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In real estate, the idea of an open house is to quickly get as many eyes as possible on a property that’s for sale. The listing agent — that is, the real estate agent who’s working to sell the home — hosts the event and shows the home to anyone who drops by, no appointment needed.

Preparing a home for an open house can be labor-intensive, because you want it to really look its best. But on the plus side, the home needs to be shined and polished only once for an open house, compared with multiple times for individual showings.

What is an open house?

During an open house, a home seller’s real estate agent or broker holds open hours during which the home is available for the public to view. Potential buyers (or nosy neighbors) may drop by anytime within the scheduled hours, without an appointment. Most open houses are held on a Saturday or Sunday, to maximize the number of people that will be able to stop by without having to take time out from work and other responsibilities.

Is it different from a ‘broker’s open house’?

Yes. As the name implies, a broker’s open house is specifically for other brokers, not for the general public. These involve the listing agent showing the home to other agents in the hopes that they will, in turn, want to show it to their clients.

How do open houses work?

When an agent hosts an open house, anyone interested in the home can stop in to take a peek. If you’re looking to buy a house, it’s an opportunity to look around and ask any questions you may have.

At an open house, buyers can get a feel for the space and start to imagine themselves living there — serious shoppers might even bring an open house checklist to stay organized. If you’re interested, you can then arrange a time to go back and look at the home in greater detail.

These events tend to be casual in nature, and the listing agent will often provide refreshments and snacks, as well as informational flyers. This can lead to an almost party-like atmosphere at times. On the downside, it can also lead to looky-loos and curious neighbors who aren’t actually looking to buy.

Do they help a home sell?

An open house allows you to attract the attention of a large amount of people at once. Expanding your pool of potential buyers in this way can ultimately lead to more interested parties and a faster sale. However, just because more people see a home doesn’t automatically mean there will be more offers made. An open house can be a crucial marketing opportunity, but it does not guarantee a sale.

A note about security

With a lot of strangers in and out of the house all at once, security can be a concern with open houses. This can be especially true in high-end neighborhoods that might be targets for thieves. If you’re selling your home, it’s smart to take common-sense precautions before opening it up to the public, including making sure all valuables are either locked away or out of the house. If you feel uneasy, be sure to discuss your concerns with your agent.

Pros and cons of holding an open house

Getting your home seen by plenty of potential buyers has obvious benefits. But crowds of people poking around the house can have drawbacks as well, particularly if the seller is still living there.


  • More buyers: Open houses are a great way to get your home in front of house hunters — the more, the better. More potential buyers means more potential offers. Ask your agent about their plans to follow up with serious prospects.
  • Less pressure: They give buyers a chance to see the property at their leisure, without the hassle or commitment of scheduling a private showing. Open houses tend to be casual and less intimidating than formally scheduled appointments.
  • Providing information: They also allow interested shoppers to ask questions of the listing agent. If open house attendees like what they see, they can then schedule a private showing to look more carefully.
  • Gauging interest: In addition, an open house for a brand-new listing gives a sense of the level of interest in the property. Attendance, engagement and feedback can help the agent and seller decide whether the listing is likely to sell quickly, or whether they might need to consider a price reduction.


  • Prep work: Much like preparing to host a party, preparing for an open house is a lot of work. They take time and energy to coordinate, and they require the home to look its very best: clean, tidy, clutter-free and, above all, welcoming. It may even call for a little home staging (or a lot, depending on the home’s condition).
  • Making yourself scarce: The homeowner is typically not present during an open house. So finding a window of time when the entire family can clear out — pets included — can present a scheduling challenge.
  • Can attract non-buyers: Due to their casual, “drop on by” nature, they often attract the merely curious or nosy as well as people who are actually home shopping. A good agent can tell the difference.
  • Security risk: Open houses are just that: open. People you don’t know will be wandering around your home while you’re not there. The listing agent keeps an eye on things, of course, but the more of a crowd there is the higher the chance that they might miss something. You don’t want to have any valuables, or breakables, in easy reach during the event. In fact, you may want to remove anything valuable from the home altogether.

How to find open houses

There are many ways to go about finding open houses near you, and it largely depends on how serious you are in your home search. If you’re just curious or in the very beginning stages of searching, looking online is probably your best bet. Numerous real estate sites offer open house information, and the events are often publicized on social media as well.

If you are in the throes of a serious house hunt, you’d be wise to enlist the help of a real estate agent who knows the local market well. They will have access to information and resources that you wouldn’t have on your own.

Are they only held on weekends?

Since the goal of an open house is to generate as much foot traffic as possible, they are typically held on Saturdays and Sundays, when most people are not at work. But they don’t have to be. You can often find open houses on weekday evenings, as well.

Do you need a Realtor to attend an open house?

No, you do not need a real estate agent of any kind to be with you in order to attend an open house. However, if you are far enough along in your home search that you have retained one, it’s useful to have them with you — or at least fill them in that you’re attending. Agents can help you understand the features of the home, the neighborhood and the pricing. They can guide you through the process and offer professional expertise and insight based on their knowledge of the local market, and even the previous sale history of the house.

One note to add: Due to a recent federal lawsuit settlement involving the National Association of Realtors, Realtors will soon need to have a written agreement with clients before they may bring them to see a home. This will not affect your ability to attend an open house on your own, but it does mean that, if you want an agent with you, you will need to have a contract with them in place.

Bottom line

When a home is put up for sale, the listing agent will often hold an open house to attract potential buyers and give them a chance to check it out. Open houses offer buyers a useful opportunity to see a variety of homes in their desired area without any pressure. They can create buzz around a listing and help it sell, but they can also be challenging for the seller, who often still lives there.