One of the questions I invariably ask sellers when listing their property for sale is whether they would like to hold open houses or have me bring prospective buyers through on individual inspections.
The answer surprises me because it is almost always along the line of, "Oh, we don't want open houses. We don't want lots of people through who have no intention of buying".
I have not been in this industry very long and already I have lost count of the number of times someone has turned up to see a house simply because their friend looked through it the previous day and told them about it. It seems there are more than just a few people who go looking on behalf of others. They are happy to peruse a property at an open house, but they do not make individual appointments for private inspections. Sheer weight of numbers is always a good thing at an open house. If they like the property people are inclined to act more promptly, and they are more aware of the increased chance of competition for the property.
The other thing to consider is this; if you want your home to be presentable for every inspection, open houses set on the Saturday and Sunday of the same week-end means you only have to clean, vac, mop, dust, and tidy the house once, and then keep it that way for a little over 24 hours. Notice that I used the word, 'presentable', not 'clean'. There is, of course, a huge difference between a clean home, and a presentation-clean home. Individual inspections, even with an hour or two of notice, mean you will go through the whole process each time, and you very well may spend your entire week cleaning house.
When I explain this to my sellers they often relax back about open houses. I also find that sellers may start with individual inspections, but soon move to open houses when the level of work becomes difficult to sustain, particularly when the selling of their property is not replacing some other activity; its in addition to everything they are already committed to. Imagine your present weekly workload. Now add two hours of home preparation prior to every inspection. Now imagine doing that every week for two, four, six, eight, even ten weeks. It's a big call.
I am not expecting this question to become an easy one for sellers any time soon, as it goes to the core of a family's sense of security and safety. It also innately speaks to our feeling of being judged by complete strangers. Next time you wander through the house of a stranger, take a moment to consider the things they may (or may not) have done to accommodate the fact that strangers will be looking into their personal life.