Sales Market

What do first-time NYC buyers need to know about open houses?

  • During the pandemic, open houses became appointment-only and the change has held
  • It's a good idea to make an appointment even if it is not required to avoid a wasted trip
By Jennifer White Karp  |
July 8, 2024 - 9:30AM
Agent showing a property to prospective buyers

Appointment-only open houses are still the trend for a practical reason: Traffic to open houses is down.


I'm hoping to buy in New York City for the first time. What do I need to know about open houses and apartment showings? How do they work?

There was a time when New Yorkers would go out to brunch and then work off their eggs Benedict and bottomless Mimosas by wandering from one open house to another. It’s not so simple these days. Most open houses require advance planning on your part because they are appointment-only, our experts say.

The shift occurred during the pandemic. In order to follow social distancing guidelines, brokers implemented showings through appointments, and that process is largely still in place for a practical reason: Traffic to open houses is down.

“You used to get at least five to 10 people at every open house and then Covid and high interest rates put a stop to that," said Mark D. Friedman, an agent at Brown Harris Stevens.

Spare yourself some disappointment

Some open houses are still “open,”—especially in the outer boroughs—but Friedman recommends making an appointment to spare yourself some disappointment.

“Because open houses aren’t as well attended, if a broker doesn’t get an appointment, they may not show up at all,” he said. Or they may shut down earlier than the time stated in the listing.

The pandemic also ushered in another major change for apartment hunting when seeing places in person was tricky: Widespread use of video tours and 3D floor plans. But you should consider these digital depictions as helping you to identify what to go see for yourself.

“As a buyer, I suggest you go to as many open houses as you can to see the product. Just searching online isn’t enough. You have to crack some eggs to make an omelet,” he said.

Be on your best behavior

Also no longer done: Buyers used to try to psyche out the competition by discussing out loud an apartment’s flaws, but Friedman says today’s buyers are too savvy to fall for that trick. “Say nothing,” he cautioned.

So skip the head games, and don’t be weird. Case in point: Years ago, Richard Rosenthal, an agent at Brown Harris Stevens, held an open house for a woman who worked for a luxury shoe brand. She was selling a one bedroom on the Upper East Side and the open house was very crowded, with about 15 people.

At one point, Rosenthal entered the primary bedroom to find two women had opened the closet and were trying on the seller’s shoes. One woman was sockless. Eww, gross!

Needless to say, you shouldn't do that.

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Jennifer White Karp

Managing Editor

Jennifer steers Brick Underground’s editorial coverage of New York City residential real estate and writes articles on market trends and strategies for buyers, sellers, and renters. Jennifer’s 15-year career in New York City real estate journalism includes stints as a writer and editor at The Real Deal and its spinoff publication, Luxury Listings NYC.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.