Do you scan the paper to find open houses while you are drinking your Sunday coffee? Despite all the changes technology has made in the housing market, the Sunday open house has undoubtedly been a tradition in real estate industry. In fact, it is a tradition that is still alive and growing, as Google search data shows. Nationwide, public interest in open houses seems to have increased over time.
NAR tracked the search activity for open houses from January 2004 through June 2017 using the public Google Trends website. Google Trends is a tool that allows you to see what people are searching and how specific terms have trended over time. Derived from Google’s search data, Trends measures the relative volume of searches made on Google. It creates indexes that show trending instead of actual volume of the specific search terms.
Our study focuses on the proportion of searches for open houses performed from 2004 through last month. The study begins in 2004, when the housing market was in the bubble period. The data, based on eight different search terms associated with open houses, shows that people are becoming more and more interested in searching for open houses over the time.
On Sunday, April 17th 2016, searches in the Real Estate category related to open houses reached their highest level of interest. Based on Google Trends, the interest for open houses was 100 on a 0-100 scale. This can be a good proxy for public interest in open houses, since it shows when most queries into the search box for open houses occurred in the last 13 years.
We calculated the 6-month average for every year and found that Google searches for open houses in 2017 reached the highest mark in 13 years. Data shows that open house searches in 2004 were half as popular as in 2017. Also, it is interesting to note that public interest for open houses was relatively “inelastic” to the recent housing downturn. The 6-month average interest for open houses slightly decreased from 58 in 2009 to 55 in 2010 while it picked up at 61 in 2011.
We reviewed search activity for each month, and we see that home search activity gets typically busy in March, April, May and August while it reaches its lowest level in December and January every year. This is the same trend that we see in Existing Home Sales activity; sales activity increases in the “warm” months of the year while it diminishes in the winter as well.
Looking at the weekly search activity that occurred throughout each year, we found that in the last 13 years the most popular month of the year, day of the week and time of the day for a search related to open houses were accordingly:
Search activity by state and metropolitan area level
Google search data provides results for search activities at the state and metropolitan area level. During a specified time frame, we are able to see in which location searches for open houses were most popular. A result of 100 shows the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that area. Thus, it is important to bear in mind that a higher value means a higher proportion of all queries and not a higher absolute query count. So, a small state where 80 percent of the queries are for “open houses” will get twice the score of a big state where only 40 percent of the queries are for “open houses”. Thus, results favor small areas.
For the period 2011 until last month, open house search was most popular in Connecticut (100) followed by North Dakota (88) and Montana (83). This means that these three states had the three highest proportions of queries related to open houses. For North Dakota and Montana, we see that more people are moving to these two areas. While employment increased, North Dakota and Montana experienced influx of migrants who are interested in looking for open houses.
The visualization below shows the open house search activity for each state from January 2011 through June 2017. Select your state in the Google search box and see how your state ranked based on the search activity for open houses:
At the metropolitan area level, Google Trends provides results for 40 areas. Followed by Hartford & New Haven, CT and Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – San Luis Obispo, CA, Ft. Myers – Naples, FL had the highest traffic for open house search relatively to other searches on Google. From 2011 through last month, home search activity in Ft. Myers – Naples was typically busy in the first three months of the year—when the weather is warm but not yet too hot—while activity diminished in the following months, a contrast with nationwide home search activity which tends to reach its highest value in the “warm” months and be slower in the first months of the year. This example shows that public interest may trend differently by area throughout the year.
The visualization below allows you to see how home search activity is trending in your area, so you know what to expect about people’s interest when you host an open house.
 Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. Likewise a score of 0 means the term was less than 1% as popular as the peak.
 Also, based on the Law of Large Numbers, proportions tend to get closer to the true percentage as the size of population increases because standard deviation gets smaller. This means that proportions for big states are closer to reality.