As spring steadily catches up with Canadians, the "open house" signs are up, strategically placed all across neighbourhoods in cities of all sizes. These signs, however, cater to all types of houses - detached, semi and/or townhouses. For prospective condo buyers, visiting an open house is extremely rare because there are very few open houses targeting condominiums. The real challenge for realtors, therefore, lies in negotiating successfully with a pool of interested parties in one place. When it comes to houses, this has been done successfully for years.
Richard Silver, salesperson and vice president of Sotheby's International Realty Canada, states that most condos do not allow public open houses. But if they do, they want an agent to be in the lobby as well as in the unit.
Unlike houses, condos are part of residential units. This raises vital issues involving security, residents’ privacy, and permission from condo boards, etc. There is no permission to use signage too. You could put signage on public properties but seldom when it comes to condos. It is just not an ideal situation.
This leads realtors to practice several alternate marketing strategies in order to generate interest and also to create a buzz in the market among prospective condo buyers.
Social media and mail drops within the building, as well as other nearby residential areas are used constantly to reach out to interested parties. Besides, we are allowed to put signs with unit numbers that are not on the building's property.
A new concept that is steadily gaining momentum, even though it is still only used by about one percent of realtors, is virtual reality. This feature of home buying will be widely popular in selling properties that are still being designed, planned or are under construction. But this method will be interesting to use in selling condos, especially in open houses since it is hard to get a large number of people together. You can either use headphones or sit in front of a monitor and experience how a room or a kitchen would look in reality while all the time being in the realtor's office.
This would be a great solution if one has the equipment for the buyer to walk through. It may be the future but it is not at present a viable option as it is unavailable in sufficient quantity. At present great photos or Matterport tours are the best and closest options.
Rizwan Malik, sales representative at the Sotheby's International Realty Canada, also feels that organizing open houses for condos is quite uncommon.
Freehold properties can see up to 90-95 percent open houses as compared to condos that have only 30-35 percent open houses. Last year in about 20 condos for sale in the market, only two had an open house.
Explaining reasons, Malik says that hurdles they face staging open houses in condos are due to many restrictions.
Permission is required from the condo board as well as other tenants who are concerned about people loitering around the alleyway and that becomes a security issue. There have been instances where sellers who had open houses, complained about their personal items being stolen. This automatically raises our responsibilities. Therefore if we have open houses for condos, multiple agents are present. Two are at the lobby and one of them escorts the prospective buyer to the condo. The other in the condo does the showing, and then the people are escorted back. The same drill continues for the other prospective buyers waiting in the lobby.
According to Malik, open houses do more good to real estate agents than the sellers. As people pour in, open houses provide the opportunity for a real estate agent to build future contacts. From a seller’s point of view, although the individual has the satisfaction that a considerable number of people showed up to view their house, it is ultimately ineffective, especially since many buyers are not serious.
Many homeowners whose properties are in the market for sale find that serious buyers are only those who research their property online and then call to take the time to view the dwellings.
In general, the concept of open houses is here to stay and will not be diminishing.
When all is said and done, it is a great marketing tool for real estate agents to promote their services and though not all the time, it does generate interest resulting in sales.
Condominiums, on the other hand, will see less open houses because of the way they are built where a large area is shared by scores of occupants. As the need for personal space, privacy and security increases with changing times, the condo's rules will become more stringent to accommodate the concerns of condo owners.