Just a Matter of Time: When Should You Host an Open House for the Best Results?

TV advertisers slot their commercials during primetime, that 8-11 p.m. period when the 8 biggest broadcast networks capture a combined 44 million eyeballs. Retailers rake in the big bucks promoting their hottest toys and products over the winter holidays when consumers pledge to shell out an extra $1,007.24 on shopping.

Get the picture? Our predictable nature is Cash. In. The. Bank. 

For sellers hosting an open house, that begs the question, what day and time should you schedule the event for optimal visibility and foot traffic? Are there any obvious patterns around open house interest—and if so, what are they, and how can you leverage the power of habit to boost attendance at this marketing event to sell your home?

We dug into Google search trends around “open houses” and asked top-selling real estate agents from the HomeLight network for their anecdotal insights based on years of experience perfecting these events. This is what we learned about the best time for an open house!

computer research to find best time for open house
Source: ( Markus Spiske/ rawpixel)

What does Google Trends Data tell us about the best time for an open house?

Home shoppers used to find open houses the old-school way—by driving by one and noticing the balloons and signs galore, or through the network of their real estate agent. That still happens on both counts, but now home buyers also have the internet to browse listings of interest and look for open houses they’d like to attend.

According to data from the National Association of Realtors, 42% of buyers start their home search online, while 51% of buyers find the home they end up purchasing on the web. 88% of buyers also find websites to be the most valuable tool throughout their home search.

We’ve heard from a lot of real estate experts that Sunday afternoons are the best time to host an open house—but we wanted to see if we could find any data to support that.

So knowing that many buyers use the internet as a resource to find open houses, we looked to Google Trends to analyze the numbers on how often the term “open house near me” is typed into the search engine to reveal its peak times of popularity (and thus find the best time to host an open house). The tool’s “interest over time” numbers represent search interest on a scale of 1-100—with 100 marking peak popularity for the term.

What we found is that searches for this phrase have generally increased over time (for example, it registered a 10 on the popularity scale in October 2014, compared to a 93 in October 2018) in line with the increasing ubiquity of online home search. No surprises there.

Interest in search phrase “open houses near me” from 2004-2018
(Source: Google Trends)

When you look at “open house near me” searches over the past 90 days—to date, we’re looking at mid October 2018 through mid January 2019—the term peaks on Sundays—every single week! It’s very consistent. Saturday always comes in second but has far less popularity than Sundays. Compare Sunday Nov. 4, 2018 (93) with Saturday Nov. 3, 2018 (59).

 

 

Google Trends graph of interest in open houses 2018
Interest in search phrase “open houses near me” – 90 day view, Oct. 2018 through Jan. 2019
(Credit: Google Trends)

The past 90 day chart also shows the seasonal dip that occurs in open house interest around Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, indicating that you’d want to put your open house plans on hold until normal life resumes.

So Sunday wins, but what about time of day?

Well, Google Trends shows that peak time to hop on your smartphone or computer to look up open houses is 8 a.m. on Sunday (as shown by this Jan. 13, 2018 case study) and then again around 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Assuming these people on the hunt for an open house in the area are on their computer or smartphone to plan out their day, you could attract interested open house attendees with either an early afternoon or mid-afternoon open house.

Google Trends graph of interest in open houses 2018

Google Trends graph of interest in open houses 2018
Interest in search phrase “open houses near me,” past 7 day view (Jan. 8-15, 2018)
(Credit: Google Trends)

Whew! That was a lot of numbers and figures. So what are the main takeaways from our Google Trends data crunch for the key phrase “open house near me” in our quest to find the best time for an open house? To summarize:

  • Online searches for open houses on Google peak on Sundays between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., indicating you’re likely to capture the most foot traffic on a Sunday afternoon.
  • Open house interest dips as people get busy with the holidays so avoid hosting your event around then, or talk to your agent about whether you should even do one if you’re selling in the winter months.
  • Buyers are increasingly searching for open houses online, so be sure to promote your event on the web with all the key information.

Is the best time for your open house the day after never?

According to the Top Agent Insight’s Survey conducted by HomeLight, 63% of agents said they wouldn’t always recommend that sellers host an open house. Most agents agree it’s a gamble. But, as is the case with any gamble, there’s a chance it can pay off big time.

For agents, an open house can be an opportunity to network and scope out potential clients. For home sellers, an open house could bring about a possible sale and expose your property to a wide array of prospective buyers.

“Open houses are always unpredictable,” says Pittsburgh-based agent Michelle Haeck. Haeck and her husband Dan can speak from experience, they’ve sold 77% more properties in Pittsburgh than the average agent. However, even Michelle is first to admit that a well attended open house is never a guarantee, “you just never, ever know until you open the doors.”

Before you commit to holding an open house, it’s worth asking if your listing is a good fit for one. While anyone can host an open house, some properties will show better than others.

