Open homes – questionable value for sellers so why are they so common?

by Alistair Helm in


In my recent analysis of the inefficiencies of the real estate industry I estimated that an average real estate agent spent 13% of their working week undertaking and organising open homes – that would amount to around five and a half hours. On reflection I would now like to add this segment of their working week to the 64% of their time spent by prospecting for new business. Why? Because open homes are largely a profiling and prospecting tool benefiting the agent more than the vendor.

Don’t take my word for it – ask a real estate agent. Steve Koerber, a respected and highly professional agent I know wrote in a post a couple of years ago that “The truth about open homes might set you free”. He stated that based on his calculation an open home had about a 5% chance of achieving a sale.

In rereading his post again the other day, I was reminded of a real estate training session I sat through a number of years ago run by a highly charismatic auctioneer and trainer.

He related a similar story although he was much more positive of open homes. His mental imagery for the attendees (largely rookie agents) was to reflect on the fact that that only 1 in 30 visitors to an open home were likely to be a buyer. So rather than get despondent, think of each visitor as coming in the door to give you money! He stated that based on your prospective commission of $12,000 that you as an agent were going to get for selling a house, each open home visitor was actually worth $400 – his imagery was to whisper a mental “Ka-ching” to yourself each time another visitor walked in “Ka-ching $400” - one step closer to 30 people in total!

Despite this inefficiency of hosting open homes, properties for sale still need to be viewed, as I am sure very few buyers would buy sight-unseen. Far more efficient is the process of scheduled private inspections arranged for serious buyers. This is by far and away the most common process for real estate across the globe. Sellers don’t need to waste time and effort for weekend viewings that are for the primary benefit of nosey neighbours and profile seeking agents.

An inspection professionally arranged between a serious buyer and the selling agent adds professionalism to the real estate process.

But hold on, ask yourself, does the agent need to be a part of the inspection process? Why not allow committed buyers to meet committed sellers. Not to usurp the process; but to allow a more relaxed and engaging interaction. Such a system is advocated by 200Square – the innovative real estate company whose approach to selling property is using a licensed real estate agent to facilitate the transaction whilst allowing technology and smart buyers and sellers to undertake the components of the process where the agent really adds little value – inspections and open homes. In that way they can offer a full service licensed real estate solution at a fraction of the cost of traditional agents.

Coincidentally 200Square tweeted today the feedback from one of their buyer clients, demonstrating that removing the agent in the process of the inspection removed pressure and created a relaxed opportunity to view the property guided by the sellers.

Time for a change? time to question the value of some components of the real estate industry process in order to increase efficiency and add value.

Privacy and security when it comes to open homes

by Alistair Helm in

Images courtesy of Ross Brader

Images courtesy of Ross Brader

Judging by the piles of jandels and other assorted footwear outside the entrance to open homes, we as a nation are addicted to the open home shuffle. That weekend tour of local properties to see just what the neighbours have been up to and to get a view of what we might buy if we won this week’s Lotto.

However the question needs to be asked as to the issues of security and privacy for people’s property during an open home.

This issue was brought to my attention by a real estate agent that sent me an email on the subject. Their concern was the extent to which people provided false details at the time of registering at the door and whether a more rigorous process should be employed to ensure security, such as a photo ID. I certainly felt the subject was worthy of discussion so here is my perspective and I welcome readers to post any comments to share in the discussion.

Real estate agents have a responsibility for the care and security of the property they are opening up for viewing. However, how many times do you see an open home, particularly in Auckland these days, where the agent is fully occupied just taking registration details, leaving little ability to ensure that security of objects in the property are safeguarded.

Seen from an agent perspective open homes are vital to their profile – it is akin to a market stall where agents can engage with potential clients, showcase the property of their client and seek out potential buyers – certainly, but equally important the ability to prospect for new clients for whom they can act as a vendors agent in the future. This is especially true as many open-home visitors are at an early stage of house hunting and may not have their property on the market at the time.

Seen from the vendors perspective an open home is a market stall for their property – placing it literally “wide-open” for all to inspect. The question is; would genuine prospective buyers be put off by an by-appointment process to view a property?

As to the behaviour of visitors providing false contact details, I guess the root cause is the fear of the ‘call-back’ by the agent. Why the fear though? Agents are salespeople, they have a vital role to play in showcasing the property and then following up to ascertain interest. The fact is property purchase (or seen from the perspective of vendors – property sales) requires a steady and consistent level of follow up and continual prodding to bring buyers to the ‘party’ – left to their own devices buyers can be somewhat reluctant and hang back.

The agents’ call-back in my view would seem to be an acceptable trade for the benefits of viewing a property and to ensure all parties are treated with respect (buyers, sellers, agents) as well as to safeguard people and property.  I personally would hope all open-home visitors provide valid contact details.

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I hope that the trust that is inherent in the act of holding an open home, is not gradually undermined by attendees who choose to provide false details – it would be unfortunate to the see the practice descend to the level where burly security guards were employed to check ID’s at the door!

Scheduling property viewings just got a whole lot easier thanks to Skedge.Me

by Alistair Helm in


Here’s a scenario you’ll recognise. You see a property you like online, there’s no scheduled open home but you would love to view it. So what do you do. Email the agent or pick up the phone. Both methods whilst effective will likely result in a backwards and forwards flow of information to align calendars to arrive at a suitable time. Seems dumb in today’s technology world and wastes time for you and the agent.

Now there is the potential of a smart flexible solution. One that almost anyone can use.

Skedge.Me is a new service which was brought to my attention by the guys at 1000Watt Consulting who are the smartest team when it comes to shaping the future of real estate using technology.

Skedge.Me allows anyone to publish an interactive calendar on a website. Their own website, a property website or a company website. The calendar can be pre-set with allocated timeslots for the public to choose meeting times to view properties or catch up with agents.

I thought I would try the app and so set up using a 30 day trial. I’ve embedded the calendar on the weekly-newsletter page.

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You will see there are two options to set a meeting with me – you can meet me for a real estate meeting for which the time slots are pretty flexible, or you can see a schedule for viewing 22 North Street. In the second scenario of a viewing you will see I have opened up 30 minutes windows over 3 afternoons next week.

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It’s so easy, it took me 5 minutes to set up an account define the calendars I wanted and paste the code on the page of my site (you do need the ability to add code to a site).

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I also checked out the mobile experience. From an iPhone I navigated to the page and instead of seeing the calendar you see “Book” icon – clicking this takes you to a custom page hosted by Skedge.Me for my calendar perfectly formatted for mobile, making it really to schedule meetings and viewins whilst out and about.

Skedge.Me looks to be a great solution. As I see it, the solution only provides one embedded calendar per account with multiple options of what to schedule. This could work with a few properties.

For a larger real estate company I suspect they would need to talk to Skedge.Me about their white label solution. Best solution of all would be for the property portals to embed this solution into all listings and provide each agent with a back end access to manage their calendar.