To find the origin of Open House Weekend in the United States, look no further than the housing market crash of 2008, which marked the largest home price drop in history.
Specifically, the real estate market in Snohomish County, Washington.
When foreclosure rates increased nationwide, Realtors came under pressure as homeowners accross the country rushed to sell. Business was slipping and layoffs were common.
To counteract this, Beth Cooper, the former president of the Snohomish County-Camano Association of Realtors, had an idea: get real estate licensees and Realtors together for one weekend to showcase all of the open houses in the county.
To their surprise, it worked.
“That was the very first year we put that together,” said Matthew Wahlquist, executive director of Snohomish County-Camano Association of Realtors. From there, it just kind of took off.
Two years later, neighboring Whatcom County followed suit. Three years after that is when the Washington Association of Realtors adopted a statewide Open House Weekend.
In two more years, Cooper’s brainchild spread across the country, and a nationwide event was held.
“We kind of like to claim credit for all of that starting in Snohomish County,” Wahlquist said.
In Spokane County, the first foray into Open House Weekend was in 2011, right around the time statewide initiative started, according to Rob Higgins, executive officer of Spokane Association of Realtors.
“Originally, the idea was to get people back into the housing market,” he said. “We’ve sustained that throughout, really, as a program of getting people thinking about the market.”
Each county is somewhat different, but Open House Weekend usually falls between Easter Sunday and Mother’s Day as the warm spring weather starts to overtake the bitterness of winter. Realtors see it as a perfect time for buyers to revive dreams of homeownership, while sellers benefit from a strong turnout and lots of foot traffic.
“The whole idea is that spring is when people start looking for housing and houses,” Higgins said. “It’s a good time to start kicking off open houses.”
Open House Weekend has since died down statewide after it’s heyday a few years ago, but in Spokane, it’s going strong.
Higgins estimates there will be about 300 open houses this weekend, which is on par with last year, but it could be less due to a strong market with dwindling inventory.
“It fluctuates,” Higgins said. “It just depends on the market, the timing, how your inventory stacks up. We’ll see.”
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