It’s not a seller’s dream scenario: you put your house on the market, hoping for a quick sale — but boy were you wrong. You haven’t received any offers and showing requests have been few and far between, leaving you to ask: Why?
We’ll review 12 of the most common reasons why homes linger on the market and go over actions you can take. It’s frustrating to say the least, but you shouldn’t wait any longer to make some changes, especially if your home’s total days on market is more than a month.
Generally, says Alisha Simpkins, a top-selling Chico, California, real estate agent, a home is “going to sell for the most amount of money in the first 30 days.”
For every day that your home doesn’t sell, it will — statistically — sell for less. One Massachusetts Realtor’s analysis found homes that sold within 10 days went for 101.3% of their asking price. After 120 days, the sale-to-list price ratio dropped to 97.6%. For a $293,000 home, you’re looking at $317,900 compared to $266,000.
If attempts to sell your home have stalled, start by determining whether one of these 12 common roadblocks could be the culprit, and apply a swift correction to get your sale on track.
1. The price is too high
When it comes to reasons a home isn’t selling, “If it’s not condition, it’s always price,” says Simpkins. “And in fact, it’s usually always price.”
Homebuyers pay attention to overpricing. As of Q3 2021, 54% of agents have seen or heard about buyers backing out of contracts due to remorse about inflated home values.
How do you know if your home is priced too high? Pricing a home for sale is deceivingly complex. To predict what buyers would pay, you need to carefully review recent sales and make dollar adjustments to your property based on competitive differences.
Our Home Value Estimator can be a helpful tool for this task. Enter your address and answer a few basic questions about your home, and we’ll provide a preliminary home valuation in less than two minutes.
However, an online estimate is just a starting point. If you priced the home yourself, ask for a real estate agent’s opinion on whether you were too ambitious.
“Eighty percent of what we do is strategic pricing; 20% is presentation for marketing,” says Regina Madiera-Gorden, a top real estate agent in Tacoma, Washington. “As agents, we have access to more on-demand information that paints a picture of where we should shoot for price.”
Another way to check your price: Listen to the feedback you’re getting from people at open houses and showings. Were they disappointed at the home’s quality compared to the price?
You can also browse local listings. If your home is priced higher than nearby homes with better features and more upgrades, it’s a telltale signal that the problem is probably price.
Eighty percent of what we do is strategic pricing; 20% is presentation for marketing. As agents, we have access to more on-demand information that paints a picture of where we should shoot for price.
- Regina Madiera-Gorden Real Estate AgentCloseRegina Madiera-Gorden Real Estate Agent at Windermere Abode Lakewood
- Years of Experience 18
- Transactions 447
- Average Price Point $387k
- Single Family Homes 372
What’s the fix?
In most cases, it’s time for a price drop.
A price cut may sound like the kiss of death for getting the value you’d hoped for. But in reality price reductions are quite common and sometimes necessary to reel buyers in.
According to data from the National Association of Realtors, 22% of recent sellers closed on their home after one price reduction.
So how much should you drop the price? “You don’t want to be the house that drops the price a thousand dollars every week,” says Simpkins. “I’d say a significant price reduction will get the job done.”
If a listing is getting a lot of showings but no offers, Madiera-Gorden suggests 1% markdown might entice the right buyers. If there are few showings, a 2% to 3% price reduction may be necessary.
It’s also important to be mindful of online price filters. “Buyers search in $25,000 to $50,000 increments generally,” Madiera-Gorden explains. “So, we try to be cognizant of stepping into the next price bracket — if necessary — to get the property in front of the right buyers.”
2. You missed the market’s peak
Real estate isn’t as volatile as the stock market, but it can quietly shift while you aren’t paying attention.
According to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights reports for Fall 2022, many sellers are still adjusting to the rebalancing of the housing market, expecting to quickly receive multiple offers over the listing price, as occurred during the seller’s market of 2021 into early 2022.
Recently, Madiera-Gorden worked with sellers who knew of a house down the street with a similar floorplan that sold in two days for $20,000 above the asking price.
Since her client’s house had significant upgrades compared to the neighbors’, they planned to set an even higher list price than what the comp sold for.
However, in a mere four months since the neighbor’s sale, “The velocity of the market had really slowed, so we had to adjust our price,” Madiera-Gorden says.
