Open Houses and Nosey Neighbours, Are They Worth It?

Walking Upstairs at Open House

We admit we are nosey neighbours when it comes to some open houses in our neighbourhood but for good reason. Yes, we have the “stop the car” moments when the “for sale” sign just happens to show up and we just have to go inside. It’s not often homes in our area go up for sale as we live in an area where people don’t tend to leave.

Most of the homes were built about 15-20 years ago and the area is becoming quite diverse in demographics since we moved in. Back a few years ago most, OK almost all of our neighbours were either a bit older than us or retired seniors. We bought our house from a senior couple who were downsizing their home  and moving into a rented condo. Funny how some people go from owning a home to renting a home later in life.

Needless to say, everybody knows everyone in our small neighbourhood which can be a good thing or a one of those situations where you want to go bury your head in the sand. Over the last year or so as the silent and baby boomer generation start to move out we are seeing younger families move in from the Generation x to the Generation Y also known as the (millennial). The prices of homes in our area have gone up exponentially in the last 5 years since we moved in.

That’s no big surprise though in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) which is considered the Canadian Mecca for many Canadian citizens, permanent residents and illegal immigrants because this is the area where all the magic happens from manufacturing to finance, fashion to the top Canadian stars and then some.

We are looking at about a $100,000 increase on our home if we were to sell today in just over 4 years of living here but in reality it’s only becomes a number when you actually live in the house.

Modern Kitchen

Open Houses

What are Open Houses?

Open houses are great if you are looking to sell your house quickly as it opens your doors to those who want to buy a house just as fast. An open house is when your Realtor opens the doors to the public for viewing in hopes to make a sale or market an impression on potential buyers.

When we see a “For Sale” sign our nosey neighbour radar goes off and I say that jokingly to have a laugh but it’s more so for our own benefit that we go to an open house. When we are out walking and run into neighbour the chat always seems to centre around the neighbourhood and houses for sale. They are just as nosey as we are, even the men.

What some neighbours secretly talk about to us when a for sale sign goes up in our neighbourhood- Are they getting divorced? Maybe, they got better paying jobs? Are they building? Where are they going? How much are they going to sell it for? You get the picture, although it’s mainly the folks who have been around for many years who talk. We typically don’t give a hoot what the “personal reasons” are about why someone sells, but some do.

I’m betting that almost everyone who lives in a neighbourhood and sees a “For Sale” sign at some point opens the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or the agents listing site to see how much the house is selling for and what it’s got inside. For some the MLS site is like a daily drug because they are constantly looking and comparing homes in their city.

For us, we often wonder what precious gems our neighbours are hiding (walk-in pantry, swimming pool, gourmet kitchen) inside their homes and what they have done to improve their homes. We are nosey by nature plus we want to make sure our biggest investment, “our home” is on track to potentially making us some money down the road when we sell.

Investing in the best home improvements comparable to our neighbours is important so it’s not money wasted on renovations that we could have used elsewhere. The problem is we don’t have a crystal ball when it comes to the housing market so how do you strike a balance. Some people say renovate how you like and spend as much as you want, even if you don’t see the return on investment which is hard for us to do.

We had one of the cities top agents come through our home to give us tips on how to get the most out of our renovations when the time comes that we want to sell. If we are in a house that we know is our final home that would be a different story, but that’s not likely the case at the moment. Nothing screams “buy my home now” then a home that is well maintained, clean and up to date.

As a couple we are far from wanting to keep up with the Joneses but we do like to make sure our home like I mentioned earlier is keeping up with comparable homes in our neighbourhood in line with market value and assessed value . There’s nothing worse than renovating a home and finding out it was a waste of time and money because we over-renovated.

Benefits Of An Open House
  • You get to see the property in person
  • You can inspect the property up close
  • You can meet the listing agent
  • You can potentially talk to nosey neighbours
  • You can ask questions to the listing agent
  • See what you like and don’t like in a home
  • Sellers get to hear the positive and negative about their home that potential buyers tell their agent

Are open houses worth it or are they becoming a waste of time? An article I recently read pointed out that the only people through local open houses are local neighbours and the odd potential buyers. Any time we see a house with an “Open House” sign even if it is a brokers open we head on over to take a look, maybe they are right.

