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The History of the Open House and How It Became a Standard of Home Selling

Open House Sign in Front YardLike many things in history, real estate too had its “wild west” era. There was a time where anybody looking to make a quick buck could declare themselves a real estate agent and jump on a deal claiming to be a professional seller. Back then, anyone could pop a sign on their front lawn and advertise their home for sale. There might be dozens of brokers for the same listing and the buyer would just simply pick one. Before 1919, there was not much in the way of regulation or licensing when it came to real estate. The National Association of Realtors was created in 1908 particularly for this reason and in an attempt to raise the ethical and professional standards of the industry. 

When the White House Held Open Houses 

If you’ve ever visited the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, you know that security is, shall we say, pretty tight. There was a time, however, when presidents would hold open houses for the people and allowed folks to come in and check out the President’s humble abode. On March 4, 1829, Andrew Jackson upheld this inaugural tradition started by Thomas Jefferson to open the White House doors. After he was sworn in, Jackson returned to the white house to “meet and greet” and mingle with supporters, politicians, celebrities, and regular citizens. Like any good house party, of course, it got out of control and grew like wildfire. Before the President’s cohort knew it, the crowd had swelled to over 20,000 people. It’s reported that some guests caused a little ruckus, stood on furniture, and messed with expensive china. In an attempt to draw the boisterous bunch outside, White House staff filled bathtubs with whiskey and set them on the lawn. Staff reported a smell of “cheese” for weeks after the people had gone. Needless to say, several assassination attempts later, the tradition of the White House open house was scrapped. 

The Concept of One Broker Per House 

It makes sense to us today that a home seller would have one designated broker in charge of selling their home. That was not always the case. Soon the age of exclusive contracts emerged in cities that established local real estate associations. This led to changing the process to where the home seller had access to the home and the owner and was able to showcase the house. 

In the early 20th century, open houses were big events that went on for days. The first recorded open house, according to some sources, was held in 1910. They were first called “open for inspection.” Homebuyers of the time—much like the ones of today—looked for homes that carried modern amenities for the time, like electricity and new architectural layouts.  These open houses lasted all day and the broker was meant to hang out there all day to ensure they only had one listing at any one time. 

The Birth of the Open House 

In 1925, the concept of the open house was altered when a broker in Fort Wayne, Indiana was implementing an innovative idea to show homes at their full potential. In other words, staging a home with furniture and designing it in such a way to enhance the open house experience. By the 1930s, brokerage companies began employing agents and they were able to have multiple listings. It didn’t take long until the open house became a marketing tool for agents and was a way that real estate agents could increase their clientele. 

How World War II Shaped America’s Real Estate Market

As Nazi and Imperial Japan-fighting soldiers returned to American soil, the GI Bill and their urgency to begin a normal life with families and regular jobs encouraged a real estate boom. Thanks to radio and newspaper advertisements, homes were on the market for far less time and the open house period was reduced. The terms used to describe this event changed from “open to inspection” to “open house.” Inspection sounded far less fun. Today, a buyer has an opportunity to order an inspection before a deal goes through. This is done by a professional home inspector licensed and operating under state regulations. Open houses became more of a subjective experience, allowing people to imagine themselves in the home. Thus, the staging.  As open houses moved to Sundays, people would choose this day to take a family ride and look at properties for sale. 

Free Soda and Raffles

Free stuff has always been a good sales tactic. This was no different when it came to open houses. In 1952, one clever broker in Dallas decided to offer free soft drinks and a chance to a new Cadillac to people who came to his open house. Close to 30,000 people showed up to his open house. Since then and up to the second decade of the 2000s, not much had changed with open houses. The method seems to be effective. The use of open houses is still widely used today. 

The Open House After Coronavirus 

There is still left to be seen what will change with the open house after 2020 and the pandemic that has us all covering our faces and social distancing. Virtual open houses and tours have certainly been at the forefront of the “adjustment” phase, but it is likely that after this falls deep into the past, we will return to open houses and staging homes like before. It’s likely virtual components of this will remain.  

Find a Home Selling Team That Knows the Market 

While the real estate industry is far more regulated and ethical than it was one hundred years ago, there are still real estate agents that operate with little in-depth knowledge of their market. Here at Brian Burds Home Selling Team, we live and breathe the art of selling houses and we’re deeply entrenched in the El Paso market. This means we have a deep understanding of market trends, changes, and marketing efforts. If you’re looking to sell your home—coronavirus or no coronavirus—we will get it sold. Connect with us today and find out about our 90-day guarantee!



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