What’s the fix?
Keep up with what’s going on in the market and examine a buyer’s options in real time. Madiera-Gorden and her daughter and business partner Madison Lord sometimes take their sellers on an in-person or virtual home tour of similar properties for this purpose.
Taking that journey with a professional allows sellers to arrive at a better understanding of how their home stacks up against others and how they can improve its appeal to buyers.
Depending on what the competition looks like, a seller may either choose to bring their house up to standard or reduce the price accordingly. For example, if every other comparable listing has a furnace that’s less than 5 years old and yours is upward of 12, maybe you put in a new one.
3. You’ve got a specific problem to address
Even if a showing doesn’t provide you with a buyer, it gives you something important: intel. “Showing feedback is extremely important,” says Simpkins.
According to Simpkins, the questions your agent should be collecting from a showing are, “What’s wrong with this home? What would need to change to make you want to buy this home?” If you’re getting the same answer from multiple people, you know you have a problem.
What’s the fix?
Once you’ve identified that there’s an issue, you can work to mitigate it. If multiple buyers say your house is too dark, you can add lighting, declutter, or hire someone to clean the windows.
If buyers are having trouble envisioning something specific — where to hang a TV in a living room full of windows, or how to fit a king-sized bed in a smaller master bedroom — you can update your staging to illustrate a solution.
You also may need to address a major cosmetic flaw or expensive repair. For example, in evaluating one of her listings, Lord noticed a massive splotch on a kitchen counter. She knew buyers would be deterred by having to replace it.
“Our preferred contractors put a new slab of quartz for $2,000,” she says. “Those types of fixes bring you value on the market.”
Of course, some things can’t be changed. What if your homeowners’ association dues are high or your street is clogged with cars going to the stadium every game day?
“Price cures all,” says Simpkins.
4. You’re working with the wrong buyers
Let’s say your home needs some work. The roof is getting old, the construction materials may contain asbestos and aren’t in the best shape, and there’s a bit of water damage in the basement that you don’t have the savings to fix right now.
Or maybe you listed your home in a rush out of necessity — you need the extra cash, or a loved one is facing a change in health. But things aren’t moving at the speed you need them to.
Sellers who need to sell urgently may find that an off-market sale works better for them. Many buyers can be sticklers about home condition. According to a 2020 survey of over 2,000 adults from Coldwell Banker, 80% of Americans say they would prefer to buy a move-in ready home over one that requires renovations. In addition, 70% of millennials and 71% of Gen Xers would be willing to sacrifice the size of their home for one that required no updates.
What’s the fix?
Sell your home to a real estate investor, house-buying company, or iBuyer instead. Some direct real estate buyers are more accepting of homes that require a little TLC. Most pay with all-cash. Here’s how it usually works: You provide a few details about your home, the buyer names their cash price, and then you decide whether you want to accept or decline the offer.
If this route interests you, consider requesting a cash offer from HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform. Rather than do the work of pricing your home and staging it for the market, you will answer a few questions, such as how much work the home needs and how soon you plan to sell, so we can learn a little bit more about your situation.
In as few as 48 hours, we’ll provide you with a full cash offer with the ability to close in as little as 10 days. Going this route provides you with a low-stress selling experience that’s much quicker than most transactions that require financing.
5. Your home is unconventional
Unique properties — such as very large, high-end or expensive houses, or homes located in unusual areas or with quirky features and style — aren’t for everybody, so they usually take a little longer to sell.
For example, Simpkins recalls a client’s home that had two complete living spaces under the same roof. Although it wasn’t divided into two apartments, the home featured two kitchens, living rooms, and primary bedrooms on two different floors.
To sell that property, Simpkins changed her marketing strategy. She concentrated on encouraging buyers to picture space for an Airbnb rental or a suite for live-in relatives.
What’s the fix?
First of all, patience. If your home is unconventional, you’re probably going to have to wait for the perfect buyer.
Second, think about what appealed to you when you bought the home. There’s gotta be other buyers out there who will feel the same way.
Make sure your marketing and advertising strategy casts the distinctive features in a positive light, so the property resonates with buyers who would appreciate its charms.
