There are exceptions to every rule under the sun. So, even though the current market climate is hot in most places, every neighborhood, town and county has those homes that simply sit on the market for days, weeks, even months longer than average.
These are the outliers. And being the outlier, in this particular context, is not a fun place to be. When all the other listings seem to be flying off the market and yours seems to be stuck, it’s easy to delve into fear, panic and even depression.
Here’s a glimmer of hope: there is a pretty short list of reasons that most slow-to-sell homes lag on the market. You’ve probably heard at least a couple of them before, maybe even from your real estate agent. But sometimes hearing things a few times, from different people and at the right moment in time can cause the shift in position that will power a shift in the situations that are keeping your home sale stuck – and your life plans stuck with it.
1. You’re stuck on a too-high price. If your home has been sitting on the market for significantly longer than average, the market has spoken. And it’s saying: the price is too high vis-a-vis the current condition of the market and the property. Period.
There are only three variables in this equation – which is helpful, because it means there are really only three ways to fix this situation:
- change the condition of your property
- wait until your market conditions change to support a higher price
- change the list price.
That’s it. That’s all there really is. For most sellers the simplest, most sensible of these three variables is to modify is the list price. This is especially so in cases where the home is in good basic condition, is well-staged, and other homes nearby are flying off the market. The fact that you don’t want to hear that your home is overpriced doesn’t mean it’s not the truth.
Today’s market is ascending in most areas, which simply means that prices are on the rise. Some sellers are waiting to list their homes, hoping that prices will be higher in the years to come. But if you want and need to sell your home sooner than later or you are hoping to sell in time to buy your next home before prices rise much higher, holding out for a higher price probably doesn’t make sense.
In fact, your resistance to making a necessary price cut could backfire. Buyers often keep their eye on overpriced but otherwise nice homes, waiting until they suspect the seller’s desperation will make them more receptive to a lowball offer.
2. Your home is not being fully exposed to the market. So the truth that the market has spoken on the matter of overpricing does have one caveat: it assumes the market has actually been exposed to your home. If your home’s marketing plan has been limited to that red-and-black For Sale sign you got at the hardware store and stuck in the lawn, chances are good that your home is lagging because your area’s community of buyers and brokers have no idea it is on the market!
Other common conditions of home sale-preventing underexposure include:
- Homes that are not listed on the area’s Multiple Listing Service or MLS
- Homes that are not listed on major real estate search engines, like Trulia
- Homes that are very difficult to show or are rarely made available for viewing
- Homes that are listed online with no, few or poor quality property photos.
If your home is lagging on the market and any of the above apply to your listing, they could be the culprit. If you chose a listing agent who has a strong track record of success selling homes, these sorts of listing issues can sometimes reflect a glitch in the system. So, do a double check – Google your address and see how your home is represented online. If you find any of these issues, work with your agent to get them fixed.
If you didn’t engage a listing agent at all and your home is simply not moving, it might be time to reconsider and course-correct your home-selling plan.
3. Your home has a glaring issue that needs resolving. Many times, a big condition issue can cause a home to sit on the market unless and until the seller either (a) fixes the issue, (b) offers a credit or incentive to offset the issue or (c ) reduces the price so low that a buyer thinks the bargain is worth the hassle. Some situations are too costly for a seller to fix (e.g., foundation needs replacing), and others are not fix-able (nuclear power plant next door). In these situations, reducing the price might be the only resolution.
But other listings are sabotaged by highly fixable issues the seller simply might not be willing to admit are at the root of the problem. You might love the highlighter yellow you chose to paint all of your home’s interior walls, the wall-to-wall powder blue sculpted carpet or the “rustic” look of the weathered paint, fences and trims on the exterior. Or maybe you don’t love them, but you think buyers should just look past these issues.
Your home’s slowness to move is a wake-call. The average buyers’ tastes might simply differ from yours. Or maybe in your area and price range, buyers don’t have to look past issues to find a home that is move-in ready. To concern yourself about what buyers “should” be willing to do is to live in a fantasy world – and as long as you’re there, your home won’t move in real life.
4. You’re not really ready to move on. If none of your agent’s advice about how to shift your home’s fate makes sense, if everything on this list strikes you as outrageous, if even your friends’ and family members’ urgings to cut the list price makes you think the whole world must be crazy, ask yourself this question: are you really, truly ready to move on?
It’s not at all bizarre for home sellers who are deeply attached to a longtime family home, or somewhat fearful about the next phase of their lives to make decisions around their home’s listing that keep it from selling. I once showed a house where there were people still sleeping, in beds that were – bizarrely – in the living room, while the listing agent walked my buyer and I through the place. If you find yourself in a situation where your head is telling you that cutting the price is the right thing to do, but your heart makes you do everything possible to keep the home from being shown, consider whether you are truly ready to move on.
If you ultimately decide that you do want or need to sell the home and move on, but are anxious or fearful for whatever reason, don’t take your fear out on your listing. Notice where your decisions and behavior might be sabotaging the higher purpose of getting your home sold and manage your own mindset so you can get out of the way of your own progress.
Past Sellers: Did your home lag, even in a hot market? What was the game-changer for your home?
Buyers + Agents: What issues do you see that keep homes from selling?