Why Isn’t My House Selling: Here’s a Reality Check & Next Steps

9 November 2018Home Selling

Corrective Actions You Need To Take When Your House Isn’t Selling

 

Table of Contents

 

picture of a warning signWarning: Do NOT read this article if any of these apply to you.

  • You know everything about selling houses
  • You are going to blame everyone else but yourself for your house not selling by now
  • You are not willing to make changes to your home selling strategy
  • You are not going to read this entire article and actually listen to the advice

Still reading? Good. It’s time to put your ego aside, because this is a tough love article and you might get beat up a bit. But in the end, you should be properly equipped to get your home sale back on track.

That is what you want, right?

Ok, lets get started then.

Whatever your reasons, you have a house that you no longer wish to own, so you’ve listed it for sale. Trouble is, nothing is happening. The showings and inquiries have slowed or even stopped, or worse maybe they never even started.

Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle? You may have heard it called the 80/20 rule.

This principle states that 80% of effects come about through 20% of causes. Think of it in terms of the real estate business, where 80% of sales come from 20% of the activities. I would even argue that it is higher than 80%.

The 20% that I’m referring to is the items that you need to focus on that will actually get those inquiries and showings started again and get your house sold.

That is what we are covering in this article.

We want you to ignore the rest of the nonsense you may have heard about how to sell a house and consider it noise. Don’t focus on any preconceived notions you might have, don’t listen to your friend or coworker that thinks they have a solution, listen to me and follow the below advice.

Keep in mind,  we’ve listed A LOT of houses and seen the results first hand (both good & bad), so we are in a unique position to give you this advice.

Also, you can trust us, we want you to sell your house and we will not financially gain anything if you sell or don’t sell.

That said, there are two main areas that Realtors see time and time again stand out as the culprits of a house not selling:

  1. Something in your listing and/or marketing needs to change (i.e. you are not attracting buyers in your market). I cover this in “The Top Five Reasons Your Listing Won’t Sell” section of this article.
  2. You need to reconsider your how your house shows to buyers once they express any interest. I cover this in “Six Reasons Your Inquiries Don’t Transition to a Sale” section of this article.

I’m not going to beat around the bush. Selling your house isn’t really that hard.

The trouble comes when simple mistakes are made. The moment a buyer sees something unappealing about a house for sale, they will move on to the next.

As a For Sale By Owner seller, your responsibility will be to figure out what the issue is with your listing that is pushing away potential sales.

The first step is finding the problem, so let’s take a look at the top five reasons a listing won’t sell to help you find that problem.

picture of a man who is confused about not selling his house yet

The Top Five Reasons Your Listing Won’t Sell

 
Focusing on what really matters to sell your house  means evaluating these common reasons why your house isn’t selling.

  1. More Than Likely, Your House is OVERPRICED
  2. Your Home Is Not STAGED to sell
  3. Your Listing PHOTOGRAPHS Are Seriously Lacking
  4. You Are Not Offering Enough COMMISSION on the MLS
  5. You Didn’t Make Your Listing Stand Out on ZILLOW

Let’s dive into each of these five areas and figure out if they apply to your home sale. If so, follow the corrective actions and get back on track.

#1. More Than Likely, Your House is OVERPRICED

Right away I know that you don’t want to hear this, but the number one reason a listing doesn’t get interest or offers is the price. If you are attempting to sell your home for too much, buyers will instantly be disinterested.

Buyers today have an unlimited amount of information at their fingertips. With the click of a button, they can check other listings in your area, see prior sales in and around your neighborhood and estimate the value of your home.

Buyers are always conscientious of their budgets. Price is the first aspect of your listing to come under investigation. No matter the value you have placed on your home, if the market doesn’t match, then no one will contact you.

Let me repeat, if you are overpriced, nobody will contact you!

Especially, if you have been on the market for more than 30 days.

Don’t fall for the common trap of overpricing because you think it is the only way to get the most money when you sell. You might be thinking…

“If I don’t ask for it, I never will get it”.

Or

“This is just my list price, buyers can make an offer if they are interested”.

I can tell you right now, that is the wrong way of thinking about the list price of your house.

You NEED to properly determine an appropriate list price for your house by carefully examining the current market in your area, recently sold comparable sales, the size of your property, the condition of your home, and other factors to estimate how much your house is actually worth.