A brokers open is where the listing agent holds an open house mainly for other agents in hopes they may have a potential buyer. A friend of ours who is a Realtor says, “hosting an open house is not always an easy task especially when there are many people coming through and you want to make the experience one to remember”.

Realistically, the real estate agent isn’t going to toss out a potential buyer even if they think they are just being a nosey neighbour. We try not to let the agent know we live in the area but if they ask we are honest and tell them exactly why we are there. We roam around the house and I check everything and I mean everything that I can. I’m pretty sure they may think I’m an undercover inspector.

Interior Design Bedroom

Theft with Open Houses

The down-side to an open house is potential theft when you are not home. Potential thieves would think nothing to go through all your bedroom drawers and personal belongings if no one is watching. I’m sure if you are a homeowner you have been to many open houses in your time. You can safely at some point one or more agents didn’t hold your hand in every room you went in during a walk around the house.

As a homeowner I would be nervous if something was stolen in the house which I’m sure happens every single day. I’d be inclined to install webcams in the house so I can see exactly what is going on. It’s my house after all. Who knows if your ex is wandering through looking for that one item you simply didn’t want to give him or her. I bet I’ve got you thinking now, haven’t I.

As a seller a  good real estate agent will walk you through your house and tell you what you should and should not keep out on display. I’m sure they have heard horror stories or have been involved with them at some point in their career.

If you opt to sell privately through a for sale by owner I would at least expect an Open House Check-list to be part of the marketing package you receive to make sure everything that needs to be done, is completed. 

Have you ever lost something valuable to theft from an open house you had?

Leaving the Open House

Once we have had our walk around the house and talked to agent we get his/her card and we leave the house. Immediately we start comparing notes. We are like a couple of erratic robots dishing out data…(OK, not really that bad, I’m dramatic)

  • Did you see the mould?
  • Do you think they got permits?
  • The floors were installed incorrectly
  • I can’t believe they would do that to the basement
  • This house is overpriced
  • This house will sell fast
  • They replaced the vanities and have heated floors
  • Everything is outdated in that house
  • That kitchen was amazing, did you see the granite?
  • I would love to have a house like this
  • In our dreams!

Again, here are two people (us) who want to make sure they are renovating their home in a comparable fashion without breaking the bank. This leads me back to is it worth the time and money for the homeowner and the listing agent to hold an open house? An agent can sit at an open house for hours with no potential buyers walking through with money spent on snacks waiting to make a sale.

Time is money as we all know and it’s the same for the homeowner. The homeowner has to make sure the house is cleaned and in tip-top shape and arrange to be somewhere when the open house is happening. Hopefully not out shopping spending money they didn’t intend to spend in the first place. Crikey, that would make it even worse.

house for sale online

Marketing A Home For Sale

If all agents get is nosey neighbours through the house that have no intentions of buying the home only comparing what they do or don’t have in their own home what is the point? With all the technology we have today buyers can now market a home online so potential buyers can get a realistic 360 degree virtual tour and schedule an appointment if they are serious about buying a home.

Heck, some houses you can pull your car up and tune in to a specific radio channel and listen to all the features the home has to offer. We did that when we were looking to buy a home and it was pretty cool although we felt like a couple of street stalkers. I know that when we put our home on the market we won’t care who comes through it as it’s no longer “our home” it becomes a “house” but we will take all the precautions necessary to protect our valuables.

Some agents or homeowners may think it’s a waste of time but is it really? We went to an open house in our area and we knew a couple who lived out-of-town that was looking for a home over 2000 sq ft with a pool that was well maintained. It’s difficult when you live out-of-town because you don’t want to drive in to look at houses one by one so it helps to have friends or family in the city looking for you.

