home for sale

Why your house isn’t selling — and what you should do about it

Selling a home is an emotional affair, especially if you’ve lived there for any length of time and if good memories are associated with it. It also can be a stressful affair, particularly if the house sits on the market without any solid offers.

We talked to real estate agents to find out what home sellers are doing wrong — and what to do to improve their chances of a successful sale. Here are eight observations that they made.

1. You incorrectly priced it.

“I like to say price overcomes all objections,” said Ron Jasgur, a broker at Seller Nation in the Detroit, MI, area.

Jasgur said sellers often don’t recognize any negatives of their property that might require a price adjustment. Or they aren’t strategic when setting the price.

If homes in the $300,000-to-$350,000 range are hot sellers in your area, but you listed your home at $299,900, for example, it might not get noticed by a key segment of potential buyers. Have your agent research what other homes in your neighborhood are selling for and be realistic about whether yours is similarly valued.

2. You put off maintenance.

home maintenance

Is the water heater out of compliance with the latest building code requirements? Does the roof leak? Is there a foundation problem?

A home warranty can help overcome some objections and covers things such as major appliances and plumbing. If there are maintenance issues that you can’t afford to repair, then be realistic on the price and don’t try to hide problems, said John Lawrence, a real estate agent for My Castle Realty in Houston, TX.

“Be upfront with your disclosures and the costs the new buyer will incur,” Lawrence said.

3. You haven’t renovated.

If you haven’t updated the home recently, it might not meet buyer expectations. Shag carpet, wallpaper, Hollywood lights and brass fixtures will date your home. Weird paint colors can be a huge turnoff, too.

Blame it on HGTV, but most buyers also expect granite or quartz countertops in the kitchen, even in moderately priced homes. Consider having the home staged.

For advice on staging your home, check out our article on staging advice to boost your home’s value.

4. You let emotions rule.

emotional man

You want buyers to be emotional, but the seller should be viewing this as a business transaction. Remove all personal items such as framed family photos or college degrees.

“If you have that stuff hanging up, it becomes about who lives there and not about the house itself,” said Shelly Woodcox-Unruh, who sells homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, region.

Never reschedule a showing, said Jasgur, who notes that a seller always should host a showing even if it’s inconvenient.

5. Your location is a downer.

Let’s face it: Some homes just aren’t in the best location, and you can’t really do much about that. You might be situated on a busy street, or you might have neighbors who have a yard that’s overgrown with weeds.

You can’t do anything about the busy street, but maybe you can offer the neighbors a six-pack if they’ll tidy up their yard, or you could offer to keep it mowed for them while your home is on the market.

6. Your photos stink.

photo of ugly home

Many buyers do their initial home searches over the Internet, so bad photos of your home hurt more than no photos at all. Leave some things to the imagination if the house doesn’t photograph well. A few well-chosen photos are better than dozens of terrible ones.

7. You listed at the wrong time.

Be aware that it’s generally harder to sell a home in the fall and winter. List in the spring if you can.

8. You ignored curb appeal and decluttering.

Put down fresh mulch, trim shrubs, wash the windows and power-wash the driveway.

Inside, remove clutter and have the carpets cleaned. Woodcox-Unruh recommends baking cookies or simmering mulling spices before a showing so that pleasant smells permeate the house. Go one step further, and put the cookies on the counter with a welcome sign offering them to the potential buyers.

Bottom line

By all means, make sure you’re fully ready before you put your home up for sale.

“I speak with a lot of sellers, and the biggest mistake a seller can make is putting a house on the market before it is ready,” Jasgur said.

So take an assessment and be sure everything, from the price to the fresh mulch, is in order. Then sell, sell, sell!

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