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What's to Become of the Open House?


May 26, 2020 by Barbara Zito

Real estate is one of the many industries that has been affected during the pandemic. Open houses, a weekend staple for homebuyers and real estate agents alike, have fallen prey to social distancing. What will happen to this hallmark of house hunting when we can barely even leave our own homes? Let's consider some of the possibilities.

Virtual property tours

While forward-thinking real estate agents have used virtual property tours for their listings for some time now, expect to see these in many more listings going forward. Here's how potential buyers will get a glimpse of properties:

More pictures

For those who are selling homes that need a little TLC, be warned: It's no longer going to be enough to post exterior shots for online listings. Unless owners are willing to let their properties linger on the market, they're going to have to get their homes ready for their close-up. Real estate agents will need to up their photography skills and start posting dozens of pictures of their listings in the hopes that it will be enough to entice buyers to make an offer.

Drones

It's not science fiction; this is real real estate. These high-tech gadgets have already become a way of life for some real estate agents, particularly those with million-dollar listings on the market. You may have already seen overhead drone videos of sweeping properties, but be prepared to see them for more modest homes, too. Rather than let in a group of people at an open house, imagine instead a live-stream open house, courtesy of a small camera drone hovering in each room.

Smartphone tours

For real estate agents who aren't ready to make an investment in a camera drone, there's an app for that. A smartphone is all an agent needs to take clients on a tour of a house for sale. It may not be exactly the same as being in the home, but it's better than two-dimensional pictures -- and it's far better than buying a home sight unseen.

Private appointments

Private appointments are the bane of any home seller's existence. While open houses can be stressful, they require keeping the house clean and tidy for a span of just a few hours, usually on a weekend. Now, homeowners will feel the pressure to keep homes perfect 24/7 as they await a call from their real estate agent that someone wants to see the property. And that is exactly what will happen: Homebuyers will come individually and in pairs to see a home until it is sold.

But there's some good news: Now that there are more barriers to entry with seeing homes, those who do request private appointments may be more earnest homebuyers rather than lookie-loos.

The fall of the lookie-loo?

There may be an upside to the demise of open houses: the loss of the lookie-loos. These are people who have little intention of buying a home or may look at homes far out of their price range. A good real estate agent will be able to sniff them out to avoid wasting time with a private appointment. It won't stop them from viewing virtual tours online, of course, so keep that in mind when listings start to rack up views by "interested" buyers.

Like all other industries have had to adjust to social distancing, real estate agents and sellers will have to rethink the open house as part of the home's marketing plan. Of course, buyers will also have to modify their expectations with how much access they'll have to a potential home -- and how much they'll need before they feel comfortable making an offer.

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