Homes today are sometimes selling within days of being listed for sale. So what’s a homeowner to do if their property sits on the market longer than expected? Often a price adjustment is the most obvious answer, but agents say before you take a hit, try to figure out if there are any other reasons your home is sitting while others are selling.
Here are some of the top reasons your house might be lingering on the market and what you can do, according to agents:
1. The pricing is off. Getting it right starts with a knowledgeable real estate professional who is familiar with the neighborhood. He or she will analyze the homes that have sold nearby, and take into consideration your home’s unique features and location.
Carol Welsh, a Long & Foster agent based in Reston, Virginia, said she counsels her sellers that the house has to look the part if they’re going to get top dollar. She often recommends buyers invest in replacing old carpeting with new (but no builder grade), neutral paint, new fixtures and updated hardware – before buyers ever see inside the home, ideally.
“You’ll usually make the money back when you sell,” Welsh said. “If you spend $2,000 to get the home ready, you could get $4,000 back.” That brings us to the next item: the condition.
2. The house looks dirty and tired. Welsh says every home she lists gets new shower curtains, surfaces sparkle, carpets are new or steamed clean, wood floors might be buffed and refinished if necessary, and clutter is banished.
“You don’t want people to walk in and be grossed out,” she said. “They will walk right back out.” Scented air fresheners and strong-smelling cleaning products can backfire and create the impression there’s an underlying problem. Every seller should have an honest third party do a sniff test.
Condition and pricing go hand-in-hand, and are two factors the seller can control, said Cindy Souza, a Long & Foster brokerage manager and agent based in Bethesda, Maryland. If it’s being sold as a fixer upper because of its condition, it has to be priced to attract the handy person looking for that kind of property.
3. You’re not getting maximum exposure. Listing your home through a broker will get basic information about your property into a real estate listing service and real estate websites. But that’s not nearly enough, said Phil Gerdes, a Long & Foster agent based in Annapolis, Maryland.
“If your house has been on the market for a while, and I can’t find your marketing outside of the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), then no one knows about your house,” Gerdes said.
Gerdes said he and his wife, Victoria, also an agent, employ a marketing strategy that involves high quality, fast-paced video including drone footage, professional photography, social media advertising, phone calls to at least 1,500 prospective buyers, post cards, and hand-delivered invitations to the open house – which is more of a launch party, with catered food and Champagne.
“We’re big on digital, but we don’t forget the fundamentals,” Gerdes said. “We’re going to send just-listed cards. I’m going to do a four-page brochure. I know for a fact it’s easier to make a lay-up than a three-pointer.”
4. There’s something about the location. Buyers might be more forgiving if a home with stunning water views isn’t in top shape, Welsh said. A home situated in a spot that a buyer might perceive as flawed has to make up for that by wowing in other ways.
Souza said she’s is a believer in reaching out to other agents who have sold homes in the neighborhood to get ideas, if a house isn’t moving. “I try to find out what buyers who purchased there were excited about,” she said. “It could be the walkability of the neighborhood, or the convenience factor of having the Metro close by. We can play up the strengths.”
5. The right buyer just hasn’t come along yet. “People have different reasons for liking or not liking a home, no matter how nice your house is,” Welsh said. “Sometimes your house is priced right, and it shows great, but there’s not someone out there at the moment who is looking for what you have to offer.”
Souza said in such cases, she might switch out the pictures and change the description buyers see online, or refresh the listing altogether so it comes up as newly on the market. “You have to keep putting it in front of buyers,” she said.