Now there’s a dangerous game. Back in the day of three piece suits and big Lincoln cars, I came into the office one Monday morning to the news that a young woman had been murdered in an open house she was holding in the Tyndal Park area of the city. I don’t really recall all the details, except that a grey haired man with a grey three piece suit had been seen there around the time of the murder. The woman had been alone in the open house at the time. I don’t remember if they ever caught the killer, but there were a lot of rule changes around open houses at the time.
The awkward thing was that I (with my graying hair) had shown up at the office in my grey pin striped three piece suit that morning. You can bet that was the last time I wore that thing for quite some time. In any event, women were not allowed to hold open houses by themselves any more, and quite a few refused to hold them at all. There haven’t been any murders like that since.
As can be seen, open houses were a risky business, what with tire kickers looking around, people with their own properties for sale making comparisons, people with nothing else to do on a Sunday afternoon all coming out to see what was available. Not only that, but other agents, hanging on to their buyers would bring them through in order to claim a commission should their customers buy directly. See, in those days things were a bit different. If your buyer happened to walk in on your open house without his/her agent, you (representing the seller) were entitled to the whole commission. You can’t imagine the number of fights that caused or calls from agents claiming that THEIR buyer was in the open house and they would be writing an offer. It got to the point that there was more going on about (possible) commissions than about selling a property.
Of course you couldn’t really blame the (potential) buyers not wanting to make rigid plans to engage an agent to go around and casually look at properties when they weren’t sure of what it was they were looking for. Not a moment too soon, the Real Estate Board instituted buyer agreements = similar to seller agreements to protect the buyers agents. The most difficult part of that was for agents to sign up their buyers, but other than that it freed everyone up from a lot of the politics and infighting. In this day of the internet it’s even more relevant.
In my day, I was never too concerned about being alone in an open house. I always advised my vendors to put away their valuables. Probably they should go for a ride so they didn’t have to answer questions from buyers. They should anticipate what a buyer would look for to be included in their purchase price, and mark it as “Sold” so there wouldn’t be a question about it later.
Of course it would be necessary to organize the furnishings in the house so the place looked as spacious as possible and neat and tidy. I would usually get to the house early enough to turn the oven on to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit and place a little container of vanilla in it so that by the time buyers came by, the aroma of fresh baked bread would hit their nostrils in an inviting way. That actually worked very well. Besides, it gave me a pleasant smell that didn’t hint of air fresheners to be in during my time there.
Mind you, if I held an open house where I thought it would be particularly busy, I had the luxury of bringing the Missus along to direct traffic and keep an eye on things while I was giving tours. Being a “dyed in the wool” retail person, she was particularly good at it and certainly saved my bacon a number of times. We actually made a pretty good team.
Regardless, open houses were a necessary part of the business and their popularity among agents was largely dictated by their success in selling that particular home or, the number of buyers one could glean from them. For myself, I would rather have spent my time riding my horses or tending my garden on a Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, that’s now all in the distant past. I’m too busy being retired.