Judging by the real estate pages, property publications, house advertisements on Trade Me and neighbourhood streets regularly punctuated with flags and signs, you'd never guess that open homes are increasingly viewed with suspicion by vendors.

It's well accepted that open homes are frequented by sticky-beak neighbours, tyre-kickers with nothing better to do and people looking for interior design inspiration. But the time-wasters are the least of your problems. Open homes have also been identified as potentially providing an opportunity for criminals to eye up what might be worth stealing at some later date. Additionally, there's the risk of valuables being removed during the open home itself. In 2007 a Ponsonby woman reported jewellery stolen in just these circumstances - Open-home theft prompts tenant to warn of risks.

Cox Partners Estate Agents, Napier, disapproves of open inspections. "They are an invitation to thieves who will return later... It is amazing: a person needs more identification to rent a video than to stroll through a family home!" It's a sentiment echoed by one Tauranga firm: "Lovell Real Estate opposes Open Home Marketing. Open inspections are dangerous... Never open your home for public inspection."
It's believed that some real estate agents have ulterior motives to hold open homes. According to Tasmania-based Peter Lees Real Estate "the purpose of open inspections is not to sell the home; it is to create the impression of activity and 'condition' sellers to lower their prices."

Open homes are widely used by people just to familiarise themselves with what's on offer in the area concerned. Local writer Stephen Hart advised prospective purchasers to "[v]isit lots of open homes and compare prices and features" even though vendors are not really opening their home so it can be used as a source of intelligence for people researching the market.


Other schools of thought say that overcrowded open homes can make a house look small, under-patronised open homes don't project a great vibe either and overheard negative comments can repel potential purchasers. It's believed that genuine buyers ought to be afforded flexibility of when to visit rather than be shoehorned into a single timeslot along with the masses.

So you'd have to wonder why anyone would voluntarily hold an open home. The answer's simple: real estate agents encourage the practice because they're easy to run, operate within a brief, well-defined period of time - and give the impression that the agent is actively engaged with selling the house concerned. But the primary reason open homes are favoured by many real estate agents is because they're an excellent networking tool. Agents use them to make contact with new customers, to offer appraisals and to secure new listings for themselves.

If I was selling my house I'd be affronted to discover an agent was using my home to further his or her agenda rather than mine.

What are your thoughts? Have you long had your suspicions about open homes or is it all a lot of fuss about nothing?