No one will pay an extra $10,000, $20,000 or even $30,000 over market value for your home, so don’t ask for it because it is just keeping buyers away.

And if you are overpriced by $30,000 or more, then you are SERIOUSLY hindering the sale of your home.

Here is what you need to do next.

Corrective Actions For An Overpriced Listing:

  • You need to figure out what the correct market value is for your home. If you can not figure it out by yourself, then hire a real estate appraiser to give you an estimate of value. They can do this for a lot less than a full appraisal.
  • You should seriously consider lowering the price of your house to as close as possible to the market value or even slightly under to attract more buyers.
  • If you are not comfortable with one large adjustment of your price, you can make adjustments in increments of $5,000-10,000 every one to two weeks until you start to see results in the form of more inquiries, showings, and offers.

 

#2. Your Home Is Not STAGED to Sell

The housing market is competitive and just like with any competition, you need to put your best foot forward— this includes staging your home. “Staging” refers to decluttering, arranging your furniture and cleaning your home to a state that is open and appealing to potential buyers.

If a buyer is comparing two comparably-priced homes in the same neighborhood, they are more likely to go with the house that is presented better by its seller. This is what might be happening with your home sale.

Home staging is especially important and is a mandatory prerequisite for when you take the photos.

You need to make your home look really, really good, both in-person and online.

I would advise you to seriously consider hiring a professional home stager for an in-home staging consultation. For about $200-$300 they will come into your home and tell you exactly what needs to be done and give you a report for you to focus on.

Then, while you are in the process of showing and selling your house, you need to ensure that it remains clean and properly staged.  If you are still living in the house during the selling process, stay on top of keeping the house clean and orderly. It may feel like a hassle, but the payoff, in the end, is worth it.

A staged home that has been properly photographed and priced correctly is the perfect combination to correctly market your house online, have buyers anxious to setup a showing and get some offers rolling in.

Corrective Actions For a Home Not Staged To Sell:

  • Consider hiring a professional home stager for an in-home staging consultation and then implement as many of their recommendations as possible.
  • If you don’t bring in a home stager, you need to at least review my guide “How To Get Your House Ready To Sell” and implement as many of those items as possible.
  • If your home is vacant, consider renting staging furniture so buyers can visualize the space better, or check out virtual staging as a less costly option.
  • After you stage your home appropriately, you need to have new photos taken.

 

#3. Your Listing PHOTOGRAPHS Are Seriously Lacking

A picture speaks a thousand words. So, what are your listing photos telling buyers about your home?

One of the most popular aspects about marketing houses for sale online on the MLS, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and all the others, is that buyers can quickly and easily look at photos of homes on the market.

This saves them time and effort from having to tour every house that ends up in their search results, giving them a sneak peek of a property and allows them to decide if they want to setup a showing.

Most real estate agents have caught on to the advantage of having professional real estate photos taken for their listings. So buyers today have higher standards.

If your photographs do not show off your house well, buyers won’t be interested and will not come see your home. Period.

I see home sellers all the time that submit subpar photos and then wonder why their house hasn’t had any showings or inquiries.

Your listing photos need to create a positive first impression to garner interest, showings, and eventually offers.

You might not even be aware that they are working against you.

So how do you know if your photos are bad? To start, I would ask some people who will give you their honest opinion. Next you can review the photographs of other homes on the market in your area. Then, take a look at the below list.

Here are some points to consider if you have bad real estate photographs.

  • The photos were taken with a cell phone camera
  • Your photos were not taken with a wide angle lens
  • Your photos are blurry
  • Your photos are dark and dull
  • Your photos look cluttered or distracting
  • You do not have multiple photos of a room from different angles

Luckily, taking good real estate photos is an easy fix.

Hiring a professional real estate photographer is a popular trend among real estate agents and savvy fsbo’s. While they do introduce an additional cost in the process of selling your home (about $200-$300), the pictures they provide are absolutely astounding.

They know just how to adjust the lighting, and tweak an angle to bring out the beauty in your house. They have professional camera equipment including wide angle lenses on the highest quality cameras to produce crisp images of your house.

Not to mention they can remove common items that would contribute to a less than stellar photo such as replacing a cloudy sky with a blue one.

