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The open house: license to gawk

My friends and I make it a Sunday ritual to visit open houses of homes for sale in our neighborhood.

It's a harmless practice. The agent is not fooled by our feigned interest in square footage or proximity to schools. We come for two reasons: to compare our houses with those being sold and get a glimpse into how others live.

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Among real estate brokers, reviews are mixed as to whether an open house is worth the effort.

In a 1998 survey of Texas agents, 3 out of 4 said they hold open houses to appease sellers and to connect with potential buyers who might be interested in other homes on the market.

According to the National Association of Realtors, only 4 percent of all buyers surveyed in 1997 bought the home they visited during an open house.

For sellers, security is an issue. Last summer, a well-dressed woman stole some $2,000-worth of items at open houses in Scottsdale, Ariz.

But the most frequent guests at such events are nosy neighbors, like myself. These are folks who look down their noses and sniff, "How much are they asking for this?" and "Our house has much more closet space."

We leave feeling either smug about our own situation or determined to rip out our kitchen and bathrooms and remodel.

The urge to see how others live is irresistible. Open houses cater to the innocent voyeuristic tendencies in all of us.

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Of course, we should be above petty comparisons. And we'll stop. Right after we check the size of the Jacuzzi.

*:Write the Homefront, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail us at home@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society