Member Benefits: Open Houses: A Sales Tool or a Magnet for Trouble?

 July 08, 2019
Member Benefits

Bring up the topic of open houses in a roomful of real estate professionals, and you’ll hear strong opinions on both sides, and some who are still firmly on the fence. Opponents argue that open houses, which have been around since the 1950s and 60s, used to be much more integral to home sales during an era without the internet, email and cell phones. These days, most buyers are using online tools to search for their dream home instead of driving around on Sunday afternoons. With smart filters and settings, potential buyers can be notified of new listings, price changes or contracts pending for homes on their watch list. The convenience of working with a broker who can access a property on your schedule can be invaluable to many buyers. 

On the flip side, open house proponents argue that maximum exposure is the only way to sell a property quickly, and an open house is a valuable tool in their marketing kit. An open house is designed to be a low-pressure opportunity for potential buyers to explore a property at their own pace. If storage space is an issue, they can measure every closet and open each drawer without feeling the need to ‚Äúmove along.‚ÄĚ Open houses tend to attract a good percentage of friendly neighbors as well, which can present a unique opportunity for a potential buyer to learn about the area.¬†

Whichever side you fall on, safety is an ongoing concern for real estate professionals either sponsoring an open house or conducting a private showing of a property. Security issues apply to both the seller and the buyer as well as individual real estate professionals. From accidents to criminal activity, inviting strangers into a property can be dangerous. 

Common sense tips for safe open houses 

Open houses can draw a wide array of people, some of whom may have ulterior motives ‚ÄĒ not the neighbor next door who wants to see your new kitchen ‚ÄĒ but thieves who may be scoping out the property. A crowded open house may be great for exposure, but it also means you may not be able to keep track of everyone on the property. Here are some quick tips to help decrease the likelihood of theft and any resulting claims.¬†

  • Instruct the seller to store all valuables, such as checkbooks, jewelry, prescription drugs and firearms.¬†
  • Request the seller to repair any hazards like torn carpet, loose floorboards or leaky pipes.¬†
  • Make sure outdoor areas are free of debris, ice, snow or other impediments.¬†
  • Use a sign-in sheet and request an ID from all visitors.¬†
  • Alert the neighbors to watch for any suspicious activity.¬†

When the open house ends, make sure to: 

  • Inspect the property before leaving.¬†
  • Ensure all windows and doors are securely locked.¬†
  • Account for all property keys and return them to the lockbox or another designated area.¬†

In general, conducting open houses on your own is not recommended. Not only can a co-worker or friend keep you company during an open house, they can help you monitor visitors and may help to deter criminal activity. It’s the buddy system! In the case of a co-worker, it’s helpful to have an extra hand to answer questions and communicate with potential buyers so you don’t miss any opportunities. 

Most real estate professionals who carry an errors and omissions (E&O) policy should have coverage for open house claims, however, it’s a good idea to review your policy. Insurance offers protection in case of the unexpected, but prevention is an important part of the equation too. For more information, visit

This contributing article is from Pearl Insurance, a WRA exclusive member benefit company.

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