Couple Touring Open House In Open Floor Plan Loft

Open Houses: What Home Buyers And Sellers Need To Know

Carey Chesney5-Minute Read
UPDATED: August 04, 2022

Searching for a home can be a fun, sometimes anxious, but mostly exciting experience. Daydreaming about finding your perfect abode and contemplating the various finishing touches you would put on it are just a couple of the ways you will begin spending your free time. Once you get serious about looking, open houses are a great way to casually tour homes you might be interested in buying. Even if it’s not the right home for you right now, attending an open house can, at the very least, allow you to home in on the features you do and don't like when it comes to finding the perfect house.

What Does ‘Open House’ Mean In Real Estate?

In literal terms, this means the house is open. Open to prospective buyers, open to agents and open to other members of the general public who, for whatever reason, are interested in getting a look at a particular home that is on the market. One variation on the traditional open house is the broker open house, when only real estate agents are invited to preview a property to see if they have any buyer clients that might be interested in seeing it in person.

How Do Open Houses Work?

When sellers and their agents are interested in getting as many people into a house to contemplate buying it as possible, they hold an open house. The seller or their agent sets up the house to maximum “showing condition” and determines a time frame for the event (usually a two- to three-hour period on the weekend). Then the open house is advertised through signage, online advertising and word of mouth to get as many people interested as possible.

When the open house day arrives, attendees can wander through the home or be given a tour, depending on their preference. The seller or their agent will often collect info from attendees like their name, email address and whether or not they are working with a buyer’s agent. This allows for follow-up after the event to answer any questions that arose at the open house and to gauge the prospective buyers’ interest in the home.

Pros And Cons Of Open Houses

While generally beneficial for both home buyers and sellers as well as their real estate agents, there are both pros and cons to holding open houses. Some pros for sellers are actually cons for buyers and vice versa. Other aspects of open houses benefit both people looking to sell their home and those looking to buy. Let’s take a look at some of the key ones.


For buyers: Getting to see a property in person at an open house can help buyers decide if it may be a fit for them. In addition, it can be a preliminary way to see if there are issues that were hidden from the listing photos. For example, no matter how beautiful the photos are, you won't be able to tell if you can hear the freeway from the front yard.

Buyers can get this all from a private showing with their real estate agent as well, but the open house offers the ability to pop in on a whim and also get a sense of how many other people are interested in buying the house. This of course can be useful information when thinking about submitting an offer.

For sellers: Open houses can be a great way to get a lot of potential buyers in at one time. This makes things less disruptive to their everyday lives by allowing multiple showings in a few hours instead of spreading them out across individual private showings for days on end.

In addition, having potential buyers all in the house at the same time can create some healthy competition when it comes to generating good offers.


For buyers: Sometimes open houses encourage a bidding war. If several open house attendees end up being interested in the property and are vocal about it during the open house, they could create some anxiety about missing out on the home, and thus the offer amounts can start to climb.

In addition, open houses are run by the seller or their agent, so all the information will be presented in a way that shows the house in its best light. When buyers do a private showing with their agent that only has their best interests in mind, they are more likely to get a fair and balanced opinion.

For sellers: There aren’t really any drawbacks to holding an open house other than the time and energy it takes to get ready for one. However, as previously mentioned, this is usually less work than preparing for multiple individual showings across many days, weeks or even months.

Open House Tips For Buyers

Checking out a home may seem simple and not something you need to prepare for. While it is pretty stress free, there are a few things you can do to make sure you get the most out of the experience.

Take Notes

Take notes on the things you like about a property and the things you dislike/would need to change or repair if you were to purchase the house. Be sure to ask the agent hosting the open house whether you’re allowed to take photos or videos while touring the property as well so you can refer to them later when deciding how you feel about the house.

Ask Questions

Speaking of asking the host agent questions, don't hesitate when you are at an open house. A few possible topics to consider would be about recent home improvement projects completed, age of the home and its systems, or details surrounding the home sale, like the asking price. These are just a few of the most important questions to ask at an open house, but brainstorm some that are specific to your needs as well.

Don’t Bring Pets Or Young Children

You want to get a good sense of the home when you are there and chasing a toddler around who is trying to knock every item off every table is probably not the best way to get that sense. Pets and young kids can be disruptive in an open house environment so it’s best to make plans for them to be somewhere else while you attend (if you can).

Open House Tips For Sellers

Open houses are pretty much always great for sellers, but they can be even better with a little preparation and know-how.

Declutter Your Living Space

Before holding an open house, make sure the home is clean and well-organized. Doing your usual level of cleanup is a must and for extra credit you can go full KonMari Method with your belongings. In addition, staging your home’s interior can be extremely helpful when presenting your property in the best possible light to potential buyers.

Remove Personal Items

If it’s feasible, remove personal items like family photos or kids’ artwork before an open house in order to fully allow interested buyers to envision the home as their own living space. You want them to think of the house as theirs already, increasing the likelihood of an offer.

Don’t Attend Your Own Open House

It’s usually recommended that homeowners do not attend the open house for their property, as it can sometimes make interested buyers feel uncomfortable/on edge. In addition, as a proud homeowner it may be hard for you to hear some negative feedback about certain things from the potential buyers.

What Happens After An Open House?

If everything goes well and people become interested in purchasing the property, buyers or their agents will be reaching out to sellers or their agents to ask follow-up questions and discuss offers. At the very least, sellers and their agents will have a list of people to reach out to and market the house further.

The Bottom Line

Open houses can be a great way for buyers to find the house of their dreams and for sellers to connect with potential suitors for their home. Understanding how they work will ensure you get the most out of them, whether you are buying or selling or both. 

Carey Chesney

Carey Chesney is a Realtor® and freelance writer that brings a wealth of experience as a former Marketing Executive in the fields of Health Care, Finance and Wellness. Carey received his Bachelor's in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison and his Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications at Eastern Michigan University. You can connect with Carey at