If you decide to take the photos yourself or have someone you know who is a photography hobbyist take them, be prepared for trial and error. Lighting, spacing, your camera’s quality, and other considerations all affect the quality of your photos. You can find some amazing tutorials for taking good pictures, but you have to be willing to invest the time to learn.

Which is why we recommend spending a few extra dollars on hiring a professional.

Here are some options to get your photos in better shape.

Corrective Actions For Poor Real Estate Photos:

  • Ensure you followed the corrective actions in #2 Staged to Sell then it is time to retake the photos.
  • Find a professional photographer in your area and schedule a photo shoot ASAP. We recommend Planomatic.
  • If you still don’t want to spend the money on hiring a professional photographer, you need to take the best possible photos on your own. Read our guide “How To Take Awesome Real Estate Photos” and follow those instructions.
  • Update your MLS listing as soon as you get the updated photos. They should automatically sync to the online real estate portals within 24-48 hours after the MLS is updated.

 

#4. You Are Not Offering Enough COMMISSION On The MLS

If you are reading this article as one of my flat fee MLS customers, then you are selling by owner and you are saving the listing agents commission.

However, your buyer will most likely be using a buyer’s agent. Because most buyers are working with a real estate agent to find them a house.

These agents make their money based on the commission calculated from the sales price. If you don’t offer a fair commission to the buyer’s agent, then there is a strong possibility they will avoid showing your listing.

Like any employee, real estate agents want to be properly compensated for their time. They are responsible for sorting through anywhere from dozens to hundreds of listings to find what fits their buyer’s criteria, negotiating between all parties, arranging showings, meeting the clients at showings, handling paperwork, and more.

If they feel your commission is too low, then they’ll pass over your listing and move to the next potential house.

You may have personal feelings about how much real estate agents make and whether it is fair to the sellers or even the buyers.

The honest truth is, that doesn’t matter.

You may not think it fair, but agents know what the standard commission is in the market and that is what they expect to bring their clients to your home for a showing.

Current market standards show that offering a 2.5-3% commission is standard practice in most markets. If you offer any less, then you are likely to see interest in your house drop immensely.

Don’t cheap out on what you offer a buyers agent. That is the definition of not cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Corrective Actions For An Inappropriate Buyers Agent Commission:

  • Immediately update your MLS listing to the standard buyers agents commission of 2.5-3%.
  • If you live in a 7% real estate commission state, you need to offer 3.5%.

 

#5. You Didn’t Make Your Listing Stand Out on ZILLOW

Zillow is a powerhouse of a real estate website and it gets almost 43 million visitors each month. To put that in perspective for you, Realtor.com gets about 16.5 million visitors each month and Trulia gets about 12.5 million visitors each month.

This is according to a tool that estimates website traffic due to how they rank in Google. So it probably is a lot more because of direct traffic and this doesn’t even include the app!

So the bottom line is, when you are selling your house, you want to make sure your listing gets attention on Zillow.

When you listed your home on the MLS, it should have synced directly to Zillow, unless you opted out for some reason. Which means your listing will show up when people search or have email alerts setup for new listings.

If you are selling your house as a for sale by owner, with my flat fee MLS service, then you want buyers to contact you directly.

But even though you are selling fsbo, you are technically still listed with a real estate broker and I will show up as the listing agent and 3 other real estate agents will show up on your listing too!

There is no way around this.

To make it more complex and misleading, if a buyer clicks the “Contact Agent” button, the inquiry goes directly to those 3 other agents and not the listing agent!

Zillow makes it very hard for a buyer to contact a listing agent.

This is how Zillow makes money, these 3 other real estate agents pay for those buyer “leads” and they try to convert them into a client.

Like I said, it’s very misleading for a buyer.

However, it is what it is and that is the same for ALL listings with agents and even if you list it fsbo directly on Zillow.

BUT, I have a work around that I sent you when you purchased your listing plan on my website.

If you didn’t follow and implement those instructions that allow you to put YOUR contact information in a very prominent place on your Zillow listing… GO DO IT NOW!

Here are the instructions to add your contact information to your Zillow listing, again.

But that is not the only way to make your listing stand out on Zillow.

