The Evolution of Open Houses

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REALTORS® have been conducting open houses for decades. They’re an opportunity for real estate professionals to grow their business, network with other agents, and meet with potential buyers. But over the years, open house culture has shifted

Open houses used to be simple—a real estate professional would promote the event, have visitors sign-in, offer brochures and marketing materials, and chat and mingle with potential buyers, agents, and visitors. Now, REALTORS® have adapted to the changing expectations of clients and created open houses that are more of a social event, providing benefits to everyone in attendance. 

The benefits of open houses

In a competitive market, an open house is an opportunity to set a home apart from other listings. It can also increase exposure and generate more attention, giving the home much-needed visibility, while also bringing potential buyers directly through the front door.  

Considering an open house is essentially a mini networking event, there are benefits for both the prospective buyers and the agents. For starters, real estate professionals to meet interested parties while also sharing the benefits of the neighbourhood and local amenities in a low-key environment. 

For prospective buyers, while the internet may be the fastest way to find a home, nothing compares to walking through a house and seeing it first-hand. Open houses also provide an opportunity to browse through a home in a low-stress environment. 

Open houses can also give buyers an opportunity to connect with a REALTOR® who could be perfect for them, especially if they’re a first-time buyer and aren’t sure who they should work with. 

In addition to traditional open house events, REALTORS® can also benefit by offering private open houses by appointment. This can provide a more manageable atmosphere and personal experience for each potential buyer, while also ensuring those who attend are in the market and not just browsing. Appointments also give sellers peace of mind when it comes to privacy, as they can keep track of who’s coming and going, and make sure any showings fall in line with their work, school, and personal schedules. 

Another benefit to appointments is a feeling of security for those who are worried about COVID-19 or other viruses during cold and flu season. By scheduling a specific time, potential buyers know they’ll be the only ones in the home at the time, and sellers don’t need to worry about a packed home for a prolonged period of time.

Paul Piche, a Maple Ridge-based agent and REALTOR® at Keller Williams Elite Realty, said he also enjoyed being able to hold open houses by appointment, especially during the height of the pandemic. 

“It ensured safety for my clients and ensured only buyers with representation came through, which gave my clients some peace of mind they weren’t just there with zero intention to buy.”

How have open houses changed? 

Considering buyers often look at multiple properties in a day—many of which blend together —REALTORS® have been turning to new ways to make their open houses memorable – starting with their promotion. 

You no longer just read about upcoming open houses in the newspaper or see signs posted throughout residential neighbourhoods. Agents are taking to the internet to market their listing events and are promoting them on websites like REALTOR.ca or posting about them on their personal social media pages for extra exposure. 

There’s also a lot that’s changed during actual open houses. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, hand sanitizing stations, face masks, capacity limits, and physical distancing became the new norm. But as COVID-19 restrictions ease, REALTORS® are readjusting how they hold open houses. 

For example, in Ontario, sellers have the option to request proof of vaccination, masks, or face coverings for people entering their home, and they can work with their REALTOR® to choose how they offer sanitization stations.

Agents are also heightening the experience for visitors and tapping into the senses as a way to help potential buyers see what it might be like to live there. 

It’s not uncommon at open houses to find: 

  • soft music to be playing in the background;
  • soothing diffusers and scented candles placed by the REALTOR® to create inviting aromas and scents throughout the home; or, 
  • the tried-and-trusted strategy of warming up cookies in the oven prior to the event. 

To add a visual element, agents often:

How REALTORS® are standing out

Joel Gwillim, a Calgary-based associate and REALTOR® at CIR Realty, says while his approach to open houses depends on the property, he will always have custom, quality feature sheets on hand, which represent the property effectively and show potential sellers and neighbours what he does to market the property. 

“Floor plans can also help buyer’s navigate and plan the space, while playing music helps set the mood and assist with any silent awkwardness,” said Gwillim. 

Gwillim added he usually has bottled water on hand, but in some cases, when he’s had certain open houses, he’s had the event catered with appetizers, cocktails, and prosecco. 

“This works well with higher-end, luxury listings where you really want to showcase the lifestyle,” added Gwillim. 

Piche says he likes to play very light music and sometimes leave snacks out for visitors to enjoy. 

“I’ve always found the best experience I can give people is a depth of knowledge in regards to the home, complex, and community,” said Piche.

While the internet has surely changed the real estate industry, open houses remain an effective tool for garnering interest in a property and generating new leads, and it’s safe to say we’ll continue to see open houses used as an effective marketing tool for years to come. 

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