Scheduling your open house in the Northwest MLS

When you are trying to sell your home, your agent may schedule an open house to attract potential buyers. If you live in the Seattle area or Western Washington, your agent will use the Northwest MLS (NWMLS) to publicize the open house to other agents and to the general public. It is important to understand how the system works so that you get the timing right for maximum exposure to buyers.

Fiona at Trilogy open house

How do buyers find an open house?

There are three primary ways that buyers find an open house:

  1. Online – Most open house attendees that we come across find your open house on major websites. Sites like Redfin, John L. Scott and Windermere all publicize when open houses are taking place. This is the most important place to advertise that you are having an open house and the source of the information is the Northwest MLS open house database.
  2. Agents – Buyers who are actively working with a real estate agent may get a list of open houses to attend directly from their agent. This list is also powered by the NWMLS open house database.
  3. Open House Signs – Everyone has seen these signs around your neighborhood on the weekend. Open house signs do attract people to come inside, but we have found that they produce mixed results. First, your home has to be in a heavily trafficked urban area where the sign gets noticed. Rural or suburban locations don’t often do much more than give directions to someone who already knows that an open house is occurring. More importantly, you need to question the quality of open house attendees that show up because they saw a sign. Are they active buyers and were they looking at houses like yours, or are they simply curious. We find that most people who show up from the signs are curious neighbors, not active buyers.
  4. Print ads – Open houses used to be heavily advertised in the Sunday newspaper. All but one major brokerage has given up on these ads because they no longer work. Active home buyers almost exclusively find out about open houses online.

Timing the advertising of your open house

After working with hundreds of buyers, it is pretty clear how most buyers schedule their weekend. Most home searchers will start planning their open house visits on Thursday, with most looking online Friday or Saturday. If you are hosting a Sunday open house, you need to make sure that the schedule appears online starting on Thursday or Friday morning. Any later and you will miss buyers’ window of attention for that weekend. We haven’t found any effect to publicizing open houses earlier in the week.

The Northwest MLS database has very specific timing for updating public websites. Each day at midnight, they update a database that is available to all of the public websites. What this means to a home seller or their agent is that you must submit the open house times one day prior to when you want them appearing to the public. If your agent submits the time on Wednesday morning, it won’t appear on consumer websites until Thursday morning. If you decide on Saturday that you want to host an open house on Sunday, you won’t be able to publicize this information until Sunday morning, which is hardly the optimal timing.

Pay close attention to scheduling when you advertise your open house via the Northwest MLS. If you are too late in submitting it, it may make sense to delay until the next weekend when you have a better chance of catching the attention of home buyers.