The Evening Open House

There’s a new marketing trend emerging in real estate, and it’s rather creative and timely, in my opinion.

Consider it a new take on an old practice.

Who says open houses always have to be from 2:00 – 4:00PM on Saturday & Sunday anyways?


I don’t know if the term “thinking outside the box” is more appropriate than “re-inventing the wheel,” but perhaps they both apply to this situation.

Everybody and their mother knows that open houses will be held on Saturdays and Sundays from 2-4PM, and thus it’s no surprise to see virtually every street corner of the city littered with “OPEN HOUSE” signs and arrows pointing in every which way.

Some Realtors have gotten slightly creative by hosting open houses from 1-5PM, and often they split the open house with a colleague and work two hours each.  I mean, just imagine having to work a whole four-hour day…

But last week while driving through North Toronto at about 7PM at night, I saw an “OPEN HOUSE” sign, and I pulled over to the side of the road to investigate.

The house was a newly-built, 4-bedroom house that I might refer to as “cookie-cutter,” and the price was a modest $1.5M.  The exterior of the house was decorated with Christmas lights, and all the lights were on inside the house and the curtains were all open.

The house was lit up like a jack-o-lantern.

You simply couldn’t miss this house if you were driving or walking by.

I went inside and found a Realtor hosting an evening open house from 6-9PM on a Tuesday night.

Now that is thinking outside the box!

You’re probably thinking to yourselves, “Oh come on, there’s nothing ingenious about that at all.  It’s so simple.”

True, but how come barely anybody has done this before?

The reason why open houses always fall on Saturday & Sunday is because people WORK during the week!  Let’s assume that the average person has a 9-5 job, or maybe “average” has actually become 9-6.  When do these people have time to go look at houses?  On the weekends, of course!

And who wants to go look at houses at 7PM on a week day after a long day’s work?  What if you have kids?  Then you’re cooking dinner, helping with homework, driving to activities, etc.

The weekends are the best time for the general public to look at properties, and thus the reason for the practice of hosting open houses on Saturday & Sunday.

But with the recent decline in sales in mid-to-high end houses, that little something “extra” is necessary to separate your house from the rest.  Perhaps the buyers will come through your weekend open house, but with signs on every street corner, maybe they miss yours.

This evening open house I attended last week was a huge success from what I could tell.

The first thing I noticed when I walked inside was how warm it was.  Usually, new houses are empty and the heat is turned off because the builders and owners are trying to cut costs.  Try walking around on that cold tile floor in your socks!  But this house gave you that “I’m so happy to be out of the cold” feeling when you first walked inside and took off your boots.

The main floor was staged with furniture in the living room, dining room, and kitchen, and there was a fully decorated Christmas tree in the family room off the kitchen.  The Realtor had prepared Christmas cookies and finger foods, and was pouring egg-nog or wine for the adventurous types.  There was also Christmas music playing quietly in the background.

The way I saw it, this was essentially an informal Christmas party in a vacant house for anybody who wanted to attend!

I contrasted this open house and the home itself to what you normally find with most new-construction.  Usually, the houses are cold, dark, empty, and have no character whatsoever.  This house felt like a warm, family home, and you felt somewhat “safe” inside.

And that is entirely what the Realtor is trying to accomplish.

From 6-9PM, people who live in the area might be on their way home from work, walking the dog, or perhaps out for a run.  As I mentioned before, the house was lit up better than any house on the street, so it couldn’t possibly go unnoticed, and it created that allure of “Hey…what’s going on here?”  People are curious by nature, and even I myself had to check out what was going on inside.

Most cold, dark, empty houses leave the buyers to use their own imaginations and try and envision what life would be like living there.

But this new North Toronto home left nothing to the imagination, and forced everybody that walked through the door to see how happy they’d be with presents under the Christmas tree as they sip egg-nog and eat fresh shortbread cookies in front of the 52-inch flatscreen TV.

I think it’s absolutely genius.

How many people walked through the door and saw the place settings at the dining room table and considered how small their current houses are and how tough it will be to host their extended family?

How many people were jealous of the giant seven-foot Christmas tree that was made to look small by all the open space in the rest of the family room?

How many people felt at home?

How could you not feel at home?  After all, this was the atmosphere the Realtor was trying to create, and he was wildly successful.

Basements are notorious for being cold, yet this one was just as warm as the family room upstairs.  It was a testament to how well the house was built, but also comes back to that feeling of “safety” and how great you feel when you get inside your home after a long day in a cold month in the dead of winter.

Surely there are some people out there that stumbled upon this evening open house who ended up thinking “We could definitely live here!”  For the casual weekend open-house browsers, inspecting the interior of a home becomes so routine and formulaic that nothing ever stands out and nothing ever produces the “wow-factor.”

Christmas is generally a fun time for most people, with family functions, office parties, and activities you don’t get during the rest of the year.  The real estate agent for this North Toronto house was trying to transfer all those great feelings that accompany the latter part of the month of December into this newly-built house that sat for sale on the market.

Time will tell whether this new marketing technique worked or not, but it’s definitely worth a shot, wouldn’t you say?

For the rest of us Realtors and for all the other sellers out there, it raises the question: “Why are you not doing an evening open house?”


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  1. Duncan Scott says:

    Excellent marketing!! Just goes to show that by “Not” doing things the way they have always been done… can get good results!

    Great Blog by the way!

  2. earth mother says:

    Which goes to show the traditional ways can always be up-dated! A new house for the holidays??