6 reasons your home
So, you're in agony
because your home has languished on the market week after week. Here are
some culprits that may be keeping buyers away in droves.
lawn grown up around that "For Sale" sign? Have the wasps moved into the
lock box on your front door? Did you just receive an invitation to your
real estate agent's retirement party?
If so, chances are your home sale fizzled.
Here are the six most-common reasons why homes don't sell and what you
can do about it.
Your home is overpriced
Optimistic home sellers love to parrot the old adage, "There's a buyer
for every home." But they often leave off the qualifier: "at the buyer's
The fact is that buyers, not sellers,
ultimately determine the market value of a home. You can ask for the
moon and set your listing price well above comparable properties in your
neighborhood, but at some point it will be up to you, the seller, to
accept what the buyer thinks your home is worth.
Overpricing is the most common reason homes don't sell. When you ask an
unrealistic price, it sets in motion a process that often works against
you. Here's why:
Most real estate agents, and hence most qualified buyers, will see your
new listing within 30 days. If it is overpriced by as little as 5%, it
will be duly noted and interest in your property will wane, especially
if you show no intention of coming off your asking price. You likely
already priced out buyers who might have qualified for financing at a
more reasonable price. Even if you manage to find a buyer at your
inflated asking price, the property may not appraise at that figure and
the financing will fall apart.
Your real estate agent may have approved or even suggested the inflated
asking price to secure your listing. Conversely, other agents often use
overpriced properties like yours to help sell their own listings
("Here's what they are asking. Now would you like to take a second look
at that first house I showed you?")
"If you have a house that really should be priced at $200,000 and you've
got it listed at $260,000, you are trying to compete against homes that
really are worth close to $300,000 and all of a sudden your home really
is not competing well," says Jeri Fisher of Jeri Fisher Real Estate in
Missoula, Mont. "You want to compete with what is available out there
among homes similar to yours."
If your home remains on the market for too long, agents and buyers may
begin to wonder if there are other, perhaps more serious reasons why it
"It becomes shopworn, the same as a jacket hanging in the store week
after week," says Fisher. "People are aware that it has been on the
market a long time and agents stop showing it."
Your home doesn't 'show' well
Your home is competing against shiny new houses in those pristine
subdivisions out in the suburbs with their attractive prices, incentives
and community amenities.
Face it: Even the best old house needs a little makeover if it hopes to
attract a qualified buyer.
The good news is most of the work will be cosmetic and relatively
inexpensive: a new coat of paint, a few attractive window boxes, a
thorough cleaning of floors and carpets. Voila! The place may look good
enough to reconsider.
A good real estate agent can advise you on where your time and money are
"Price and condition are two things that the seller can do something
about," says Fisher. "I always give people my 'honey-do' list. I think
paint is probably a seller's best friend because it makes things smell
fresh and look fresh. If it's time to paint, it's time to paint. It's
the best return on investment."
You're in a bad location
Nothing has a greater effect on your home's value than its location.
Your humble abode might be worth a king's ransom were it located in Palm
Beach, Aspen or San Francisco. It might even jump thousands in value
just two streets over in the next (and far superior) school district.
"If you're in one of the higher-ranked schools around here, you're going
to add $50,000 to $100,000 to the price of the same house," says Lenn
Harley, a broker with Homefinders.com Inc. in Maryland and Virginia.
The point is, location rules in real estate.
If your home's location is less than desirable, your options are
somewhat limited. A good real estate agent will do his best to help you
accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative of your
circumstances, say by using foliage to screen off offensive adjoining
properties or dampen traffic noise.
The best way to compensate for a poor location is to reduce your asking
price or offer attractive incentives such as seller financing or a lease
option with rent credit.
You have a lousy listing agent
Yep, they exist: Real estate agents who mislead, misfire and misbehave.
Their bad advice can cost you plenty in time, money and the sheer hassle
of keeping the place show-ready 24/7.
The agent from hell will allow you to overprice your home ("Here's what
I can get for you if you list with me!"), not market it properly, fail
to screen for qualified buyers, be unresponsive to interest from other
agents (if they sell their own listing, they don't have to split the
commission) and keep you totally in the dark throughout the process.
What's more, if your agent is abrasive, arrogant or otherwise difficult
to work with, other agents may not want the hassle of showing any of
their listings to prospective buyers.
You are battling competition or market
We've all heard the terms "buyer's market" and "seller's market." In
real estate, market conditions are affected by any number of external
forces, some of them predictable (the weather, sort of), some of them
unpredictable (the local economy, interest rates, public optimism or
In a "hot" or seller's market, homes go fast. Inventory (homes on the
market) may be low, meaning less competition for you. Chances are better
that you will get your asking price in a hot market; in fact, it is not
uncommon to even be offered more than your listing price.
But in a "flat," "cold" or buyer's market, sales slow to a trickle,
inventories grow and buyers can find bargains, especially when they know
the seller is motivated (i.e., paying on two mortgages).
If you're trying to sell in a flat market, you're not only competing
against all that vacant new construction, but against rentals as well.
In this case, be prepared to settle for less than top dollar, or wait to
sell until the pendulum swings once again in your favor.
You have ineffective marketing
Gone are the days when an agent could simply place your listing with the
local multiple listing service, hold a halfhearted open house and wait
for another agent to bring forth a buyer.
Today's top performers launch a multilevel marketing plan that includes
listing tours for area agents, newspaper and even TV ads, weekend open
houses, listing fliers and placements in local real estate publications.
Computers and the Internet also have changed the face of real estate.
According to the National Association of Realtors, today more than
one-third of all home buyers use the Internet for house hunting. The
best real estate agents are computer-savvy. They have your listing in
color on their laptops to show clients and communicate frequently via
e-mail, a particular boon when working with out-of-town buyers.
Suffice it to say that if your real estate agent isn't listing your home
online through the company Web site as well as with the local MLS, you
may not be getting the exposure necessary to find a buyer.
"There are those who just put the listing in the multiple and pray it
will sell and those that put a lot of effort into marketing their
listings," says Fisher. "Unfortunately, with this weird system of
compensation we have, they all get paid the same, whether they know
nothing or have many years of experience."
Thinking of buying or selling real
estate? Visit the
Appalachian Mountain Realty Guide.
Realtor and For Sale by Owner real estate listings with a great selection of mountain homes and land