They also offer you a video walkthrough tool to help your listing stand out, check it out here.

Taking the video walkthrough does require you to download the Zillow real estate app to your phone and right on their website they post these simple instructions.

  1. Download the Zillow Real Estate App for iOS.
  2. Find your home.
  3. Take a video.

Doesn’t sound too hard to me!

The Zillow video walkthrough feature allows your listing to stand out from the competition, here’s how.

  • You can show off the best features of your home
  • You can share a inside look of your home’s layout
  • You can easily capture a video in a matter of minutes

Some people might not want to add the video but keep in mind, it can help sell your house and you are reading this to try to figure out why it is not selling.

To recap, you have 2 items you need to do on your Zillow listing to help you sell.

Corrective Actions For Making Your Zillow Listing Stand Out:

  • Make sure you have added your contact information to your Zillow listing by following these instructions.
  • Download the Zillow app and create a video walkthrough of your home to add to your listing on Zillow

 

picture of a woman waiting and looking at phone

Six Reasons Your Inquiries Don’t Transition To A Sale

 
 
Other Considerations To Figure Out Why Your House Isn’t Selling

The above top five listing issues are the top items you need to focus on if your not getting the results you want in terms of showings or inquires.

But what about when your home receives plenty of showings and inquiries yet still remains on the market?

It could be that your listing is appealing to the buyers online, but something in the showing, the state of your home, or the market is preventing sales.  It’s time to find out why, and what you can do to fix the issue and sell your home.

If this is the situation for your listing, the next section is for you. Below, we have compiled the top six reasons an appealing listing doesn’t sell.

  1. Your COMPETITION Is Beating You
  2. You Need to Take Care of MAINTENANCE & REPAIRS
  3. You Have a SMELLY Home
  4. You Are Too Restrictive with SHOWINGS
  5. Did You Have Any OPEN HOUSES?
  6. Maybe MARKET CONDITIONS Are Not in Your Favor?

Now, let’s talk about each of these six areas and figure out if they apply to what’s keeping buyers from making offers on your home.

#1. Your Competition Is Beating You

Has your house been sitting on the market while your competitions properties are snapped up? It may be time to check out the market around you and investigate their strategies.

The housing market is extremely competitive. While not necessarily a race, the fact remains that every For Sale property in your area is attempting to appeal to the same audience you are. So, what is making them more appealing?

When selling your home, keep an eye on the market around you. Who is selling for what? How have they listed their home? What do their listings look like? Are they offering higher commissions?

A real estate market is constantly shifting, you need to shift with it. If your being left on the market while others have sold, they are making the deal more attractive to buyers.

Corrective Actions For Your Competition Beating You:

  • Figure out what the successful homeowners may have done differently to sell in your market
  • Chances are they did everything right in this article, so make sure you did everything I have recommended!

 

#2. You Need to Take Care of Maintenance & Repairs

Home inspections are a part of the purchasing process for every buyer. However, not every home needs a professional brought in to see problems.

If your house has an obvious need for repairs, it won’t appeal to many traditional buyers. Unless you choose to low-ball your selling price to appeal to house flippers or someone willing to do the work before moving in.

You need to spruce your place up before your interest and showings turn into offers.

Photographs can hide a lot and when a buyer comes in for a showing, they will probably feel disappointed if it is obvious that a lot of repairs are needed that you didn’t disclose.

If you want to receive fair value for your home, you need to ensure the property is in good shape.

Some homeowners choose to hire a professional inspector before listing their home so that they can handle all minor surface items and in-depth repairs before the selling process begins. Others choose to tackle the minor surface issues and price at a discount to compensate for the major items.

Tackling repairs and servicing appliances can add additional cost to your selling process; because of this, many sellers will wait to negotiate with potential buyers to see what repairs they would prefer to cover for a reduction in the selling price.

If negotiated correctly, this can work out in your favor. However, it’s a gamble: you run the risk of losing interest due to the state or disrepair or your home.

You will need to consider your price, negotiations, and preparations carefully to decide which route best fits your selling needs. If you are in a hurry to sell your home, it might be best to tackle as many repairs as you can now.

You might even want to consider taking your house off the market for a few weeks while you take care of the repairs.

But don’t make the mistake of making a few repairs and thinking that you will get a higher asking price. That is a common trap many home sellers fall into.

