The open house sign may be the most enduring symbol of real estate sales ever created. Owner occupied open houses can be intimidating for a seller, and vacant offerings today are frequently professionally "staged" with full furnishing. Beyond that first impression it can make, just getting folks to stop in is a big job for any realtor. And, just because it's enduring, does not mean it's an effective tool to sell your home. Here in the Sun region, we've found success with some additional strategies and an updated set of tools.

First let's analyze the two primary functions that holding an open house serves: 1) The open house allows people shopping for a home to physically and emotionally put themselves in the space (think about test driving a car); 2) The face-to-face experience with potential home buyers provides a Realtor the opportunity to gather insight about price and condition.

No single open house promotion method alone can deliver success. Poking a dozen signs in the ground alone doesn't guarantee you'll accomplish either of these desired results. It's important to understand that home buyers in our communities are better equipped with real estate information, from traditional media and now including the smartphone and digital technology. In addition to all the other traditional and effective marketing outlets, these days you'll also have to post virtual open house signs on the Internet.

Fully 78 percent of potential buyers that visit our open houses are not working with an agent (we know this from gathering insight). They want to casually shop, browsing open houses until they find the one that feels just right. Thanks to the availability of real estate information via smartphone apps, we're experiencing a significant increase in visitor traffic to our open houses.

An increase in traffic only accomplishes half of the goal, especially knowing that only 1 in 100 people ended up purchasing their home as the result of seeing it at an open house (according the National Association of Realtors). Having a strategy to gather insight from the abundance of visitors is really where the golden nugget lies.

We've all visited open houses and walked right by the sign in sheet, never giving a second thought to putting our name on it. So clearly, it's time to rethink the approach to gathering valuable insight from visitors about your home and how they feel it shows. There is a lot you can do with this wealth of feedback, if you know how to get it, even if you don't sell your home to the people you got it from.

Don't let anyone talk you out of doing an open house as a tool to get your home sold, but do be cautious as to what strategy, if any, they recommend. If you are considering the sale of your home, start by checking what it may be worth. Among many options for understanding home values, we offer a free tool atwww.SealBeachHomeValues.com. And you should plan to visit a few open houses yourself to unassumingly interview agents and see what their strategy is, or isn't regarding open houses.