Sell to Open

When you sell to open (as opposed to buy to open), you are essentially opening a short option position. And as a reminder, a short option position has nothing to do with which direction you expect the stock (or the market) to trade.

Although not quite as straightforward as buy to open, selling to open is still a relatively simple concept to grasp. The examples below will illustrate.

The most important thing to remember is that selling to open always opens or initiates a new trade. It never closes an existing position. The last thing you want is to accidentally give your broker instructions to open a new short position when what you really wanted was to sell to close an existing position.

Sell to Open Examples

Here are three quick examples:

  • Covered Call - When you write a covered call you write, or sell (to open), a short call option against 100 shares of the underlying stock that you already own.
  • Writing Puts - In a similar way, when you write a naked put for either income or as a way to acquire stock at a discount, you must sell to open to initiate the trade.
  • Bull Put Spread - A bull put spread is a bullish to neutral credit spread where you sell (to open) a put option at one strike price (presumably below the stock's current price) and buy (to open) a second put at a lower strike price.

    Closing a bull put spread simply requires you to reverse the initial trade. The put you sold to open must be bought to close, and the put at the lower strike that you bought to open must be sold to close.

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Warren Buffett Zero Cost Basis Portfolio Current Equity Holdings:

KO - 125 shares
BP - 100 shares
MCD - 30 shares
JNJ - 25 shares
GIS - 25 shares
PAYX - 25 shares

Open Market Purchase Price: $16,066.88

Less Booked Option Income: $10,568.35

Tot. Discount: 65.78%
Adj. Div. Yield: 12.08%