For-sale signs have taken over your block, the local jobs market doesn’t look great, and big red price reduction labels tarnish most of the online home listings in your area. You’ve got enough evidence to conclude that you’re in a slow real estate market and the odds aren’t in your favor when you sell your house.
Since you can’t wave a magic wand to change the state of the economy or suddenly increase the pace of home sales, you’ll need to channel your competitive side and think of this as your next challenge. Even in sluggish markets, houses still sell. Make yours one that does with the right game plan that swerves to avoid these common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Minimal house prep
Selling your house in a slow market is not for the hasty or lazy. You’ll need to put in some sweat equity to get the house in stellar condition.
“Not prepping the house inside and out is number one home sellers make—especially in a slow market,” says Lex Lianos, a Northern Virginia agent who’s sold over 81% more properties in the area than his peers.
“You need to clean, declutter and stage your home or your dooming your sale from the start.”
No matter which type of market you’re facing, you’ll need to deep clean and declutter to meet the bare minimum buyer expectations. However, In a buyer’s market, don’t be surprised if you have to go beyond that to tackle a handful of repairs and upgrades to make your home’s desirability rise above the competition.
On the inside:
|Project||% of Top Agents
|Landscaping / Curb Appeal||90%|
|Clean / replace carpets||78%|
On the outside:
|Project||% of Top Agents
|Basic yard care service||90%|
|Remove dirt, grime, cobwebs
from the entrance
|Trim trees and shrubs||85%|
|Install fresh mulch||84%|
|Fresh coat of paint
on the front door
As far as the final presentation goes, 83% of the 900 top agents HomeLight surveyed said that a staged home sells faster than an unstaged home, while 67% say staging increases your sales price.
Check out HomeLight’s Guide to the Fundamentals of Home Staging to learn how common staging techniques like furniture arrangement, room flow, paint colors, and well-chosen accents can improve buyers’ perception of your home and entice them to make an offer.
Mistake #2: Maintenance neglect
You don’t need to drop a giant wad of cash on improvements that’ll cost more than they add in value, like a full kitchen or bathroom renovation. But in a slow market, you should deal with any deferred maintenance you’ve put off over the course of ownership, whether it be leaky plumbing, a wobbly ceiling fan, or mold issue in the basement.
- First, make a list of any known issues with the house. You live there, so you should have a good idea of what’s in good shape and what’s not.
- Then, have your agent do a walkthrough with fresh eyes to check for problems like peeling paint, dents in the wall, or cracked tiles you may have missed or forgotten about.
- Next, book the appropriate contractors to come out and deal with the issues at hand.
Save money and hire out all of your little odd jobs to a handyman who can knock patch drywall and secure a loose toilet seat in one visit.
Bigger projects like roof repairs, electrical work, and pest control will call for a specialty tradesperson. Every repair that you make will need to be up to code for or you’ll face delays when the home inspector comes through later down the line.
In a slow market, you’ll reduce hassles and increase your chances of securing an offer if you take care of outstanding maintenance yourself. But if you don’t have the upfront funds to take care of necessary repairs, you’ll have to disclose any known material defects per your state’s laws and then compensate for the issue with an appropriate pricing strategy.
Mistake #3: Amateur photography
In this digital age where 93% of buyers use online websites to house hunt, it’s critical that your online listing photos be on point.
While it’s possible to take great listing photos yourself if you know what you’re doing, in a buyer’s market, it’s not worth the risk—especially when hiring a professional real estate photographer will only cost you an average of $150 to $230. That’s a cheap way to get a leg up on your competition.
Hiring a pro doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook, though. You’ll still have plenty of work on your plate to stage and prep your home for its photoshoot.
Mistake #4: Overpricing
When retailers get stuck with inventory, they lower the price until it finally moves out the door, even if that means selling it at a loss.
This works for retailers who have loads of products waiting in the wings for shelf space that can be sold at a premium price. But for home sellers, you’ve only got one product, so you can’t afford to discount if it doesn’t sell.
“It’s literally the kiss of death if you overprice even by a percent or two, but sellers always think that their house is worth more than it is,” says Liano.
Overpricing can hamper your sale in any market condition, but when you’re selling in a buyer’s market it can completely kill your chances of selling at all.
So don’t make the mistake of simply listing at the same price (or higher) than recent comps have sold for. Listen to your agent and look at the data to find the right list price to help your home sell fast even in a competitive market.
Mistake #5: Mediocre marketing
Great photos and the right price can only go so far to get your house sold—if no one knows about your listing.
While it may be tempting to cut costs on your marketing budget to offset the fact that it could take months for your house to sell, reducing your marketing efforts will only prolong your days on the market.
“Selling in a slow market isn’t easy, so putting your property in front of as many buyers as possible is key,” explains Lianos.
“Boosted Facebook ads, blog posts, email blasts to buyer brokers. It’s that type of exposure that’ll sell your home in a slow market.”
Unless you’re selling your own home, the marketing plan for selling your home is in your agent’s hands. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help pick the listing photos, confer about the listing descriptions, and strategize over the marketing timeline.
How an agent handles the marketing for their listings is also one of the big questions you should ask before hiring an agent. If yours doesn’t have great answers to your marketing questions, it’s probably time to hire an agent with a proven track record.
Mistake #6: Restricting buyers’ access to your home
No one likes to be told to get out of their own home, but that’s what you’ll need to put up with while your home is on the market.
Develop a showings strategy that includes quick and easy cleaning wipes, portable bathroom caddies, and lidded storage bins, so that you can quickly clean and hide away your toiletries and personal items on just an hour’s notice.
Don’t refuse to have a lockbox on your house, or demand outlandish access restrictions, like requiring half a day’s notice before showings. The more foot traffic, the better.
Mistake #7: Stubborn negotiations
Even once you’ve received and accepted a decent offer in a competitive buyer’s market, you’ll need to get through the buyer’s home inspection and the back-and-forth on repair requests.
“In a slow market, buyers are picky, and finicky, and not as committed to the home sale as the seller. They’ll walk away over the smallest things because they know there are plenty of other properties out there,” says Lianos.
“So, I highly recommend to my sellers that they do every ridiculous request on the inspection list. Sellers need to accommodate because the standing firm will lose you the buyer. And it’s going to cost you tens of thousands of dollars more to relist and have it sitting on the market for months than doing that $2,000 repair.”
Buyer brokers know that most relisted properties are a huge red flag, signaling that there’s either something wrong with the house itself or the sellers are difficult to work with.
Savvy sellers know that it’ll actually save them money, in the long run, to fulfill any after-inspection requests from their buyers—as long as they’re at least semi-reasonable.
No need to spend $3,000 on a hot tub just because your buyers want on, but be prepared to pay for a home warranty or provide other buyer incentives, like a closing cost credit buying down their interest rate.
Selling in a slow market: Have professional help on your side
If life were a fairytale, you sell your house whenever you want and at the price you want. In real life, sellers are at the mercy of the market.
Plus, every house is different. What it takes to sell your house in a slow market could be different than your neighbor’s situation. When in doubt, work with a top local real estate agent with experience in your area and property type to navigate tough decisions. A professional could be the one to save you from spending tens of thousands on a roof replacement when all it needed was a partial repair.