The property market is as flat as a mill pond.
To put it soberly, both sales and inquiries were down last month, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Residential Survey.
Yet some of today’s vendors are not simply waiting in hope for the market to revive so that they can sell their homes.
Open approach: Holding an open house is one way of kick-starting interest in your home
They are being pro-active, working as a team with their estate agents to find that elusive buyer.
Last month, for example, in Radlett, Hertfordshire, Jon Compton, 48, decided that having had his £755,000 home on the market since December, enough was enough.
He approached the vlogger, Lucy Flight — a young woman who makes video diaries, with a YouTube following of 135,000 — and persuaded her to make a film about staying overnight at his four-bedroom house.
The film was posted on several social channels. In the first week, the film got 28,114 views.
Of these, four turned up to see the house in person and consequently the property sold.
The scheme was run in conjunction with Jon’s online agents, Housesimple, and now Jon thinks try-before-you-buy films may be the shape of things to come: ‘Because the film was entertaining it made people stop and look, so thousands, who might otherwise have flicked past it on a property portal, saw the house.’
Social media also helped Housesimple sell Shanty Helim’s three-bedroom bungalow in Rainham, East London, last year.
Shanty became the first homeowner in the country to sell her home following a Facebook Live viewing, when she accepted an offer of £467,000 for it, 12 days after the live streaming.
Open house days, an idea imported from America, are also now being widely used to kick-start interest in homes that otherwise could become ‘stickers’.
Well appointed: Viscount House in Horsham is a Grade II-listed, double fronted Georgian property with four bedrooms and two bathrooms
Upmarket estate agents Strutt & Parker are this year organising two open house days across their branches, nationwide.
There are no fixed appointment times and buyers who are registered with them can walk into any house signed up for the scheme.
‘If a prospective buyer likes your house, there may be six others there saying the same thing,’ says Edward Church, head of Strutt & Parker’s Canterbury office.
‘The element of competition turns tyre-kickers into serious buyers.’
Open house days are proving popular — since 2011 the number of properties taking part has gone up by 28 per cent and the number of viewers has increased by 41 per cent.
Room to spare: Open house at The Langley, in Prestbury, is on May 5. The last remaining apartment has three-bedrooms, private garden and two underground parking spaces
David Smith, of Myddelton Major estate agents in Andover believes homeowners have an important part to play in the open-house day.
‘The house must be more than tidy, it must be in show-house condition,’ he says.
‘The garden should be neat and the lawn mown — no excuses about the weather.
‘Neighbours should be drafted in to help if necessary by clearing enough parking spaces on the road outside.
‘Providing refreshments will also help.’
Different estate agents employ different tactics on such days.
Central location: Three-bedroom family home Lawns Close was built in 2017, situated in a cul-de-sac two miles from the centre of Andover
Whereas Smith staggers his viewing times, not wanting to overcrowd smaller homes, Fine & Country in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham like to squeeze 30 sets of visitors into their viewings, usually held between 11am and 1pm on a Saturday to increase pressure on the buyers.
Interested parties leave with an offer-form, which they must return by the following Wednesday, with proof of finance.
If there are multiple offers, they are given the chance to increase their offer and then the seller chooses which to accept.
The signs are that these events work particularly well for expensive homes.
Fine & Country has run three of them in the past few months and all resulted in offers being made above the asking price.
One was listed at £900,000 and sold for £935,000; another with an asking price of £1,100,000 went for £1,185,000; and a third that was listed for £1,300,000 and sold for £1,350,000.
Whether they would be equally effective selling to cash-strapped first-time buyers is another thing, but in a flat market like today’s, any attempt to stimulate sales is worth a punt.
Those who have tried open-house days often swear by them.
‘Having a house on the market means tidying up two or three times every week until the house is sold, which is a drag,’ says Rebekah Rose, 48, who bought Greenacres Cottage (previously Swan Cottage) in the Exe Valley, Devon, at an open house day.
Now, having renovated throughout, she intends selling it at one on May 12 (guide price £435,000, struttand parker.com).
‘They spur you into making one super-human effort. It’s good to feel you are contributing to the sales drive and, anyway, having all those visitors is fun.’