The History of Open Houses

Every Saturday around 12:30 we see the open house signs go up around town. Different colors with different logos, but they are all promoting a common goal – buying and selling real estate. So where did this concept originate, and why? Open houses have been around more than a hundred years! Before the National Association of Realtors (NAR) was founded in 1908, claiming yourself as a Realtor was fairly simple as there were minimal regulations and laws in the way of becoming one.

It was difficult for prospective buyers to know whom they could trust, and sometimes there were multiple brokerage signs in front of the same property! Eventually, exclusive contracts were formed designating a single broker to advertise a property. Open houses began in the 1910’s and were held for much longer than the current 2-4 hour time frame – sometimes all day! Below we’ve outlined a few tips for your open house to help with your research.

Are Open Houses Effective? Tips For Your Open House

Times have changed, and the development of technology has allowed potential buyers to whittle down their search before going out to look at properties in person. They can look at pictures online, and sometimes watch videos or take interactive tours of the properties depending on the extent of marketing done on the listing.

This is helpful to everyone involved because usually if buyers are coming through your open house, they have already seen the marketing online and it has passed that first qualifying stage. Walkthrough videos like the one below can give buyers a very good understanding of what the home has to offer, and now there is Matterport technology allowing buyers to walk through the home at their own pace from their computer.

With emerging virtual reality (VR) technology, qualifying houses from home or the real estate office before taking real property tours could change immensely. We look forward to learning more about what this kind of technology will contribute to our industry. Despite all of this exciting technology, one principle remains the same: there is nothing quite like seeing a property in person, and that feeling cannot be replaced with technological advances.

Open houses in walkable neighborhoods provide tremendous value to visitors or locals keeping up on their local real estate market. Carmel is a great example of this. We see locals and visitors alike walking their dogs through the streets of Carmel, pulling property fliers and if the house is open, they will often times stop in. They may have a friend from the city looking for a second home, and yours could be the perfect fit. Open houses will always be a great way to sell a home, as they have for many years.

Successful Open House Ideas | Tips For Your Open House

A few subjects regarding tips for your open house: preparing the home, marketing the open house, and sign placement.


When preparing a home for an open house, condition is key. A deep clean of the house is necessary so the house will show in tip top condition. You want visitors to walk in totally satisfied with the fresh smell and evident care you have shown in preparing the house to sell. We have some great house cleaners we work with and can recommend.

While personal items can have a nice touch to make the house look like a home, it is certainly possible to go overboard! You want buyers to be able to envision their own possessions in the home. We go into more detail about this in our guide to staging a home. This will likely already be taken care of as part of the pre-marking before the listing hits the MLS, so at this point you’re really just walking through the house doing touch up and making sure it’s ready to show.


Every week, our Coldwell Banker office has us submit our open houses by Tuesday morning so they can be submitted to the local newspapers – the Carmel Pine Cone and Monterey Herald. The papers provide a guide to the open houses for the week.

Once we add our open house to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), news of the open house is syndicated to all of the consumer real estate websites to generate maximum exposure to the open house. If we have a new listing, we send out a postcard to the 200 surrounding homes informing them of the new listing in their neighborhood.

Sign Placement

Different neighborhoods have varying regulations on signs. The city of Carmel-by-the-Sea for example only allows one sign in front of the house, but if we have an open house in Carmel Valley or Pebble Beach, we’ll put signs on the areas with the most traffic point folks in the right direction to view the open house.

Our open houses are prepared with marketing materials and folders with any inspections we are presenting up front. Potential buyers and their agents can take these marketing materials and review them. We try to have as much info available at the open house as possible.

Back to technology – these days it is so much fun to take a video of the house we’re holding open and post it on our Instagram and Facebook accounts so our followers can see a walkthrough of the home!

How Long Should an Open House Be?

Saturdays and Sundays between the hours of 1 and 4pm are usually the best times for an open house, but sometimes we’ll do a Friday evening from 3-6, or even put a sign out mid week and see who comes by depending on the location!

Do Open Houses Sell Homes?

We are 100% confident that open houses are a key marketing strategy to sell homes. Not only weekend open houses for prospective buyers, but open houses during the week on the Realtor tour generates great activity and allows cooperating brokers to preview the home and tell their clients the good news. We hope these tips for your open house come in handy! Keep an eye out for other blog updates including our comprehensive guide to selling in Carmel Valley.

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