Remember the old days when visiting show houses on a Sunday afternoon was almost a national pastime? Agents pointer boards fairly littered the pavements and traffic jams in suburbs became the norm. At times it seemed that every second home was on the market. Dedicated show house visitors stood the change of bonding with other when they inevitably met up week after week.
Then the Internet came on the scene and suddenly it was no longer necessary to drive around for hours, getting lost when some mischievous child switched the boards around, wandering around house after house in the search for the ideal home.
Virtual tours gave house hunters the freedom to sit in their lounges and to view as many properties as they wanted without having to pay a cent on petrol. Even before virtual tours became the norm, the fact that agents could load dozens of pictures helped the would-be buyer get a good idea of what the property looked like inside and whether it was worth taking a closer look.
So does all of this mean that putting a house on show is going to become a thing of the past? According to a recent report, estate agents are divided on the point. Some believe that show days are still the number one way to market a property, while others feel that the success rate is marginal and the security risks are just too great.
'There are definitely positive and negative aspects to having a show day,' says Dieter Harck of RE/MAX One Hundred.
'Some advantages to having a show day are visibility and accessibility. Show days can also save both the agent and seller time as a number of potential buyers can view the property within the same day. The fact is that irrespective of the brand or advertising, many buyers will visit a show house in order to see for themselves what it has to offer. A show day also offers buyers the chance to interact with the agent and perhaps be put onto their database or make appointments to see other homes within their portfolio of stock.'
Harck notes that sometimes a show day can be a less stressful option for the seller because the cleaning and tidying is only done once a week rather than numerous times to accommodate the potential multiple viewings in the course of the working week. The seller is also not inconvenienced by constantly needing to be home at a certain time or wait to let in buyers who want to view the property.
While the positives are pretty obvious, there are some serious negatives linked to show days. Security in South Africa is a major concern for all and opening up your home to all and sundry is risky. While we may not have got to the stage where armed gangs are storming show houses, overwhelming the agent and ransacking the home, it doesn't mean that they aren't those who visit a home with the sole purpose if casing the joint in order to break in at a later stage.
Criminal elements aside, show houses also tend to attract nosey neighbours, those in search of interior design ideas and those who have nothing better to do than wander around other people's home over the weekend. Yes there may well be the odd serious buyer who has every intention of signing on the dotted line, but agents do seem to spend an awful lot of time trying to weed the serious from the mere 'lookers'.
Interesting though is the fact it appears that the show house concept continues to work well in some areas, while the practice has all but died out in others.
"Every area has its own demographics and dynamics. Harck says that while some agents say that around 80 percent of the sales in their area are from buyers that viewed the property on a show day, others say that they have not sold a property through a show day in the last three years."
Choosing an agent who understands these dynamics and who isn't going to waste the sellers time by insisting on a show day in an area where there is little chance of success may be the way to go. It stands to reason that those who focus on marketing tools that have proved effective in a particular area, will get the property sold in the quickest possible time.