVID hit, open houses quickly became off limits so homes for sale were suddenly only accessible to essential employees like real estate agents, which eliminated casual browsers and looky-loos from the mix,” said Tim Hyer, Trusty’s CEO and Co-Founder. “So, for the past thirteen months, you had to be a qualified buyer with an agent relationship in order to access a listing, a fact that disappointed many who previously enjoyed the voyeurism of entering strangers’ homes without any intent to buy or an appointment.”
Trusty decided to get some data to support these sentiments and conducted a survey of its users. Right away, a theme emerged: non-agents welcomed the return of unfettered home access with open arms while agents preferred the new way of doing business, without the added work of running an open house plus the distraction of less serious visitors.
One shocking data point came from real estate agents and their opinion that open houses were not a necessary tool. In the survey, 87.5% of agents indicated open houses are “not essential” to sell a house. Further, 26% of agents responded that COVID proved that open houses aren’t necessary at all. This was in stark contrast to non-agent respondents who unanimously agreed that, if proper precautions were taken, they’d welcome the return to open houses 100%.
One open-ended question from the survey clearly illustrated the contrast when we asked what respondents love and hate most about open houses. According to agents, the thing they hate most about open houses are the nosy neighbors. According to non-agents, the thing they love most about open houses is the ability to be nosy.
“It’s clear that agents prefer the experience of focusing on serious buyers who are already qualified for a mortgage and have an agent relationship from whom they can get candid feedback, rather than playing a guessing game about whether a visitor is just curious about what their neighbor’s house looks like,” said Hyer. “But on the flip side, neighbors are tired of being locked out of listings in their neighborhood and are ready to get back inside to see how their neighbors live and enjoy the free food. Plus, there are just some things you can’t get with photos and virtual tours that you get from visiting in-person.”
There are clear benefits that open houses present to members of the community. As one non-agent respondent said, “I love being able to get into open houses without needing an agent there.” Open houses also present a rare opportunity to get a glimpse inside of homes you’re only able to see the exterior of most of the time. According to another non-agent, “I love looking at homes for ideas and design inspiration -- and honestly, I’m nosy.”
For agents, in addition to their displeasure of nosy neighbors who have no intent to purchase, the survey also showed that agents are tired of the work that goes into open houses, from setting up the signage to catering free food for visitors. As one of the agent respondents said, “Post COVID selling procedures are just simpler and cleaner for all involved. We get fewer overall visitors with the same outcome. Why would we ever go back to the old way?”
Not all agents agree. “The main thing I enjoy with open houses is the ability to connect with people and provide valuable insight into the local market for prospective buyers and sellers,” said real estate agent John Hibbert. “Based on the recent open houses I've hosted, the general public is starving for information and the ability to talk face to face with a trusted advisor.”
Whatever your stance, we are approaching the third straight week of open houses in California. This weekend, there are already 186 open houses scheduled for the Greater Sacramento Area, so they seem to be here to stay.
The survey was sent to more than 200 members of the Trusty community. 81.25% of the survey respondents were real estate professionals and the other 18.75% were community members interested in real estate.
Visit https://trustyco.com to learn more about Trusty, read real reviews and share your opinions about homes for sale and the broader real estate market.