Real estate returning to normal: Open houses are actually open again

The real estate market has offered another sign that things are getting back to the way they used to be: Open houses are actually open again.

This is the first time that’s happened in more than a year.

It’s an old marketing tool Realtors have used for decades.

Covid put a stop to it, but now they’re back.

Realtor Colin Humber did something Sunday he hasn’t done in nearly a year-and-a-half; he hosted an open house.

"We’re so excited to be back.  It’s a completely different experience," said Humber, with Twin Oaks Real Estate. 

COVID forced the traditional marketing tool to be halted temporarily but on May 12, the California Department of Health updated guidance allowing the practice to resume.

Homeowner Jenny Soi is trying to find a buyer for her $849,000 3 bed, 2 bath on Figueroa Drive in San Leandro, and says she has no trepidation about strangers going inside.

"We know that COVID is not over, but we’re very optimistic and we feel so lucky that people can actually come to our home and see it all together," said homeowner Jenny Soi.

For safety, visitors must sign in declaring they haven’t recently had or been around anyone with Covid symptoms, and must wear a mask and social distance.

Ten different groups showed up at the San Leandro property in the first hour, and one visitor expressed how many likely felt.

"It gives me a little bit of anxiety seeing so many people but it’s also refreshing," said a shopper named Soraya.

Strong demand, low inventory, and low interest rates have led to a hot market with rising prices and brisk sales.

Humber says open houses can only help.

"We’re already in such a strong market," he said. "I only see this contributing to that more."

The president elect of the Bay East Association of Realtors says it’s unlikely "open houses" will influence the market.

"Personally, I don’t think so.  I don’t.  As long as the market stays the way it has been with low inventory, a house can be sold without an open house," said Sheila Cunha.

Open houses often attract people who aren’t serious buyers.

Realtors say COVID weeded those people out because only real buyers were willing to schedule viewings. 

Regardless of whether "open houses" have any material effect on sales, some realtors are happy just to have them back.

"It’s a small step in the long journey back to normalcy.  But it’s a huge step for us in the real estate industry," said Humber.

Colin says about 20 different groups in total went through the property Sunday in three hours.

The biggest advantage of open houses is that buyers, sellers, and realtors don’t have to coordinate schedules and make appointments to see properties.

So, it makes it much more convenient for all involved.