Corrective Actions For Needed Maintenance & Repairs:

  • Take a good look at your home and see what problems need to be addressed that might be turning off buyers.
  • Consider getting a home inspection to identify problematic areas
  • Tackle as many of the issues as you can.
  • If you are not able or willing to make the repairs, adjust your price accordingly.
  • You might want to take the home off the market while repairs are being completed and then put it back on when they are finished.

 

#3. You Have a Smelly Home

Are you a smoker? Do you have pets? Is your trash bin full? Is it possible that you have a mold or mildew problem nearby? Has it rained recently? Are you up to date with replacing your air filter? All of these factors can introduce odors to your home.

When someone comes to tour your home, first impressions matter. Especially if your buyer has severe allergies or asthma. You need to ensure that your home is not only clean, but also clean smelling. Removing dust and allergens is a great way to increase appeal, but it will all be a waste if your home has a foul odor to it.

Remember, your buyers are comparing your home to dozens of others. The more obvious an issue, the faster they’ll move on.

If you have an underlying problem that is the source of the odor, you will need to get that taken care of immediately. Problems such as removing smoke smells, dog smells or musty smells in the basement.

Once the sources of the odors have been resolved, you can keep your home fresh or even add a scent to the air.

You have several options to freshen the air in your home. The easiest are keeping up with regular maintenance tasks such as changing out your air filter or keeping the cat litter box clean. Spraying fresheners like Febreze that target the source of odors can freshen up your home immensely, as can using fresh-smelling cleaners for household tasks.

Lighting candles can overlay the scent of your choice over the freshness of your home, but it can also irritate allergen sensitives. Pine and evergreen scents, for instance, can chase a buyer out just as quickly as the smell of cat litter to a non-pet person.

Carpet powders can help lift odors from fibers and furniture. If you have allergies or asthma, you may want to hire someone for a one-time deep clean of your home to eliminate any issues for you.

Invite someone you trust over to ‘inspect’ your home and give an honest opinion. Since you live there, you may not notice certain scents that others find obvious, simply because you are used to them. These friends can help you track down the source of any smells, from a stale garbage disposal to moisture seeping through one of your windows.

I’m also a big fan of running air purifiers for smoke or air purifiers for pets to keep the air in your home from chasing away buyers that might have made an offer on your home otherwise.

Corrective Actions For a Smelly Home:

  • Remove the underlying source of odors, don’t try to cover it up.
  • Once the source of odors is removed, keep your home smelling fresh for showings & open houses.

 

#4. You Are Too Restrictive with Showings

When you handle your own sale, it can be tempting to avoid showings at inconvenient times. No, you don’t want to let someone in your home during dinner time on Monday; you need the space for time with your family.

Trouble is, most buyers run on similar schedules. They have work, kids in school, extracurriculars, or family time all vying for their attention— same as you. Rarely will someone want to tour your home while you are at work.

Additionally, they or their agent are trying to coordinate multiple showings in what little time they may have available to look.

If you are too strict with when your home is open for showings, then you will find fewer buyers interested in tours with their agents. Like with staging, some aspects of selling your home will be inconvenient, but the more flexible you are, the better chance you’ll have at landing a sale.

Flexibility is Key

When it comes to showing your home, have a plan in place to vacate during popular times like evenings and weekends. Maybe drop your pets off with a friend or schedule for day-boarding at the local kennel. Plan some activities in the area, or even consider scheduling showings for your potential new home.

Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer: when are you available to tour homes? Keep in mind most buyers will see several houses in a single day, so they need time to go between and fit in as many homes as possible. The more flexible your schedule can be, the more showings buyers’ agents can schedule in your home.

However you choose to work around showing times, you’ll want to give yourself enough time for a quick walkthrough to ensure everything is clean and clutter free.

Corrective Actions For Being Restrictive With Showings:

  • Make your home available as much as possible and deal with the inconvienance.
  • If a buyer requests a time that you are 100% not able to make work, suggest multiple other times that might work for them.

 

#5. Did You Have Any Open Houses?

Showings aren’t your only chance to let your house shine for potential buyers. Open Houses can also help draw in potentials and agents.

Some sellers avoid Open Houses, finding them awkward or inconvenient, but they can be helpful in the selling process.

