Selling Your Home

Why Your Home May Not Be Selling, Even in a Seller’s Market

Houses are selling quickly in town, so you believe yours will be easy to sell — and for top dollar. Never mind all that advice about curb appeal because these days anything is selling, right?

Well, you might be surprised to learn that isn’t quite the case!

Even in a seller’s market – which many major cities in the United States are currently experiencing – some homes linger on the market for weeks or months, while the homes around them go into contract within days.

“If you haven’t gotten a contract after six showings, you’ve got to go back and see where the weakness is,” says Alison Evans, a real estate broker in Colorado and founder of FLHomesOnTheMarket.com, which provides marketing tools to help sell your home.

The answer almost always comes back to two variables: price and condition, though marketing can also play a role.

“If the house is priced right, it will sell, regardless of its condition,” says Robert Palmer, a Redfin agent in Cape Coral, Florida. “Usually when the property doesn’t sell in a hot market, it’s how the property is priced or how it is exposed,” Palmer adds.

That exposure, or marketing, includes both modern and old-fashioned tactics. High-quality professional photos and easily accessible information help sell a home. But so do list agents who know the neighborhood, says Evans — even though these days few prospective buyers ever meet a listing broker, because most homes use lockboxes where buyers’ brokers can get the keys for a tour.

“85 percent of all homes are on a lockbox,” Evans says. “I call this the dirty, disgraceful secret in real estate.”

A selling agent used to open all the drapes and blinds and make sure the home looked inviting before the prospective buyers walked in. Today, the blinds may stay closed, leaving the home’s first impression a dark and vacant house.

“A book is judged by its cover, and you only have one shot to make a fantastic impression,” Evans says. “It has to be light and bright and happy.”

Price, of course, is also important. Too many sellers set the price based on what they would like to get for their house as opposed to what comparable homes are selling for. Or, they deem a home with a new roof and air conditioner updated, even if it still has a 1970s kitchen and bathrooms in need of renovation.

“You’ve got to price a home based on sold homes, not active homes,” Evans says. “You’ve got to examine the facts.” Today’s buyers have access to enough information via websites, apps and online home valuation tools to know what a home is worth before they come to look at it.

A home that’s not updated will sell — but only at a price that reflects its condition. “That’s not going to scare a buyer away because we are going to present it at a price that reflects that it has to be remodeled,” Palmer says.

In a hot market, eliminating clutter, sprucing up your home’s curb appeal, opening curtains and using professional photos in the list will help it sell faster. “You have to make the home look as presentable as possible,” Palmer says.

Here are seven reasons your home hasn’t sold yet.

  1. The price is too high. Any home, in any condition, will sell — if the purchase price is right. But buyers expect discounts for dated kitchens, old plumbing, bad paint colors and, yes, even clutter. The danger of setting a price too high and then dropping it slowly is that when a home remains on the market too long, particularly in a quick market, buyers assume there is something wrong with it and don’t even look at it. Your best bet is getting the price right the first time.
  2. Your home is dark. A dark, vacant house doesn’t give a good first impression. Closed drapes, dark paneling and an excess of dark leather furniture may not create the cozy look you intended. “When you walk in a house, you want it to make you feel great,” Evans says. “It’s a dark, gloomy home, and it sets the immediate tone.” She frequently advises sellers to lighten up the space by painting dark paneling or cabinets white and removing big furniture and clutter.
  3. Prospective buyers can not get into see it. If sellers restrict when their home can be shown, require a lot of notice or otherwise throw up roadblocks to buyers getting in, that makes the home harder to sell. Requiring prospective buyers to make numerous phone calls to get an appointment can also be a issue, as are listing agents that aren’t available when someone has questions.
  4. The listing photos are bad. Many agents, including those at Redfin, hire professional photographers for photo shoots as part of their marketing services. Since most homebuyers use those photographs to ascertain which homes to go to, the quality of photographs can be crucial. “I’ve seen pictures of homes where there is so much clutter,” Palmer says. “You’ve got to clean stuff up. When we take a picture of the kitchen, the counter is completely empty.”
  5. Your home is dated, and the price doesn’t reflect that. Lots of buyers will take a house with original kitchens and baths — if the price is discounted to reflect the job they’ll need to do. But they won’t pay top dollar for a house that is not in top condition.
  6. The home is uninsurable. This is a problem especially in states such as Florida, where you can’t get homeowners insurance with no inspection of the electrical, plumbing, roof and cooling system. But even in other states, insurance companies often refuse to insure a home that doesn’t meet basic standards. This cuts the pool of buyers down to those who can pay money and then renovate the house to meet the insurance requirements.
  7. Lenders will not lend on the house. The Federal Housing Agency is particularly picky about what standards a home has to meet before it will issue a mortgage. But other lenders may also set guidelines on the status of roofs, electrical systems or other elements. If these parts of the home are in poor condition, a lender may not be willing to lend to a buyer interested in the home.