The Corona Virus pandemic changed a lot of things in our lives over the past year. We lost too many loved ones, and we feared not only strangers but our friends and neighbors.

And we learned a lot. A lot about whom to trust, that we could survive at home with one another 24/7. Some good did come out of this very bad pandemic, but only if we remember the lessons learned.

Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The 1918 “Spanish Flu” pandemic—interestingly started in Kansas, not in Spain—taught us a lot about how to handle future pandemics—what to do as well as what not to do. Lessons from the past may not always ward off doom, but they can provide insights into the present and even the future.

Our real estate industry was hit hard when the March 2020 lock down was instated. Weeks into the lockdown, our industry was finally deemed an essential business, so while we were technically allowed to go into work nobody dared do so—it was too soon, too many unknowns remained.

Sales of single-family homes in san Mateo County dropped 78% during the first month of the stay-at-home order. Only homes that were vacant were even allowed to be visited, and even then, with only stifling restrictive rules.

Open houses were off limits to the public. The only in-person showings were on a one-on-one basis with the buyer’s agent and their clients—the listing agent representing the seller was not allowed to attend.

The real estate market had every reason to falter during the pandemic, but it didn’t, it rallied, as we discussed in our blog post about pandemic sales in 2020—up 180% over 2019.

So, do we need open houses at all then? Or the age-old question. “Do Open Houses Sell Homes?”

This debate has been going on for as long as open houses have been in vogue, but there has never been a way to empirically test whether open houses are necessary or not, until now. 

Now every market may be slightly different, but in Belmont, during the pandemic without open houses here are the numbers:

New Listings                            Up 89%

Closed Sales                            Up 180%

Average Days on Market        Down 71%

Median Home Price                Up 4.5%

Price Per Sq Ft                         Up 25.5%

Open houses are great for listing agents, who get to meet new buyers, or neighbors who might want to sell. But if a serious buyer, not a nosey neighbor or unqualified buyer, wants into your home, they’ll get in with their agent. In fact, any serious buyer will want to go when there are not throngs of people in the home. They prefer private showings. 

We like open houses because we generate more new business from them. Sellers of occupied homes like them because in one open house 50-100 people can see it without having to set up individual initial showings during the seller’s dinner time. 

As a huge prior proponent of open houses, we are not saying that the lack of open houses helped sales, it’s just that apparently, they did not hurt them either.

Skeptics might say that had the public been able to attend open houses sales might have been even higher. Of course, we will never know what “might have happened”. We do know though, that a lot more people would have caught the virus.

There are many new agents that are suffering greatly in the absence of open homes. Without a mature book of repeat business, and a scant marketing budget, they rely heavily on meeting new prospects face to face at open houses.

Once open houses will once again be allowed, we suspect desperate agents will quickly ask their contemporaries if they can hold one of their listings open to regain some market share.

If you’re a seller adverse to having hundreds of strangers peeking into your home all weekend long, you may find comfort in knowing that you can avoid placating your agent’s desire for more business, and instead take charge of what is best for you and your family’s level of comfort and security.

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