If your home sits idle in a seller’s market, it’s time to get to the root of the problem.
It’s a seller’s market in many cities across the U.S. If your home is in one of those cities, say Charleston, SC, or Colorado Springs, CO, and isn’t getting offers, something could be wrong. There could be many reasons your house isn’t selling, though. We’ve asked real estate professionals and agents from all over the country what those top reasons might be — and they’ve provided some sound advice on how to remedy each situation.
1. You’re overconfident
Being in a seller’s market might mean that your home will get snapped up for premium price, no matter its condition. But that isn’t a strategy to count on. “Sometimes homeowners and agents get overconfident in a seller’s market and get lazy about ‘Home Selling 101,’” says Sep Niakan, broker and owner of HB Roswell Realty in Miami, FL.
Solution: Be realistic from day one. Although you may love your house, brace yourself for it to potentially sit on the market for quite some time. And no matter the market, it’s still important to “position your home to sell well,” says Niakan. “What does that mean? Staging, staging, and more staging.”
2. The house is priced too high
Classic supply and demand conditions come into play in a seller’s market: There’s high demand, yet low supply. Therefore, you can usually expect to get more money for your home. But that doesn’t mean the sky’s the limit when it comes to your listing price. “In a seller’s market, a seller may feel comfortable pushing the asking price a bit higher, and this can be a huge mistake,” says Chase Michels of Brush Hill Realtors in Downers Grove, IL. “Determining the best asking price for a home is one of the most important aspects of selling a home. If your home is listed at a price that is above market value, you will miss out on prospective buyers.”
Solution: Make sure that you and your agent are certain of the value of your home in your market and price it right. “Get an analysis of the local market with a professional agent, solid comparables, and specific market trend data,” says Jill Olivarez, a Miramar Beach, FL, real estate agent.
3. The home needs some TLC
It can be a bitter pill to swallow to pay for home improvements that you may not enjoy for long. But if you want to sell for full asking price, you might need to get your house in a condition that warrants it — and not base this number only on price per square foot. “Retail buyers understandably still want the most house for their money,” says Barbara Grassey, author of How to Sell Your House Fast in a Slow Market and founder of the West Florida Real Estate Investors Association.
Solution: “The seller should have amenities comparable to other properties for sale in that price range and should really upgrade certain amenities,” says Grassey. Some upgrade examples, she says, include a pull-down gooseneck faucet, an upgraded ceiling fan, a double-bar towel rack, or upgraded door handles. They sound simple, but a few small changes can make a big impact.
4. There’s a problem with the title
“Title” in this case doesn’t mean the cute name you might have given your place (“The Laurels,” “The Conners’ Corner Cottage,” etc.). Rather, it’s the document that shows ownership. “One reason a house won’t sell is because there is a problem with the title to the house that spooks buyers,” says David Reiss, law professor at Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, NY. Here are some examples he gives of title problems:
- Conveyance without a recorded deed (can sometimes happen in transfers between family members).
- A paid-off mortgage that is still showing up as a valid lien on the house.
- A mechanic’s lien that was filed for work done on the house by a subcontractor.
Solution: “Some [title] problems just require a little time to resolve,” says Reiss. Contact the title company to find out what you need to do to prepare for selling — then do it.
5. Advertising photos are subpar
It’s said that you have seven seconds to make a first impression — and the same goes for your house: 90% of buyers start their search online and make a decision about whether to come see your house based on a quick skim of your listing photos. If there are few or no photos, or if the photos look bad because they weren’t professionally taken, or because the house is cluttered (which shows in the photos), many buyers will move on to the next listing. “When there are a lack of pictures, buyers often assume the worst,” says Amber Dolle, a Los Angeles, CA, agent.
Solution: Get your home staged and photographed by pros. You may think it’s an unnecessary expense, but according to IMOTO photography, professional real estate photos have the ability to generate 118% more online views and sell listings 50% faster — at 39% closer to list price. They’re worth it.
6. Your agent doesn’t seem to care
Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with your house at all: It’s priced right and is well-maintained. But your agent could be turning people off. “The agent is your front-line representative,” says David Kean, a Beverly Hills, CA, agent with Douglas Elliman. He notes, however: “Some agents have little to no personality, some are burnt-out, some don’t care, and others have no social skills.”
Solution: “Hire an agent you would invite to a dinner party,” Kean astutely adds. “If you don’t find [an agent who’s] interesting and pleasurable to deal with, who will?” You may need to break up with your current agent before moving on to greener pastures.
7. The house smells bad
There’s a saying in real estate: “If I can smell it, I can’t sell it,” says Joshua Spotts, a Memphis, TN, agent. If you’re immune to the smell of your home, get a friend’s honest opinion. “There is nothing like entering a house and smelling a refreshing scent,” says Spotts.
Solution: Sometimes the remedy is a scented candle or freshly baked cookies. But if your house’s odor is persistent, it’s a good idea to determine what’s causing it and address it. Take care of mold and mildew buildup, pet urine on the carpet, or set-in smoke odor.
8. Your appliances are old
Stainless steel is in, and old, yellowing-white refrigerators are out, says Seth Lejeune, a Collegeville, PA, agent. Although potential buyers realize they can replace a refrigerator, if your appliances look as if they belong on That ’70s Show, buyers might wonder what else might need replacing. “As for HVAC, heaters, and boilers, those are less noticed by prospective buyers during initial walk-throughs but are almost never overlooked at inspection,” notes Lejeune.
Solution: “Update your appliances so they don’t look like they’re on their last legs,” Lejeune says. This advice goes for the unseen too — if your HVAC has a problem, you’re going to have to pay to fix it, or at least come down in your asking price.