They wanted to buy in our subdivision as it was a sought after area, close to a school but not near all the craziness of our city which can get pretty hectic. We had a look around the house for them (see we’re not always nosey for own good) and when we got home we called our friends to give them the low down on what we thought. I’m sure that open houses only account for a small percentage of sales in the buying and selling game of homes but it does count for something.

Needless to say the house had a “Sold” sign on it a week later after scheduling an appointment because they liked what we told them about it.

Outdoor Living Area

Benefits of an Open House For A Real Estate Agent

Word of mouth marketing is one of the fastest ways to get a message across to people, heck even with this blog. As an agent an open house is your shining moment to network and get to know people who do take an interest in being nosey. It’s not every day you get to talk to potential customers face to face and build a relationship in a mere 10 minutes of conversation while handing out business cards.

It is all about business after all and building your client base. If someone wants to buy our house and is genuinely interested and comes to an open house I’m happy. If someone is being nosey, I really can’t control that short of only accepting appointments risking that I lose a sale by not opening my home to the public, so I focus on the things I can control. I’m betting many agents will say at some point in their career they have met potential clients at an open house or made a sale down the road because of an open house.

So, if you think an open house is a waste of time it’s your call but you never know who will come into your home and how it will benefit you as a homeowner. An open house can either make or break a sale, so for potentially one of the biggest investments of your life, is it worth it to you?

Do you go to open houses when you are not looking to buy? 

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Photos Courtesy of : Home for Sale by kjnnt and walking upstairs by Ambro /Freedigitalphotos. net, Outdoor Area by Photostock, INterior design bedroom by nokhoog_buchachon, modern kitchen by Michelle Meiklejohn

Mr. CBB
I’m from the UK and now a recent permanent resident in Canada. I bought my first house at the age of 21 after University then my second at the age of 24. I’ve always been fascinated with personal finance, savings, learning to make money and watch it grow while combating debts along the way. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where I get to share my experiences with personal finance and learn about yours along the way. I hope you stick around and check me out on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where I am active on all social media sites. Cheers, Mr.CBB
Mr. CBB
Mr. CBB

Comments

  1. My sister was showing a home when some people came in that fit the description of some suspected open house thieves. She kept her eye on them as best as she could, thought she noticed something missing and called the cops. They ended up leaving but getting pulled over a few blocks away and it ended up being them. Crazy situation!

    • I never thought about it until our friend the Realtor told us about a time that it happened to one of her clients. She also had to call the police. People will do anything to get ahead or to get something that doesn’t belong to them or that they haven’t earned.

    • Claire Mansfield says:

      It’s incredibly rude
      when it’s your home
      those nosey neighbours
      coming in your front gate to see the house
      So just stand outside
      when the open for inspection is advertised
      and they will either feel uncomfortable to walk in as they see you
      if they aren’t then tell them “you’re not welcome”

      Got it

      • What happens if they aren’t actually being nosey and want to buy your house though? That’s the tough part. We have two families on our street that have purchased bigger homes on the same street after they went up for sale.

  2. I could not imagine going to an open house to steal something from the people…I mean really?! I have much better things to do in life than to do something like that. 🙂 That said, my parents would often go to open houses when I was growing up to see what others were doing and it was never fun for me. Now I understand some of the reasoning behind it and that it can open you up to certain possibilities that you can do with your house.

    • Isn’t that crazy John, who would have thought of that. Now I see why more people are opting to sell privately as they have control over who comes in and out of their home and they can watch over them. You can’t trust anyone these days. We don’t open the door and let a stranger in so why would we do the same with an open house and no one is watching them… craziness if you ask me.

  3. We will be doing an open house within the next year, but we go around the ones in our neighborhood to see what we are up against. The whole point of “spying” is to get a leg up on the competition.

  4. I understand the value of an “Open House” but can’t even try to fathom doing one while we are living in it. Our life is way to chaotic to entertain a personal sales event! Ideally, we would move out first, have the house scrubbed and painted top to bottom, and get one of those firms that will decorate and furnish your house (temporarily) to spif it up a bit. Then the agent can do all the open houses she wants! 🙂

    • Pretty much every open house here is done while the home owner lives in, where would they go as many people don’t have another home to go to unless they sell their principle residence? Even in the UK I was living in my house during an open house but I had my web cam running while it was happening.

