So you’ve listed your home for sale and it’s been showing, and showing, and showing, and…not selling. That means it’s time to make some changes, especially if your home has been on the market more than 30 days.
But generally, says Alisha Simpkins, a top 1% selling agent in Chico, CA, a home is “going to sell for the most amount of money in the first 30 days.”
“Buyers right now are really savvy,” she explains. “They have a lot of ways to do market research. If it’s sitting on the market for more than 30 days, we typically have buyers asking, ‘What’s wrong with it?’”
In fact, in this study about days on market transparency, the study’s authors write, “Ifa home has spent too many days on the market, this is usually interpreted as a negative quality signal, as buyers speculate that there are maybe flaws which made the property hard to sell to previous buyers.”
Having your home sit on the market is more than just frustrating—it’s probably costing you money. In this analysis, of the U.S. housing market, homes that sold in the first seven days sold for the list price, while homes that sat for 30 days sold for 4% below list.
The longer a listing sat, the more the sale price fell below list price. So every day that your home isn’t selling, it is, statistically, going to sell for less. But don’t panic! With some changes, you can bring in the buyers again.
Here are 7 likely reasons your home isn’t selling.
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.”
Pricing a house too high is a common mistake: according to our Top Agents Insights Report, 51% of agents found that pricing a home incorrectly is the biggest error sellers make.
Pricing a home for sale is tricky. There are a lot of ways to slice the data to determine your home’s fair market value. And while data, usually from sales of comparable homes in the area, is important, a top agent’s experience can be invaluable when building a pricing strategy.
“My job is to position my listings to where they sell in the first 30 days,” says Simpkins.
How do you know if your home is priced too high? If you priced the home yourself, consult a real estate agent for advice. A top agent should be able to tell you at once if your asking price is too ambitious.
Another way is to listen to the feedback you’re getting from people at open houses and showings. You can even just browse local listings. If your home is priced higher than comparable properties in your area, your problem is probably price.
What’s the fix?
Time for a price drop. “I don’t think you should go more than three weeks without doing a price reduction,” says Simpkins.
And while it’s no fun to realize your home isn’t worth what you thought it was, you’re not alone. In 2017, 22% of sellers reported reducing the asking price of their home at least once, according to the National Association of Realtors.
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.”
2. Your home doesn’t fit the mold
The 30-day rule doesn’t apply to everybody, however. Some properties have features that make it more difficult to find the right buyer.
“I either think you have a unique property, or a property that is relatively easy to sell,” explains Simpkins. Unique properties—like very large homes, very high-end or expensive houses, homes in unusual areas, or just homes with odd or unusual features—take a little longer to match with a buyer, and that’s okay.
For example, Simpkins explains, a recent client was trying to sell a home that had two complete living spaces in the same house. Two kitchens, living rooms, and masters, on two different floors, but not separated into two apartments or zoned to be a two family.
To sell such an unusual home, Simpkins had to change her marketing strategy, finding ways to help buyers picture themselves in the space and suggesting possible upsides: an Air Bnb rental or room for live-in family.
What’s the fix?
First of all, patience. If your home is unusual, you’re probably going to have to wait a little longer for the perfect buyer to show up.
Second, make sure your marketing and advertising strategy is designed to appeal to the buyer you’re looking for. Cast the unusual features of the home in the most positive light, and try to get your listing in front of the right people.
Selling an unusual home might require listing the property in places other than the usual online real estate sites. If there’s a specialty website, mailing list, local app like Nextdoor, or even print publication that could reach specific potential buyers, make sure to use it.
Think about what appealed to you when you bought the home—there’s gotta be another buyer out there who feels the same way. And if your main motivating factor for buying an unusual house was a rock bottom price? Well, there’s another solution.
3. Your staging is bad
It might seem silly—the buyer isn’t shopping for furniture, after all—but staging matters. “There is a difference between staged homes and vacant homes,” says Simpkins. “Typically, a staged home sells for more money and it does sell in a shorter amount of time.”
Why? “The more you can let them picture their own stuff there, the better,” says Simpkins. Unstaged, or worse, badly staged homes can seem cluttered, dark, and small.
While vacant homes have the problem of potential buyers not being able to really envision the space’s potential, homes crammed with too much of the current owner’s stuff feel cramped and overwhelming.
Incorrect staging can fail to show off your home’s assets or even worse, highlight flaws you’re hoping to draw buyers’ attention away from.