Finally, get that information in front of the right people. Besides online real estate sites, consider posting on Facebook groups, specialty websites, mailing lists, local apps such as Nextdoor, or even print publications that target your buyers.
6. Your staging isn’t successful — or is non-existent
Showings allow buyers to get a feel for your home and give them a chance to envision the space as their own.
That’s hard to do if they’re tripping over children’s toys in the dining room or overwhelmed by travel tchotchkes bulging out of built-in bookshelves.
Unstaged homes can seem cluttered, cramped, dark, and small.
“Typically, a staged home sells for more money, and it does sell in a shorter amount of time,” says Simpkins.
What’s the fix?
Get a jump on your move. Declutter and pack up family photos, other treasures and place them in storage. Now that you can see the floors, walls, shelves and other spaces, you can determine what to paint or repair.
Since you’re leaving, it’s understandable that you don’t want to fix things you’ve ignored for years. But, little upgrades often bring a huge return on investment, as can hiring a professional stager.
“The right staging almost always doubles or triples your investment,” says Lord.
“If the seller is still living in the house,” Madiera-Gorden says, “we wouldn’t necessarily recommend staging every single bedroom — just your living areas, kitchen, bathrooms and primary suite.”
The cost of staging a three-bedroom home might run $1,500 to $2,400. But, “If you partner with the right people,” she continues, “there’s no upfront cost to the seller because the fee is collected out of escrow.”
Remember that less is more. Staging isn’t about scattering potpourri and adding a ton of decor. Good staging focuses on minimizing distractions and maximizing layout and design to highlight a home’s best features.
7. Your curb appeal is no good
Buyers can’t appreciate your awesome interior if they don’t make it through the front door or get out of the car. An overgrown yard or rundown facade stops buyers in their tracks.
It’s hard to believe paint, pressure washing, pine straw, and petunias can translate into thousands of dollars. But, numbers don’t lie.
More than 75% of top real estate agents across the country say well-landscaped homes are worth anywhere from 1% to 10% more. These same agents say boosting curb appeal is often the most effective action you can take to improve the marketability of your home.
What’s the fix?
Make the local garden club — or at least other sellers in the neighborhood — green with envy.
Without much effort or expense, you can DIY or work with a professional landscaper and contractor to upgrade your landscaping, get your grass a brilliant green, plant a few flowers, and fix anything weathered or broken on your home’s exterior.
And hey, why not paint your door a cute color? The right shade will help create an inviting entrance.
8. Your listing photos aren’t professional quality
After completing all that work on staging and curb appeal, you’ll be excited to show off the house. But, if your listing photos aren’t close to magazine quality, nobody is going to come see it in person.
These days, a few poorly-lit, blurry iPhone shots won’t cut it.
“We do professional photos, videography, drone footage and virtual ‘walkable’ layout with every single client,” says Lord. “We even had photos taken for a fixer-upper that wasn’t super attractive because our presentation is always professional.”
The National Association of Realtors’ 2021 Generational report found 89% of buyers ranked professional listing photos as the most valuable website feature in their home search.
What’s the fix?
Amp up your digital marketing, and replace bad photos with professional ones if you haven’t already. Talk to your agent about adding a video listing or 3-D walkthrough. Most agents contract with local photographers and pay for those services out of their commission.
If media is not included or you’re listing the property yourself, a small investment in professional photography will deliver huge returns.
9. Your listing description is too dry
“Four-bedroom, two-bath duplex located on Uptown street.”
Maybe “Just the facts, ma’am,” was all Sergeant Joe Friday needed to catch a crook on 1950s Dragnet. But, if your listing lacks imagination, you’ll fail to capture the attention of today’s buyers.
Is it a three-bedroom with an owner suite? Is it a contemporary or a Victorian? Is it near a zoo, park, college or nightlife?
More than just describing physical location and features, you need to describe how those elements will make life fabulous for the lucky family who gets to live there.
What’s the fix?
Grab a pen and write a love letter to your home. Describe the features that make you love this place and buyers will feel the magic, too.
“We’re not selling a house so much as we’re selling lifestyle,” says Madiera-Gorden.
The number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, parking spaces and other data appear in the basic MLS stats.
