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Realtor Dawn Miller and Coastal Mortgage Solutions owner Brian Strickland at a recent open house.

Open houses are when homeowners have an opportunity to make a first impression on potential buyers.

But open houses today are not just for potential customers. Many Realtors also attend open houses to determine what is available on the market as a way to ensure their customers have as many options as possible. As with most things today, however, technology has altered the experience.

Realtor Dawn Miller said open houses are still held for walk-throughs by potential customers, but virtual home tours on the internet are among the tools to market homes.

“They can pretty much go online and check out a house,” she said.

Miller, with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hodnett Cooper on St. Simons Island, said when open houses are held for the public, advertising includes flyers, signs, email and social media. Public open houses usually last two hours, she said.

“Most people stay 10 minutes and they’re gone,” she said. “I don’t think open houses are as important nowadays.”

Realtors agree for an effective open house the homeowner should not be inside the house during the event because a homeowner is often emotionally invested in the home. It is OK if they wait outside while the house is being shown.

It’s better the house be shown by an impartial person, said Realtor David Gardner, with Gardner Keim Coastal Realty.

Gardner said his company holds open houses but they are mostly for realtors and agents.

“We’re marketing to two groups of people,” he said.

As for open houses for the public, Gardner said the digital age has changed the way homes are marketed dramatically. The only time open houses attract people is when neighbors stop by to check out the house or vacationers in the area are interested.

“I have done hundreds of open houses but not nearly as many now because of technology,” Ann Dempsey, a realtor for 40 years in the Golden Isles said.

Dempsey, with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hodnett Cooper, said the virtual online tours are important, but she highly recommends hiring a professional photographer to take the pictures and video of the home.

“The professional pictures pay for themselves,” she said.

Aerial views of homes on the market are also another important way to show a home, she said.

“Most serious buyers are working with real estate agents and are not really dependent on open houses,” she said. “People do not get in their cars to look for open houses. You’re not seeing people go to open houses.”

“What does work is people getting information ahead of time,” she said.

While public open houses are still held in the Golden Isles, they are mostly for the agents to learn more about the available inventory so they have as much information as possible to market a home.

Every single way we can market, we need to do,” Dempsey said. “Not one realtor has a crystal ball. We don’t know what will bring a buyer.