If you’ve recently moved out of your property, or the home is vacant, you might want to think twice about an open house. Unless you want to bring in furniture for staging, an empty home can be a tough sell if a buyer doesn’t have an agent with them, says Haeck. “A lot of people can’t visualize so they can’t see themselves in the house unless it has items in it,” she explains.

Without furniture and personal touches, an open house can be challenging. When an agent can take a prospective buyer into a home one on one, this typically isn’t an issue, but when visitors guide themselves, it can be hard to visualize the house as a home if it’s not properly decorated.

real estate agent thinking about open house
Source: (rawpixel)

What do top agents in the field say about the best time for an open house?

While you can’t guarantee an open house will be a success, there are steps you can take to set yourself up for the best open house possible. And timing it just right is a good place to start.

Most real estate agents agree that weekends are best for holding an open house—which corroborates our analysis of online search trends. But sometimes that’s not always an option (depending on whether you have kids and the flow of your schedule in general) so you have to work with what options you have.

In any case, we’ve compiled these top tips and strategies successful real estate agents use to time an open house based on market factors and what’s happening in your city.

Tip #1: Pencil in your open house for the weekend if possible.

Both tradition and timing play a part in planning open houses on the weekend. “Our main days that we hold open houses are Saturdays and Sundays usually between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. or 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.,” says Sandra Rathe, a top-selling agent in Miramar, FL who’s to date got almost 800 transactions under her belt.

Weekends are when the largest amount of homebuyers have time off from work, making it easier to hold the event during the day when your home will look the best. In high foot traffic neighborhoods, a weekend stroll can turn into impromptu home shopping for potential home buyers. Weekend days are ideal for your open house, but time of day will play an important factor as well.

Tip #2: Time your open house to either avoid or play off the energy of events already happening in your local area.

“Saturday and Sunday mornings in my area are not a great time to do open houses,” says Rathe. “Saturdays are full of sports, sporting events for the kids. And then Sunday there’s a high percentage of people that go to church and again, more sporting events. So the afternoons are definitely the better time.”

Weekend afternoons are generally the best time to host, but sellers should pay attention to the local sports teams as well.

“Pittsburgh is a huge sports town,” says Haeck. “And when the Steelers play on Sundays, the turnout drops. I mean, we have had open houses during game days when nobody shows.”

In your market, it might not be sports that drive attendance down, but keep an eye on the calendar for:

  • Holidays
  • Citywide events
  • Major sports games (at home, or away)
  • Large scale construction or road closures that could prohibit access to your home

On the flip side, other local events might draw a large audience to your open house. Neighborhood house tours or small business events, if you live in a populated area, can bring in more foot traffic. And while foot traffic doesn’t guarantee a sale, the more people who see your

home, the more likely you are to encounter an interested home buyer.

Tip #3: Host the open house right after your home hits the market.

Think of an open house as your listing’s grand opening. The open house might be the first time you have people coming through the property. Most agents recommend doing it within the first few weeks, or even the first week of your listing.

“Our strategy is to do all the marketing up front and have everything prepared and ready to go, and then do an open house the very first weekend that it comes on the market,” Rathe explains.

In reality, having a property “open house” ready is the same as having it ready for showings, and knocking out all the marketing and stagings at once can kill two birds.

Haeck, however, urges sellers to consider the timing and market conditions before planning an open house, because in some cases, the effort that goes into one isn’t necessary: “In a prime market, from like March to August if the house is in a desirable area and priced correctly, we may never need to do an open house, it’ll probably sell within the first week or so,” says Haeck.

driving from work in time for open house
Source: (Darwin Vegher/ Unsplash)

Tip #4: If you’re doing a weeknight open house, schedule it for the evening when buyers get off work.

Depending on time of year, a weeknight open house can be a perfect time to attract serious buyers with a limited amount of time. Thursday evenings, in particular, can be the best weeknight for an open house. Homes listed on a Thursday typically sell faster and for more money than any other day of the week. If you’re hoping for a fast sale, listing and offering an open house on a Thursday might be your approach.

However, weeknight open houses are limited to time of year. Buyers want to see a home in natural light, making a weeknight open house challenging in the winter months. Offering a short open house after work hours can be manageable, however, as long as it’s before sunset.

“My open houses aren’t based on weather, but they are based on the hours of sunlight because we just find that when it’s dark out, you don’t get the traffic,” Rathe reasons. “During certain times of the year when we have enough daylight, we’ll do a Wednesday or Thursday evening, and we’ve had really good turnout with those as well.”

Based on neighborhood traffic and your local real estate market, a Thursday listing can attract a different crowd than the weekend open house audience.

Tip #5: Come rain, hail, sleet or snow—do think about the weather when planning an open house, but only reschedule in extreme cases.