“We don’t have to reiterate that information in the copy,” she says. “We look at: How can we paint a picture about this house? Who are our buyers? Where’s the opportunity? What can buyers see themselves doing in this home?”
Consult our guide to writing creative real estate listing descriptions that sell for inspiration.
10. Your marketing needs a makeover
If you’re relying on print ads and yard signs, you may not be generating excitement or reaching the right buyers.
“Buyers are most likely to find the house online first and send it to their agent,” Lord explains. “It’s so important — especially in a COVID world — to be very, very visible on social media and on all of those third-party sites.
More than 38% of buyers find photos, interactive maps, virtual open houses, virtual tours, and videos helpful. Through use of these digital tools, 51% of today’s buyers find their home on the internet.
What’s the fix?
Your best strategy is to engage a top-notch sales agent in your area to evaluate your home as well as to identify opportunities and implement a marketing strategy.
In addition, HomeLight’s Seller Resource Center offers marketing assessment and other tools to help evaluate and maximize your marketing strategy.
11. You’re getting bad advice
Nearly every issue on this list could be avoided by working with an experienced local agent.
Your real estate agent should collaborate on pricing, staging, and curb appeal as well as drive the marketing efforts and analyze the need to make changes based on feedback from showings.
Simpkins recalls an initial meeting with a potential client whose backyard lacked privacy. When she suggested installing a bamboo fence and making other improvements, the seller chose another agent.
The property didn’t sell in six months, so the seller rented it. The renter caused significant damage. “It cost my seller quite a bit of money to get the house back into the proper condition [and] on the market,” she says.
Regretting his prior decision, the seller asked Simpkins to represent him.
After allowing her landscaper to make the recommended changes to the backyard, “We actually received an offer within a week of putting it on the market,” Simpkins says.
What’s the fix?
Make sure you’re working with an agent who is an expert in your area or the kind of home you’re trying to sell. Whether it comes from a well-meaning agent friend or relative from across town or on the other side of the country, advice from out-of-area agents or those that specialize in a different property type can be a gamble.
“Their pricing can be off by a lot, or they just don’t know how to properly highlight the home features or the neighborhoods,” says Lord. “While they usually sell, we’ve seen King County brokers come into Pierce County and underprice homes.”
When you list with the wrong agent, Simpkins says, “You either end up taking a lot less for the home, or staying in it for another six months or a year.”
HomeLight’s data shows that the top 5% of agents nationwide sell single-family homes faster and for up to 10% more than average real estate agents. If you aren’t sure where to start your search for an agent, HomeLight would be happy to provide recommendations for up to three qualified and top-performing agents in your area.
12. You’re a helicopter seller
Sometimes it’s hard to let go. Even if you’re moving to your dream home, your equity in your current home is worth more than money alone. It’s filled with emotional ties and memories.
“Some sellers want to control the process,” says Madiera-Gorden. For example, sellers might want themselves or their agent to be present at all showings.
But, the seller’s presence can create problems. “That energy from the seller gives the buyers the feeling of being watched and prevents buyers from walking around the house as if it were their home,” explains Lord.
What’s the fix?
All it takes to stop hovering is a little willpower and a trip to a gourmet coffeehouse or swanky wine bar.
“It works the best when the sellers just pass off the keys and let a real estate professional guide them through the process,” says Lord. “It seems to flow a little bit better for everybody.”
It’s not too late to get that home sold
It can be discouraging to see buyers passing you by and new properties whizzing on the market and then off to closing at lightning speed.
But remember: It’s never too late to get your home sold. There’s a buyer for every home.
If your current plan isn’t working, maybe it’s time to pause and reset your strategy. You can take your home off the market, make some changes and relist possibly with a new agent.
But, if you’re tired of making tweaks to your home and listing, you could also request a cash offer from HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform to skip staging and showings. (Honestly, not everyone has time for these steps, and that’s OK).
Header Image Source: (Free-Photos/ Pixabay)
- "Days on Market, how does it effect your sale?," Kevin Vitali (Octobe 2022)
- "HomeLight Top Agent Insights for Summer / Fall 2021," HomeLight (2021)
- "2021 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report," NAR (March 2021)
- "'Guiding You Home' Survey Key Findings," Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC (March 2020)
- "Top Agent Insights for Fall 2022," HomeLight (September 2022)