Ask an Expert

What's the best approach to selling in a buyers' market?

By Alanna Schubach  | November 5, 2018 - 9:00AM

Open houses are a good way to make your home accessible to qualified buyers. 


When you're selling an apartment in a buyers' market, what’s more effective: Private showings or open houses?

In a buyers' market, you'll want to make sure that your apartment is seen by as many qualified buyers as possible, but the most effective way to make that happens depends on the type of home you're selling, according to our experts.

"There is no 'one size fits all' answer for open houses versus private showings," says Deanna Kory, a broker with Corcoran. In smaller apartments, she explains, open houses may bring in too many people at once, which can shrink the space.

On the other hand, having private showings in a slower market may mean it takes much longer to sell your home, so you'll want to carefully consider the best approach for your situation. 

Gaming the open house

"In any market, sellers need to remove any obstacles in making their property accessible to qualified buyers, and demonstrate that they are serious sellers," says Gordon Roberts, global real estate advisor with Sotheby's International Realty. "That may mean having more open houses, especially at price points $2 million and under, making the property available to show at inconvenient times, putting pets away, and other 'pains' to make sure the offering presents well at each and every showing." 

Kory agrees that for homes at that price point, open houses—typically held on Sundays—are standard, while for higher-end resale properties, private showings are the norm. 

But now, with the market shifting to favor buyers, open houses for apartments priced up to $6 million are not uncommon. And hosting open houses comes with a number of advantages and disadvantages. 

"In some cases, it can generate excitement or fear in others that the apartment won’t last, especially if the open house is a busy one with positive comments being expressed by those attending," Kory says. "On occasion, a buyer who would never have come by appointment stops by just because there is an open house and they are curious. And in some of those few instances, they buy that apartment." 


Pro Tip:

Unsure what your apartment is worth in a buyers' market? Before you list your place publicly, test your price quietly among real-life, qualified buyers via the pre-marketing program at New York City real estate brokerage Triplemint.  There's no charge to participate, nor any obligation to enter a traditional listing agreement if your place doesn't sell during the pre-marketing period. Click here for more information.

On the other hand, open houses can be crowded which makes it difficult to get a true sense of the space, as well as attract visitors who are curious but have no real intention of purchasing the apartment. 

And with large crowds can also come snide comments about the space.

"If there are negative comments being expressed by those attending, it can hurt a sale possibility, as others around may hear," Kory says. "This happens a fair amount, and many owners are not aware of this as a possibility."

Strategize private appointments

Opting for private appointments rather than open houses means fewer eyes on your space, but you're also likelier to attract people who are serious about buying. 

"Most non-serious buyers do not want to bother the agent for an appointment, so it eliminates unnecessary foot traffic," Kory says. "These days, we feel that those who make a private appointment are the most likely to make a purchase in the near term." 

On the downside, you'll want to schedule your private showings back-to-back for maximum efficiency, which can be a challenge when the pace of the market has slowed.


Before you show your home to anyone, there's a critical first step: Creating a compelling, eye-catching listing that will entice potential buyers. 

"In our Instagram-able and Facebook focused world, it's the visual image that drives the consumer," says Shirley Hackel of Compass. "The listing's online presentation matters more today than ever, since it's usually the buyer's first point of contact." 

Hackel suggests doing a deep clean and thoughtfully staging your apartment (see Brick's tips on staging here) before having it photographed for the listing. 

"For nearly every property, first visits occur online," she says. "When a potential buyer actually visits a residence, the appointment is akin to a second showing."

Setting the price 

No matter how much you beautify your space, though, you won't move your apartment off the market if you haven't set the right asking price. 

"When the market appears to favor the buyer, and research reveals that there is wide choice of homes similar to yours, realistic pricing becomes paramount. If your asking price is out of step with the market, it will not generate traffic at open houses, or requests for private showings, period," Roberts says. 

In today's buyers' market, our experts agree, aspirational pricing is a turn-off. Kory recommends meeting with multiple brokers to get their opinions on pricing, and choosing an experienced agent with a good track record selling in markets like this one. 

"Today's buyers are value driven, price sensitive and super cautious, and they fear that prices will drop even more," Hackel says. "Two years ago, while they may have refused to begin a negotiation unless they considered the price to be realistic, today's buyers are not even going to look at the property with an aspirational asking price. 'Call me when they drop the price' has become the new refrain." 

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Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

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