Strategy is more likely to bring quick sale in San Francisco
"I checked in with some San Francisco agents, asking how frequently do they have an open house, and the responses were nine out of 10 times," Ellis told me. "I was surprised, but it's just a market-by-market thing. In San Francisco, it's the norm; if you put a listing on the market, you have an open house."
In San Francisco, Ellis concluded, if you don't have an open house, that may be an indication that there are other challenges to selling the property. Conversely, in Las Vegas and Phoenix, if you do have an open house, that may be a sign of problems with the listing.
The ramifications of these percentage breakdowns get even stranger in the outlier cities as Ellis poked into the effectiveness of an open house as a selling tool. To define success, Ellis used the data point of 90 days after listing to see if a house sold.
"In most markets, there were small differences in percentages," he said. "In most markets, 39 percent of homes sold after 90 days regardless of whether there was an open house or not. The exceptions were the homes in the cities at the ends of the spectrum.
"In San Francisco, if you didn't hold an open house, you were a good 7 percent or 8 percent percentage points less likely to have sold your home in less than 90 days. In Las Vegas and Phoenix, if you held an open house you were actually less likely to have sold the home before 90 days."
Looking at all the markets in Ellis' survey, if there was no open house, 42.5 percent of listings sold within 90 days; if an open house was held in week one, 55.5 percent of listings sold within 90 days; if an open house was held after week one, only 29.4 percent sold within 90 days.
Just out of curiosity, I sent a note about open houses to an associate in Honolulu, far, far away from Ellis' survey cities.
Ross Brown, an associate broker with Keller Williams Realty, replied with these comments: "Open houses are one of the best ways to interact with people in Hawaii. Sometimes the public will not know a home is on the market unless an open house was held. An open house alerts the neighborhood that the home is actively on the market. We meet people face to face at an open house, and this is always our main goal in real estate. Seeing a home online is a good start but there is no substitute for actually being inside the home."
Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, "Growing Up Levittown: In a Time of Conformity, Controversy and Cultural Crisis," is now available for sale on Amazon.com.
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Daily market update: Oct. 9, 2015