And staging isn’t just about decluttering and bowls of fruit. It’s also about fixing up the little things that distract people from your awesome home. Most buyers have trouble seeing past cosmetic issues like scuffed paint, floors in need of refinishing, or outdated fixtures.
What’s the fix?
Make little upgrades, paint, fix anything that’s broken, clean up your yard, and do a brutal decluttering pass.
Consider hiring a stager to help you show your home at its best. If you’re working with a top agent, they almost certainly have someone whose eye they trust: use that resource.
It’s understandable that you don’t want to spend a lot of money fixing up a house you’re selling, but little upgrades will often bring a huge return on investment.
And packing up a bunch of your things and sending them to storage or living in a home with furniture that isn’t yours might sound unappealing, but can sell your house faster and for more. Hey, nobody said selling a home for top dollar is easy!
4. Your curb appeal is no good
Curb appeal is like the staging of the outside part of your home. It’s an old real estate chestnut, but the first impression a buyer gets from your house is important.
An ugly yard or run-down facade will turn people off. The last thing you want someone thinking as they walk up to your door is “fixer-upper.”
While it doesn’t necessarily make rational sense that a few flowers would translate to thousands of dollars in purchase price, a lot of homebuying decisions are done at least partially subconsciously, or by “gut.” Staging and curb appeal are part of that.
Don’t believe me? The numbers don’t lie: lawn care gets an average 303% ROI, general landscaping 100%.
What’s the fix?
Upgrade your landscaping, get your grass a brilliant green, plant a few flowers, and fix anything obviously broken on the front of your home.
A professional landscaper or stager can help advise you on the easiest ways to make your yard look great. And hey, why not paint your door a cute color? The right shade could help make the sale.
5. Your listing photos aren’t professional quality
44% of buyers look online before doing anything else, and 89% of buyers found listing photos useful, according to the National Association of Realtors. If your listing photos don’t show off how great your house is, nobody is going to come in person to see it.
These days, a few poorly-lit iPhone shots just aren’t going to cut it: listing photos taken with a professional camera get 61% more pageviews. And even more importantly, good photos increase price by between $934 and $116,076.
What’s the fix?
Hire a professional to re-do your listing photos. This is something your agent should have arranged for you at the outset, and one of the things your commission is going to pay for.
If your realtor doesn’t provide a photographer, it’s worth it to find someone yourself. It’s another instance where a little investment on the front end will deliver huge returns.
6. You’ve got a specific problem to address
Even if a showing doesn’t provide you with a buyer, it gives you something important: data. “Showing feedback is extremely important,” says Simpkins.
According to Simpkins, the questions your agent should be asking at 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 people seeing your house say it’s too dark, add lighting, declutter, or have windows cleaned.
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.
Unfortunately, some things can’t be changed. If the issue is that you’re located on a busy street or the neighborhood isn’t as picturesque as buyers were hoping? “Price cures all,” says Simpkins.
7. You’re getting bad advice
Almost everything on this list could have been prevented by working with an experienced agent at the top of their game. Your realtor should help with pricing, staging, and curb appeal, and should be taking charge of marketing and responding to feedback from showings.
Simpkins shares a story of a potential client whose backyard she felt wasn’t private enough. Her suggestion was to put up a bamboo fence and make some changes to increase the privacy factor. The seller ended up going with another agent.
“The agent who received the listing put it on the market, six months went by, and she didn’t sell it. He decided to rent it, and the renter actually damaged the home. So it cost my seller quite a bit of money to get the house back into the proper condition even to get it back on the market,” she says.
“He called me and said, ‘You know, I really appreciated what you told me last year, and I’m really sorry that I didn’t listen to you. I think one of the big mistakes we made was not doing something to the back yard.’”
Simpkins brought in her landscaper to help the seller make the recommended changes to the backyard.
“We actually received an offer within a week of putting it on the market,” Simpkins says. A costly mistake for that seller, but a happy ending.
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.
“Unfortunately, when you list with the wrong agent,” says Simpkins, “You either end up taking a lot less for the home, or staying in it for another six months or a year.”
Top 5% agents sell single-family homes for an average of $10,000 more and 12 days faster.
It’s not too late to get that home sold.
With the right adjustments to your home’s price, listing, staging, or condition, it will sell. There’s a buyer for every home.
Worst-case scenario, you have to take your home off the market while you make some changes and then relist. The good news is that if you have to relist the home, you can start fresh with a new agent, if necessary.