This Sundays New York Times had an entertaining (with a hint of serious inquiry) piece on open houses in NYC. The article questions whether an open house has become a futile exercise to satisfy the demands of the home seller or is it a useful tool to procure the sale of a home? Certainly open houses will bring in their fair share of "looky-Loos", but I personally feel they are still a very effective tool for selling the majority of homes. The only exception I would make to this would be in the sale of homes above $5,000,000 dollars. This rarefied home buyer is probably not out on Sunday schlepping around the open house circuit.
I am only one small broker in the sea of NYC real estate, but I can attest to the fact that every sale we have done this year started at an open house. For the serious home buyer, open houses on a Sunday afternoon are the perfect time to see properties. They don't have to work, have had time to decompress from the work week and had Friday and Saturday evening to partake in extracurricular urban activities. Depending on what you are looking for, you can cover a lot of ground on a Sunday and "kick the tires" on a few potential new homes. Then later that day over coffee you can compare notes and decide which homes you would like to view again via a private showing.
Certainly after say 6-8 open houses without a sale/offer the seller then needs to adjust the price, perhaps re-stage and the broker can shorten the open house duration to say 1 hour. But open houses remain an important ritual for this buy-side broker and his clients. And this is coming from a broker that definitely utilizes technology to make the entire process from analysis to board package preparation more effective and efficient.