  5. It must be nice to live in a neighborhood where people actually know each other. I wouldn’t know anything about that. Our neighborhood (which is made up of all really nice houses) is comprised of super cliquey neighbors who are all in their 40s-50s. Since we’re in our 20s, they don’t like us for whatever reason. So when I see a For Sale sign I think to myself “Thank God” and “Hopefully we get some cool neighbors” but that hasn’t happened yet.

  6. Good post Mr. CBB, and thanks for adding the part in about the theft: years ago when I was a sales assistant for a mortgage rep, we were visiting open houses one Sunday and networking with the realtors, and a guy came in. He looked suspicious, so we all kind of followed him around, and suddenly he busted out the front door with a bunch of high end jewelry. Turns out the guy was a drug addict! Could’ve been a very dangerous situation for all involved. Not trying to scare anyone out of selling, but it’s something to keep in mind…

    As for us, we stay out of open houses when we’re not looking to buy, simply b/c we don’t to be tempted. 🙂

  7. Oh I never thought about possible theft, but with so many random people coming into an open house I guess that’s a definite possibility!

    • I know, crazy isn’t how we simply put all our trust in our realtor to make sure everything is ok. We need to take control and make an informed decision. I don’t think we need to leave our home for an open house.

  8. Christine Weadick says:

    When my sister-n-law had her place up fro sale she rented one of those portable trailers and stored all the seasonal stuff and such in it. They kept the minimum at the house while it was on the market. They moved out before it was sold so it was empty but they didn’t have much to move. It meant carrying two houses but they were OK with that. I agree with Jose, I don’t want to be living in the house during an open house….. Given some of the crap we’ve had to put up with while a house was on the market I swear I’d move out altogether before the for sale sign goes up. We had a good agent the last time but some of the others I wouldn’t give the time of day to. Not after some of the crap they pulled….. everything from 5 minutes notice for a showing to not showing up and not calling to cancel to a late appointment, calling to say they would be late, and being really late for the showing(one agent, one showing) I was fit to be tied, I was so angry. We stayed in the house for that one….The people looking were more polite than the agent, realizing we had small children and it was late they looked at the upstairs first, so I could put the kids to bed. Judging from the look on their faces when they walked in to see the situation there I don’t think they were too happy with the agent either. As for valuables…. I’d be removing anything like that from the building well ahead of time.

    • It can be a lot of hassle when one is selling a house especially with open houses. Many people would love to move out while they are being hosted but the reality is most people can’t carry 2 mortgages and hope that their house sells. For those that can, it’s great but sometimes people tend to low ball when they see a house that is not staged or lived in because they think it’s a divorce sale or moving out of country.

  9. studentdebtsurvivor says:

    We do go to open houses once in a while (when we’re not looking to sell), just to get an idea of the market in our area and to compare our place to others (and hopefully figure out if our place is appreciating).

  10. I did go to several open houses when there was an open house carnival in our town a couple of years ago. It was before we were seriously looking for a rental property, but it gave me some ideas. Some places looked great, and some were just a mess. It showed me what to do and not do if I ever need to have one myself.

  11. ouch, I never thought about theft! I guess it`s something every person who`s considering an open house has to take in to consideration. Weigh the pro`s and con`s.

  12. I don’t go to open houses anymore now that I have a house, but I liked the idea of open houses because it gave potential buyers flexibility and a second chance to look at the house if they were considering buying it. I remember one house had free cookies and an actual pie in the even. The smell was heavenly!

  13. I love going to open houses. I just love real estate….I don’t think I’m particuarly nosey!

    • We do too.. and yes you are if you’re not buying! hahaha… I think it’s because there are people like us who are fascinated with real estate and what is inside different homes. We are the creative bunch that thinks outside the box.. ya, that’s it! Happy Easter to you both!

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