You could be forgiven for thinking that the queue snaking down your street was for the January sales, but in our property-obsessed times, it’s more likely to be an open house.
High demand and low housing supply means vendors – especially those selling properties in the affordable bracket – are inundated with potential buyers. And one of the most efficient way to sell up quickly is to host an open house, which is sort of like a party where you don’t know the host but you want their house, or an IKEA show room where nothing is on sale except for the walls.
Whether you’re a vendor or a buyer, it can be an overwhelming experience. What questions do you ask? How can you stand out from the crowd? What happens if it goes to a sealed bids? Why is that man stroking your sofa? Our property experts impart their wisdom.
For the vendor
“If you’re a vendor, an open day can be a great way to drum up competition for your property and it can also help to ensure that a sale is concluded quite quickly, a benefit for buyer and seller alike.
Consider having more than one or giving interested buyers a couple of options for when they can visit; hosting only one open day can actually limit your market and, in some cases, make buyers feel a bit too competitive. This can lead to them getting carried away with their initial bids in a panic, only to then get cold feet later down the line.”
– Jo Eccles, managing director at Sourcing Property
“In a bull market, open days can provide a well-managed opportunity for numerous parties to view a property and can create an atmosphere which encourages multiple parties to make faster and stronger decisions about potentially purchasing the property. They are time efficient and can be held at specific times, perhaps over a weekend, where all decision makers for the purchase can be present.
However, they often make the property feel smaller than it is.
A buyer will get less one-to-one time to ask an agent questions. Some buyers will immediately reject a property being shown to multiple parties at an open house as they don’t want to get in a competitive situation.”
– Rory McGougan, director at Hanover Private Office
“Open houses can be good for certain purposes, at certain price points, in certain locations. However, we have seen a disappearance of open days in Prime Central London, where the market is slowing, but a huge increase in them for properties under £1m in parts of Greater London, such as Walthamstow, which seems to be a hotspot for first time buyers and investors right now. They tend to work better for lower value properties; buyers of £2m plus don’t like to view in a ‘crowd’ and prefer a more exclusive approach.”
– Camilla Dell, managing partner at Black Brick
“Open days can be very useful, however, they are something that we don’t see as much of in central London. It’s hard to vet buyers and, with many of our clients having extremely valuable contents, they are understandably nervous about having simply anyone walk through their house.”
– Jamie Hope, director at Maskells
For the buyer
“If you’re a buyer, an open day is a useful opportunity, but it can also be quite stressful, especially if you find yourself in a confined space with a lot of competitors. In most cases, you also won’t get to actually meet the vendor so you will have to find other ways to leave a good impression.
The estate agent will be present so it’s good to get in touch the day before to let them know that you’re coming and to introduce yourself once you get there; this shows that you’re reliable and helps to make you stand out a bit more. A lot of sellers will ask for their agent’s advice on who they think is the best buyer so it’s good to get your name in the agent’s mind.
If the open house results in a sealed bid situation, which many of them do, a good tip is to wait to put in an offer until fairly close to the sealed bid deadline in order to get a better idea on how many people are bidding.
Lastly, don’t try to second guess what other buyers are going to offer; instead focus your attention on what you can afford and what the property is worth to you, then write a great offer letter subtly highlighting why you're a better buyer than the competition."
– Sourcing Property
If you can, request the property particulars and do your homework first so you are prepared with any questions for the day. Check out the area beforehand and drive by the property at different times of the day so you can see how busy or not the area is.
Don’t be taken in by fancy décor and a lick of paint. Take a list of what to look out for such as signs of damp and any large cracks, rotten window frames. It is also worth asking about the plumbing and electrics, as these can prove costly. Run the taps if you can and check for loose sockets and switches. Ask yourself whether you can afford to do the work before making an offer."
– Christopher Wall, partner at Proctors' Beckenham branch
“Try to get the agent’s attention. Be positive and attentive to any questions you ask because you want to make them think you are the only ones there; this should be before the viewing and after (when it's booked in and when giving feedback).
Aim to arrive at the start of the day or the end, but stick to your time slot. If the property is right for you then give the agent a call at the end of the day and ask a few more questions, see how the other appointments went and find out what you can about the vendor’s expectations and ask to be kept up-to-date with any progress or when offers need to be submitted.”
– Hanover Private Office
“Get a buying agent. We try to get in to view properties before the official open day so we can move quicker and have a higher chance of securing a property for a client.”
– Black Brick
We will offer prominent buying agents the opportunity to view the house, often with caterers being involved so that they will come en masse and see the house, spend time in the property to get to know it in order to report back to their clients.