Open houses are a staple of real estate marketing. There are certain times that live experience bests online viewing and a physically present tour of a house is among them. Posted photos by their very nature will avoid any structural or aesthetic defects that may be perceived upon closer inspection. On the flip side, a cyber-tour might also fail to capture particular features that would appeal to many shoppers. For all the advantages open houses offer to potential purchasers, however, they can bring headaches to owner/sellers in the form of the curious and unserious lookers known as "tire kickers."

What Brings the Tire Kickers Out?

The term "tire kicker" refers to the type that visits car dealerships to window shop  more than actually seek a new vehicle. When the dealer representative approaches, the tire kicker wants to talk but never commit. The same holds true in real estate. The residential tire kicker is essentially conflicted about whether he or she really wants a new home. The desire to buy is offset by fear of getting stuck or taken, essentially paralyzing the tire kicker into a lifestyle of perpetual shopping. Like the automobile tire kicker, this one is a vampire with the seller's time while leaving no return on the investment.

How Does the Tire Kicker Waste Time?

Tire kickers have an endless slew of questions. On top of those, they will launch many objections in every venue, questioning the home values etc. When a seller or realtor assume the tire kicker is a legitimate prospect, she will do the necessary legwork to answer every question and rebut every objection. Perhaps the seller might even go lower on the price. Then, as suddenly as the tire kicker appeared, he is gone and hours of research and haggling are irretrievably lost.

What Gives the Tire Kicker Away?

Questions and objections are actually quite healthy to air. In a sense, we are all tire kickers -- or should be. None of us would buy a new car without making an inquiry or two. Likewise, a new house. What, then, differentiates tire kicking from healthy skepticism? Usually, the unserious looker will be all by his or her lonesome, without the spouse or significant other present. This is intentional: any commitment must then be taken back to the absentee partner for approval -- again, spending hours or days before the prospect gets back to the seller. Of course, a tire kicker sometimes makes what looks like a genuine offer, that is until the contract is reviewed: tire kicker contracts are replete with escape clauses -- e.g. vague finance contingencies -- that allow him or her to escape the deal.

What Is the Best Way to Deal with a Tire Kicker?

If you are a seller, one way to dispatch a tire kicker is to launch a few questions of your own. What is the buyer's reason for purchasing (the answer will not be on the tip of the tongue)? How much can the buyer put down (this question is often dodged)? How soon can the seller's attorney verify funds (this alone can send the tire kicker out the door)?

Is a Tire Kicker Ever a Legitimate Prospect?

In some cases, tire kickers are indeed serious, just extremely cautious. Employing discerning realtors who can distinguish between nervous prospects and dead ends is a sound investment. Tender, loving care can sometimes entice what looks like a chronic property browser into making an authentic offer that is reasonable and well in line with home values.