Don't Leave the Door Open to Danger

Open houses put agents at risk of being harmed and should be curtailed.

November 2, 2014

We purchase alarm systems to keep strangers out of our homes. But in our workaday lives, we turn around and open the front door to invite anyone and everyone in, no questions asked? There’s something wrong with this picture. The contradiction is exactly why open houses make no sense.

The two recent murders of real estate agents during showings in Ohio should trigger some serious thinking: Do the benefits of open houses for home owners justify us putting our lives on the line? The visitors who go to open houses usually haven’t even spoken to a mortgage lender yet; they have no clue how much the home owner is asking; and chances are they won’t buy the home after touring it.

One thing open houses definitely do is put people’s lives in danger. When you tell every John Doe that he has the next four hours to come right on in, you risk becoming a victim. This insanity needs to stop.

The same goes for real estate agents who drop everything to run out to an empty house for a first consultation with a potential client. You wouldn’t advise your children to go on a job interview in an empty house, would you? So why are you doing it?

Agents need to start changing their business standards. When a prospective client contacts you and asks to see a home, an appointment needs to be scheduled for them to come into your office first. If only a few of us do that, buyers will continue to beat us up and demand that we run out to show them homes that we don’t know if they are even qualified to buy. But if we all make it office policy that nobody sees homes without first coming into the office, consumers would get a better view of the value of our services. Aside from it being a safer practice, you would get to sit down with the client, explain the necessary documents to them, explain the services you are going to provide to them, and ask them to hire you.

I know there are agents and brokers out there who will argue that open houses are an avenue to meeting new clients and running out to show a home to a stranger is just part of the business. I respect their opinion, but for me, what’s more important is eliminating the risk of being hurt—or worse—at an open house or an empty house. We can say no to “stranger danger.”

If you want to be paid the big bucks, you don’t get there by being incautious. Chasing buyers all over an empty house to explain legal documentsis not very professional, nor is it safe. How do you expect the public to take us seriously when we don’t respect ourselves or use our time wisely by saying no to a stranger who demands we run out to show them a home first before giving us any information about themselves?

Before we had the technology we had today, holding an open house was one of the best ways to try and get new business, though no less dangerous then. But we have so many new ways of attracting new business via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedln, and other outlets. Buyers have so many ways to see a home right in the palm of their hands that it really makes the need for open houses much less pressing. 

Not only would halting open houses create a safer work environment for all of us, it would also make us feel like we have more control over our business. That’s an empowering thought, wouldn’t you agree?

Renee Porsia is an associate broker with RE/MAX Eastern in Feasterville, Pa.

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