My goal when starting this blog was to develop a resource for home buyers and sellers. Since most of us only buy a few homes over our lifetimes, few homeowners really get all this buying and selling thing down. And, with changes in technology and the lending industries, buying and selling can require dramatically different approaches to the techniques used just a few years earlier.

Agent open houses are a perfect example of how a once effective marketing tool can become obsolete.

Years ago, when new homes came on the market, they were listed without pictures in a book that was delivered to real estate offices. Agents could page through the book to see what was new on the market. But, if they wanted to see a new listing, they would have to drive to the listing agent’s office, pick up the keys and then return the keys after seeing the house. You can imagine that previewing properties for a potential buyer could be very time consuming if the homes were listed by different brokerages. There was no comprehensive listing of homes available to buyers, so they had to rely on their agent to tell them about homes that would be a good match to their needs.

As you can imagine, most buyers were only shown a few homes. They didn’t have a way of discovering that there were homes across town that might be perfect for them.

Agents specializing in a particular part of town were expected to know all the inventory, and the only way to do that was to go see the homes. But picking up keys was time consuming.

The agent open house was a great solution.

A listing agent could hold an open house and serve lunch, and let all of the other area agents come see the house at one time. No one had to go get keys, and the agents could see the home so that they could promote it to potential buyers.

Fast forward to today. Both buyers and agents can see almost every home on the market on the internet. The internet listings have lots of detailed information, and almost always have plenty of pictures. The St. Louis MLS even has an integrated aerial mapping program that allows an agent to identify which lot on a street the home is located on. I no longer need to drive out to a house to discover it is on the corner of a busy street or backs up to train tracks.

In addition, when an agent is ready to go see a house, the electronic lockbox allows easy access to keys without driving over to the listing brokerage’s office.

As I see it, the two reasons for holding an agent open house in years past are no longer relevant. Today’s internet access and lockboxes make it easy to preview a home first online, and then in person at a time that is convenient to the agent.

As a busy working agent, I don’t have time to go sit in a seller’s kitchen chatting over lunch with other agents. I’m out showing properties, marketing my listings or taking care of pending contracts. If I want to go see a house, I’ll go see it when it fits into my schedule when I can look over the house by myself so that I can focus on the house.

Do some agents still hold agent open houses?

Sure. But, if you could be a fly on the way, you would find the open houses are primarily a social hour for agents. Ask them how many of them are working with buyers that might like the house, and I doubt you would find many positive responses. You won’t find me or other busy buyer’s agents there. We’re out showing our buyers properties.