An open house is a scheduled window of time in which a house or other property is made available for viewing by potential buyers. The function of the open house is to attract interested buyers and entice them to make offers, as well as, in some cases, to alert the realtor to issues with the space.

There are very few drawbacks to this long-standing practice. Hosting an open house offers prospective buyers the chance to imagine themselves inhabiting your space in a way that pictures and virtual tours simply cannot. It is a tremendous opportunity for buyers to experience the unique features of a space while perhaps also enjoying a coffee, a cocktail, or some hors d’oeuvres.

Despite this, opinions vary wildly about the efficacy of open houses, with many homeowners wondering whether they are worth the trouble. While Canadian data is currently unavailable, in the United States, 53% of homebuyers reported attending an open house in 2018, but only 7% purchased a home they found through an open house.

A 2015 article in Real Estate Magazine observes that many, if not most, people who visit an open house are not actually serious buyers—at least not yet. Instead, they may be nosily curious about other people’s homes, be looking for decorating or remodelling ideas, trying to get a sense of the neighbourhood, or attending for other dubious reasons a la I Love You, Man.

While some realtors believe that good marketing diminishes the need for an open house, others believe that open houses are part of a well-rounded sales strategy—a worthwhile supplement to online listings, networking, and advertising, with high quality photos and ideally, a walkthrough video or 360° visual tour.

Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of hosting an open house:

Pro: Open houses showcase a home at its best

People want to imagine themselves and their families inhabiting a home. This fantasy incentivizes sellers to ensure their home is looking its best for the open house date, since clean homes sell significantly faster than dirty ones. This usually means that sellers will take the time to detail clean neglected areas of their homes or hire professional cleaners to do so.

Con: There is a low probability of sale

As mentioned above, only a small percentage of homes sell as a result of open houses. Studies show that private viewings have a much better chance of earning you a buyer than open houses. An article by The Realty Times further suggests that many of the people who show up for open houses will not be preapproved for a mortgage, which is also something to consider.

Pro: Open houses allow buyers to browse without feeling pressure

Open houses are much more casual than private viewings. While some buyers report feeling pressured to be overly attentive to every small facet of the home during private viewings—turning on faucets, opening and closing windows, or flipping switches—open houses take the pressure off, allowing potential buyers to feel at ease and check out the important things without feeling judged or surveilled. 

Con: Open houses are less flexible than private viewings

Contrary to private viewing appointments, open houses tend to be held on weekend afternoons, usually for only a couple of hours. They are scheduled during windows of time that are perceived to be convenient for large swathes of the population (i.e., outside of Monday to Friday, 9-5 work hours), as well as during periods with lots of natural light amenable to showcasing a house’s unique features (i.e., afternoons).

Pro: Open houses create a deadline for owners to get their homes market ready

Studies show that clean homes sell significantly faster than dirty ones. Many realtors report the difference between walking into a cleaned and staged home versus an unclean and dishevelled one is “night and day” for buyers. This is because buyers want to imagine themselves effortlessly inhabiting a space. The second the question of work enters the equation, it places a potential sale in jeopardy.

By setting in stone an open house date, you can give the owners notice to spruce up the landscape, paint, declutter, and stage the space, making sure it is spotlessly clean for the big day!

Con: Open houses raise a number of security concerns

Post-showing break-ins and vandalism are an unfortunate reality of the practice, especially if a home is vacant at the time of sale. It also opens sellers up to an increased risk of theft. Realtors cannot be everywhere at once, making it very easy for criminals to come in and snatch something of value. But fortunately, this is a comparatively rare occurrence, especially in the age of Google Homes and digital surveillance.


While it is difficult to say whether one option is preferable to the other, the choice to host an open house is ultimately between the seller and their realtor. 

If you plan to list your home or are in the market to buy, our REALTORS® are ready to give you the full-service experience! From offering practical advice to managing your open house, McGarr Realty is here to help you achieve your buying and selling goals! 

Call our office at 905-687-9229 in St. Catharines, or 905-468-9229 in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Or send us a message on our contact page, HERE.

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