You obviously can’t control the weather, but you can make an educated guess when it comes to weather impacting attendance at your open house. Are you selling your home in the winter in a snowy city? Or the summer in hotter climate? Understand that factors like snowfall or heat waves will keep home buyers from your open house.

That being said, delaying an open house for fear of bad weather might not be the best choice. Most real estate agents agree holding an open house shortly after listing a home is ideal. Weather might scare some attendants away, but timing is still key to having engaged visitors.

Tip #6: Schedule the open house with other homes on the block. The more open houses, the merrier!

And in regards to scheduling open houses on the same day as your neighbors, the more, the better. “I personally think it’s great to do an open house when there’s other open houses,” Rathe advises. “Those agents are advertising just as much as you are, so they’re drawing traffic, you’re drawing traffic and then hopefully you’re getting some of the traffic that they’ve drawn.”

With multiple open houses occurring at once, sellers will typically draw a wider net. With more people in the neighborhood on a given day, the more likely a buyer interested in your particular neighborhood will attend your open house. “We’ve personally sold a lot of houses during an open house to people who have family members who live in the neighborhood,” explains Rathe.

“So where a lot of people will complain, ‘Oh, you’re just going to get the nosy neighbors.’ We want the nosy neighbors because the neighbors may have a cousin, a friend, and uncle, whoever it is that may want to live close to them.”

Want to know when your neighbors are holding open houses? Create a weekly custom email of open houses using Zillow, or try Realtor.com’s app to pull up open houses in real time. Your local realty site should also have comprehensive weekend open house guides.

Tip #7: Keep the open house on a short time table to drum up urgency.

While an open house can be held all day, Rathe recommends a strategic two-hour event. “Keep it to a shorter timeframe—pick the hours that make the most sense.”

The reason? A short time table will create a crowd. As visitors’ arrival times overlap, it will create the sense that there’s high demand for your house. And there’s nothing better for a seller than a little competition.

Tip #8: Make sure your home can handle whatever the weather is bringing that day.

Another hurdle to consider is temperature, especially cooling. “Of course a home doesn’t have to be air-conditioned, but obviously if it’s 90 degrees [outside] and there’s no AC, it’s not going to be appealing to people,” Haeck says. Uncomfortable conditions make for unhappy guests, so these circumstances aren’t best for holding an open house.

An alternative to the traditional open house: Should you host a broker’s tour?

While both a broker’s tour and an open house involve showing a property, the goals and audience are different. A broker’s tour serves as a way to get information about a house to agents, as well as get feedback from the real estate brokers.

If a home isn’t getting a lot of traffic from prospective buyers once it hits the market, a broker’s tour can be an excellent opportunity to show the house and get constructive criticism on the listing, Rathe says. “A lot of times we’ll get good feedback on what do we need to change in order to get people in the door.”

Typically, broker’s tours work best during working hours on a weekday. It’s not an open invitation to all interested buyers, instead it’s agents, professionals, and brokers touring the home.

However, not all homes are a good candidate for a broker’s tour. “There’s some areas that a broker’s open does not work at all,” Rathe says. If your listing is a convenient distance from broker’s offices, you can draw a large crowd. If it’s out of the way, it might be best to consider other options before setting up a broker’s tour.

people using smartphones to market open house
Source: ( Jira/ rawpixel)

How can you differentiate your home during an open house?

With the right time and date for your market, you should be prepared for some major foot traffic from buyers and neighbors. Don’t forget to put in time with the details of your open house, paying special attention:

  • Make it smell like home, but only the brand-new kind:
    It’s common knowledge, but every agent HomeLight spoke to reinforced that the smell of the home during an open house is key. “Almost more than anything, it has to smell good,” reinforces Rathe. “No cooking of crazy foods or smelly foods prior to the open house.” Your best bet is to take care of any foul odors by attacking the root of the cause, give your house a deep cleaning, and at most let there be mild citrus aroma when buyers arrive.
  • Go beyond a yard sign and balloons:
    Make sure your agent has a comprehensive marketing plan for your open house. Nowadays, a simple sign and balloons just won’t due. Ask about targeted Facebook ads, Instagram ads, or using social networks like Nextdoor to get the word out about your open house.
  • Showcase your outdoor space:
    Do you have a backyard gazebo, pool, or other feature you’d like to show-off, no matter the season? Help buyers visualize these features with photos during the open house. It might be snowing, or too rainy to go outside, but having professional photographs of these features from the spring or summer can add another dimension to the open house, and don’t rely on the weather being perfect.

For an open house, timing is everything. Stick to the tried and true methods of timing: hold your open house on a weekend (or weeknight in special instances), only for a few hours, pay special attention to events in your market, and don’t forget to factor in the season when it comes to timing. With some research upfront, you can put the odds in your favor for open house success.

Article Image Source: (glynn424/ pixabay)

Find a top agent in your area