If you’re asking, “Why won’t my house sell?,” you need to diagnose your situation like a doctor searching for the root of the cause. The worst thing you can do is just treat the symptoms (the lack of interest in your house) with Band-Aids and Tylenol (expensive remodels and candy dishes at showings).
The good news is that your list of culprits is a lot shorter than the 55,000 codes that make up the International Classification of Diseases.
“There are two main reasons homes don’t sell,” says Nicolas Jonville, a real estate agent who ranks in the top 1% in San Marcos, California. “The first is it’s overpriced—the price does not match with the property condition or location. Another reason is that it’s underexposed—the marketing is insufficient or inadequate.”
Whatever the diagnosis, you’ve still got options. Top-selling agents, like Jonville, can revamp your home’s presentation to grab buyer attention and price it correctly.
You can also choose to forego the open market and sell directly to a cash buyer. HomeLight’s Simple Sale tool lets you review the best offers from our network of buyers and compare with what you can expect to sell for with a top agent.
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If you’re ready to brave the open market, read on for our best dose of advice on how sell a home that just won’t sell.
We’ll break down the intricacies of pricing your home ahead of the market, share top agents’ best marketing practices like building a heavy online presence, and explain why simple DIY projects like decluttering are must-do items to get buyers in the door.
Who holds the power in your market, sellers or buyers?
According to the National Association of Realtors, in 2017 the average time a (successfully sold) home spent on the market was just three weeks. Top agents like Jonville have been known to sell a home in less than 10 days, or better yet, even before it hits the market.
So if your home’s sat on the market for months (with few or zero offers), you’re right to be concerned.
The number one reason homes don’t sell is price (seriously, just open any article on the topic).
And understanding the power balance in your real estate market is the first step to getting back on track.
Ideally you want to price your home ahead of the market at the outset. That involves working with your real estate agent to understand local market trends, and what your home will be worth in the coming weeks. But chances are, if you’re reading this, that’s not what happened, and you’ll need to make some adjustments.
How much you can get for your home is directly related to the dynamics between buyers and sellers in your market. If it’s a seller’s market, that means there are fewer homes for sale and more buyers who want them (low supply and high demand). In that case, you should price your home at the top of its range.
But if you’re selling in a buyer’s market, then the opposite is true. A buyer’s market has a surplus of homes on the market—too much supply for current demand.
When buyers hold the cards, you have to price your home accordingly on the modest end of your range.
The price isn’t right… so here’s how to find your target
You could be pricing your home too high in a buyer’s market.
It also may be the case that your real estate agent overpriced your home as a way to get your business. And another possibility? Your home’s sentimental value clouded your judgment and you’ve been too stubborn to let your agent lower the price.
Whatever the reason, if pricing is your issue, rarely is it because you lowballed it. If you did, you’d be facing a bidding war.
Jonville describes the following problematic situation:
“Someone wants $500,000 for their home but comparable homes for that condition are selling for $480,000. You don’t want to be the house that makes other houses sell. You want to be the house that sells.”
Could it get much simpler?
To nail down an accurate price, you need to perform a comparative market analysis. Assuming your agent already did one, one of three things must happen: you follow your agent’s advice from here, your agent personally goes back to the drawing board and does a fresh CMA, or you hire a new agent who can price your home correctly.
A CMA is the single most accurate way to price your home because it takes into account all of the little details, like whether your property has a small yard, or if it’s positioned on the corner of a busy road. Now’s not the time to go with the flatteringly high estimate you got off the internet.
Red flags that your home is overpriced:
- You chose your real estate agent because their estimated value of your home was the highest
- Your home is listed for more than the typical home in your area, based on the comps you ran
- The automated valuation tools’ estimates are higher than your agent’s CMA, or they dish up dramatically different estimates of your home’s worth
- You’re getting plenty of showings, but no offers
Check your real estate agent’s marketing plan: Is it sufficient?
Your home could also be sitting on the market because your agent hasn’t marketed it properly. Make no mistakes: that’s their job, and the best real estate agents in the business are also brilliant marketers.
What has your agent done to advertise the sale of the home? If the answer is “not much,” then that is a big part of the problem.
You should check that your agent:
- Wrote a compelling listing description highlighting your home’s strengths
- Uploaded your home’s details and gorgeous listing photos to the multiple listing service (MLS)
- Syndicated your listing to the most popular real estate websites such as Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com with bells and whistles like virtual tours or listing videos
- Optimized your listing for the search engines with keywords specific to your neighborhood and school district
- Created a single-property website, meaning your listing has its own URL
- Shared your listing across social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and targeted ideal buyers on Facebook
- Advertised your home the old-fashioned way across print media, including newspapers, magazines and local flyers, to reach more buyers.
