- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

It is midwinter, and you know what that means the spring market has begun.

If you have been reading this column the past few weeks, you know I have had my condo on the market. By the time you read this, I'll be closing on it after having had it on the market for less than 45 days.

I knew the market was doing well and didn't fret about when the property would sell. A contract came in just 3 1/2 weeks. Every unit that has come on the market the past few months has sold quickly and at good prices the best prices ever, actually.

Nevertheless, facing a Feb. 1 deadline to be moved into my new dwelling place (to include a new wife, three children and two dogs), I didn't want to face having the condo empty while I was trying to settle in.

When I bought the condo, it was 1989 (stop your snickering), and the market dropped out. Soon thereafter, we had a two-years' supply of condos on the market, about 2,400. Now there's barely a two months' supply, and the prices are increasing.

Though I was concerned about placing my home on the market just before the holidays, it still drew a few visitors mostly Realtors. Nevertheless, the pace picked up right after New Year's Day. My Realtor insisted on an open house, which I was willing to forgo because of the state of the market. She told me, "Anthony, I give full service whether it's a buyer's or seller's market. I know this market isn't going to be with us forever, and I want you to remember me for giving full service."

I really appreciated that, even though I told her I didn't expect it. Nevertheless, she held the open house in a condo, mind you and six buyers came by in four hours. The next day, a seventh buyer came by and submitted a contract.

Though this may not compare with the scores of visitors open houses in single-family homes have drawn this past year, for a condo, it is tremendous. Condos traditionally languish on the market, waiting for buyers to come by and make an offer within at least some sort of range of the asking price. What I got was a full-price contract to settle in less than three weeks just what I needed.

The interesting residual effect of the open house for my Realtor was the potential of finding more inventory for our parched supply of homes. After those six buyers walked in, she potentially had three more houses to put on the market. If I had been in the market for a much larger single-family house than where I'm moving now, I even might have been able to switch houses with one set of buyers, who are looking to scale down.

Open houses work. The basic problem we have in the marketplace is with homeowners who want to sell but are afraid to place their homes on the market because they think they can't find a new home to purchase.

Open houses draw those owners and give Realtors the potential of pulling them into the market and adding to the inventory. All the Realtor has to do at that point is ask the buyers if they have a house to sell before moving.

The argument that "you don't need to hold open houses to sell a house these days" is moot. Buyers want inventory. Sellers turning into buyers need inventory to shop once they sell their houses, and Realtors need the inventory to get the ball rolling. Open houses are a great way to get it going.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate issues for 12 years. You can address comments or questions to him by e-mail ([email protected]).

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