Often held over the weekend, Open Houses are fairly self-explanatory. For a set amount of time, you open your house to everyone interested in seeing it.  These people could range from buyer’s agents to window shoppers, fantasy shoppers to interested buyers.

One of the major benefits of Open Houses is that they offer another opportunity for buyers who haven’t been able to schedule a showing to come and see your home.

Open Houses are a great way to bring attention to your listing.

But more importantly, an open house will give you an opportunity to solicit feedback from buyers directly.

Or if turnout is low for your open house, it could be an indicator of 1 of 2 things.

  1. You did not follow the advice in the part 1 of this article and you are either overpriced, not staged to sell or your photos don’t look good.
  2. The market is soft and not in your favor right now.

Corrective Actions For Not Having An Open House:

  • Decide if you want to have an open house, carefully weigh the pros & cons
  • Host an open house that puts your best foot forward and make sure it is scheduled on the MLS, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and all the other real estate websites.

 

#6. Maybe Market Conditions Are Not in Your Favor

Another reason your house may not be selling is the current market conditions. The housing market can be tempestuous, rising one moment and falling the next. If you list your house just before a crash, interest will fall quickly as buyers must be choosier about where they are looking and how much they can spend.

Timing is Essential

When your house is for sale, you need to be aware of the housing market in your area. Keep an eye on local sales and pricing, and check with local economic news sources for a full picture.

While economists’ predictions aren’t always correct, they are a good source of advice for an idea of current risks. Local sources should be your first concern, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the national market, as well.

If the timing of your listing is bad then your house will remain on the market for quite some time. However, if you list when the market is active, you may find that you can sell your house at a more advantageous price.

If you have gone through all the items in this article and are 100% sure you have them all taken care of (especially part 1) then maybe the market is just non-existent for your home right now.

Corrective Actions For Poor Market Conditions:

  • Evaluate if now is really the best time to sell, if not take your home off the market.
  • If you 100% need to sell and the market is dramatically down, you will have to motivate the small amount of buyers that are out there. Unfortunately this usually means pricing your home lower than your probably want.

 

picture of woman thinking

Final Thoughts

 

Now that you know what to watch for when your listing is struggling, it’s time to get back out there and sell. The above advice can also apply if you are preparing to list and want to avoid the faux pas that can prevent your home from selling in a timely manner. If you are looking or trying to sell your home, bear in mind the Three Ds:

  • Deep Breaths

Selling a home can be a stressful period, especially if you follow the path of For Sale By Owner. You get to keep more of the money you make with the sale, but you also must handle everything on your own. The listings, the paperwork, the preparation, negotiating with potential buyers… It can become overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to help, ensuring you have the information needed for a smooth selling process.

  • Due Diligence

We cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your local and national housing market. Understanding the situation before diving in allows for proper preparation and understanding of what to expect. Know the market in your area and the value of your home before you start preparing a listing. Know the competition and your schedule. Plan for showings, Open Houses, and more. Be prepared to negotiate.

  • Drastic Measures

As we’ve mentioned, selling your home can be inconvenient. Staging leads to rearranging your house in a way that may not fit your daily needs. Showings and Open Houses can take over your schedules to the point where you may feel like your entire life is revolving other people. Just remember: it’s all part of the process. What feels like a major inconvenience now can lead to the smooth sale of your home. If you can weather the initial inconveniences, then the rest of the selling process will be smooth sailing.

Always remember, when in doubt, put yourself in the shoes of the buyer. Imagine that you were looking for a new home and came to tour. What sticks out about your listing? What impressions are being made? If you find you can’t narrow down what needs to change, ask a friend. (One you trust to be brutally honest.)

Hopefully you are not better informed about the “Why Isn’t Your House Selling”. However if you still have more questions or have an experience that worked to sell your house that you want to share, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

picture of kris lippi
About the Author: This article was written by Kris Lippi, the Broker and Owner of Get LISTED Realty. He enjoys writing about real estate related topics such as buying and selling homes, how-to guides for around the house and home product recommendations. He has been featured in Inman, Readers Digest, American Express, Fit Small Business, Policy Genius, Lending Tree, GoDaddy, Manta as well as others. Want to know more? Read more here.

 

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