- Networked with buyer’s agents in the area to bring home hunters looking in your neighborhood and price point to the table
Equally important is the quality of the marketing materials you’re producing. Did a top-rated professional photographer take your listing photos with a DSLR camera and wide lens? Do your agent’s social media posts have great copy and lots of interaction? Do your print materials look well-designed and high quality?
Some of the best agents will even go as far as to create hype around a home before it hits the market. This makes for a much faster sale.
“We reach out to other agents letting them know about a property that’s ‘coming soon’, emailing our agent database, putting ads up on our websites. We [also] start sending flyers out in neighborhoods,” says Jonville. “10 days before we go to market, we’ve already started marketing the home with this teaser campaign. When we finally go on the market, we have all these buyers already excited. And that’s why our market time is so short, it’s not unusual for us to receive offers before we even list the home.”
Red flags that you need a new marketing plan:
- Your agent hasn’t booked any tours or showing traffic has been abysmal
- You’ve done a search for your listing on Google and it doesn’t come up
- You can’t find your listing on Zillow, Redfin or realtor.com, or your listing information is out of date
- You’ve checked your agent’s social media accounts, and there have been no posts about your property
- Your agent hasn’t filled you in on their conversations with local buyer’s agents
How your home’s condition is tied to pricing and marketing
Let’s go back to the beginning when we mentioned that the price of your home needs to match its condition.
Chances are you aren’t looking to drop 20 grand on an expensive remodel at this point in the game to improve your home’s condition—and you shouldn’t. If your home won’t sell, the solution is not to take a jackhammer and go into total demolition mode.
But there are three critical steps top agents will recommend time and again to get your home ready for showings: declutter, deep clean and stage—in that order.
It’s emotionally and physically draining to declutter your home, but it’s 100% necessary so that buyers can envision their own belongings in your house. Decluttering will also make your space feel bigger, which buyers will appreciate.
So get your personal items, like kids toys and sports memorabilia, out of sight and toss them into garbage bags, donate them to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill, or put them in a storage unit until you can move them to your next place.
Your Decluttering Checklist
Here's a checklist that you can print out and work through to declutter every room in your house.
Now that you’re working with a blank canvas, it will be much easier to deep clean the entire house. That means all the normal cleaning you’d do in preparation for company, and then some.
Don’t forget to dust and clean the blinds, wash the windows, wipe markings off baseboards and polish the floors—those cleaning tasks you only do on a monthly or quarterly basis. Then, before each showing, you’ll need to tidy up in a jiffy and make sure everything’s in its place.
Your Deep Cleaning Checklist
We’ve put together a checklist that you can print out and work on as you move through the house on your deep cleaning quest.
Next, it’s time to stage the most important rooms (namely, the living room and master bedroom) to help buyers visualize the potential of these spaces. If your home’s been sitting on the market for some time, professional staging could be a total game changer, especially if your house is vacant.
Top real estate pros agree that effective staging can decrease your time on market and help it sell for more money.
Finally, save time on the weekend to tackle cheap projects proven to add value to your home and impress buyers:
- Paint over any loud-colored walls with a fresh coat of a neutral shade (you can never go wrong with beige)
- Trim your trees and hedges, clean up leaves and debris, and add a few curb appeal boosters to your yard and front step
- Switch out old light fixtures, cabinet knobs and drawer pulls with fresh hardware
Voila! These simple, inexpensive upgrades could be the ticket to receiving your first offer.
Red flags that your home’s condition is the problem:
- You’re booking showings but no one has made an offer
- Buyers have made negative comments at your showings about how your house looks and smells
- You’ve made little to no effort to put away your personal belongings and clutter before showings
- You skimped on staging fees and just had your friend from college do a bit of feng shui
- You’ve neglected your lawn care over the past few months
- Your home’s interior is a hodge-podge of bold room colors
Get to the bottom of ‘Why won’t my house sell?’
You’ll hear top agents say that you can sell any home if the price is right. So if you find yourself asking, “Why won’t my house sell?” you now know where to start.
If you haven’t followed your agent’s advice up until this point, that may be the problem.
If you’re not feeling confident in your agent, however, the truth is there are over 2 million licensed agents in the U.S., but only a handful are top-performers who can sell your house faster.
Working with one of the best real estate agents in your area who understands the market and can fix the issue—whether that means adjusting the price, doubling down on marketing efforts, or giving your home a spruce up—will make all the difference.
Find a Top Agent in Your Area Now
HomeLight gathers real estate transaction data to identify these top performing real estate agents all over the country based on their actual transaction history.
So if you’re still feeling lost, just enter the address of the house you’re selling, we’ll crunch the numbers and match you with two to three top agents who are objectively proven to sell homes in your area similar to yours faster and for more money than other agents in the same area.
They will get your house sold in no time.
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