I recently got a call from a young couple whose house had been on the market for 60 days without selling. They wanted me to tell them why their house did not sell. They liked their agent but felt that he was not the right one for them. They were interviewing three other agents and were going to re-list as soon as possible. Actually, that was one of their questions:
“Should we re-list right away or should we take a couple of weeks off and let the listing cool off?”
“How many showings have you had in the past 60 days?
“16. And most of those were at the beginning”
“I don’t think you have to let the listing cool off.”
It does not matter anyway. The listing history is readily available to realtors and our clients. We’ve got the data, the sales history of your house.
I told them that most sellers (unless the house is really unique) should expect ten showings in the first week. I also told them that if you get a lot of showings but no offers, it is an indication that the price is too high (or that there is a fatal flaw that only becomes apparent when visiting the inside of the home).
In this case, they did not have a high volume of showings. Maybe the price was not too high.
If the price is too not high
The price might not be too high but know this, every home, regardless if it is hideously ugly, 30 years out of date, has high-tension power lines in the backyard, is next to a dump, a highway, a graveyard, a 24 hour gas station or massage parlour, a registered sex offender…every home, every house will sell if the price is low enough.
Most agents will tell you that it is almost always about price. Price may not be the problem but is it always the solution. That is what we say, and it’s true.
Besides price, here are ten reasons why houses don’t sell
Real estate is cyclical. In the heart of the summer and around the Christmas, holidays things slow down. Sure there are still homes listed for sales and there are still homebuyers out there diligently turning over rocks, but the bulk of the sellers and buyers are not active in the market. People go away on holiday, agents too. Just like there are peaks of activity, there are valleys too.
You can’t control what else on your street or in your neighbourhood gets listed and sold. Sometimes an unlucky homeowner will compete with a better listing down the street. They hope theirs sells first but often the better listing sells first. For the really unlucky home sellers, the better listing that sells first will get replaced with another better listing and the 2nd best sellers will remain in second place and still on the market.
There was a time when no one wanted to live in the urban cores. Car was king and suburban suburbia offered comfortable new houses on large lots with new and great schools, neighbourhoods with no crime. All you needed was a picket fence and a big american car with a V8 engine and you were set.
Today it seems to be the outer suburbs with their fancy new homes and the urban core with the walkability that are in the greatest demand. There is a bit of a donut effect with the inner suburbs not really hitting the sweet spot with many homebuyers. At least not presently, but that will change too.
The first showing of your home for sale is online. Bad photos lead to some great homes getting eliminated before they are ever shown. Lack of photos too send the message to home buyers that you are trying to hide something. Your agent cheaped out and you blew it at making a good first impression. Too bad. You got eliminated.
Hard to book showings
In today’s connected world we want it and we want it now. We go to google and get instant answers, we go to Amazon and get overnight shipping. Our GPSs lead us to exactly where we want to go, sometimes in a round about way. When we want to see a house at 7:00-8:00pm tomorrow night, we want to hear back right away that that is OK. We don’t want to see it a 6:00-7:00 and we certainly don’t want to come to the open house on Sunday. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Sad but true that money makes the world go ‘round. Agents work on commission. We have bills to pay. For us, time is money and we want to know that we are going to get paid and that we are going to get paid at the going rate. The new home builders have finally figured this out. Some of the private sellers have figured this out too. The discount brokerages are cheating their clients letting them believe that agents will cooperate with them for a flat fee that is less than half the going rate.
You love them. Some people are allergic to them. Some of them smell bad are annoying in other ways. I showed a house recently that had two little dogs that followed us from room to room barking and barking. We could not get out of there fast enough.
Poor (design) choices
Basements renovations done by the owner are often weird with too many small rooms, windowless rooms, and/or poor workmanship. I was showing a house this springtime that had stuccoed the basement. The walls and the ceiling were stuccoed so thickly, it was like being in a cave. Spooky.
I once sold a one-bedroom bungalow. It took a long time to sell. The owner had taken out one of the bedrooms to enlarge the kitchen and another to enlarge the bathroom. It was a great house, but only for the right person. Finally that right person came along.
Out of date
Times change, tastes change. Sometimes homes become out of date due to layout; maybe open concept is popular, maybe massive ensuites…Sometimes homes simply have not been stylistically updated since they were built in the 90’s, 80’s or even earlier.
Bad (lack of) communication
The business of real estate is really a communication business. Speed and clarity are key.
Life is random, real estate sales even more so
So back to the young couple from above, here’s what happened next. There were several reasons why their home didn’t sell; it likely wasn’t one thing but a combination of a few. It was missing a dishwasher, an air conditioner, a finished basement, a water softener and a deck – the patio door is about ten feet above the backyard. It had started at a price too high and had had a price reduction on August 1st, the heart of summer. The price drop likely got missed by anyone who had seen the home in the previous four weeks. It was a “look out” lot but for some reason unfathomable to me, the builder had put the big windows on the sides and not in the back. Sure you could look out, but only onto the side of your neighbour’s houses. What a boneheaded missed opportunity.
I was working with a client last summer that was a little picky. He said if there were 3 no’s then we would eliminate the house. It is a pretty good rule. “Why settle for a house that isn’t at least 80% perfect?” another client says. That is another good rule.
I told the young couple the several reasons that I thought the house hadn’t sold and agreed to look in detail at the comparable sales on the street and in the neighbourhood. I told them that I would get back to them in a day or two with my recommendations about price and improvements that I would suggest to get that sucker sold.
But then the next day, an out-of-town client of mine wanted to see the house. We booked it and saw it and he actually short-listed it, even with its shortcomings. The next day when I called to book a second showing, I was informed that they had just received an offer. How about that? 60 days nothing and then two interested parties on the same weekend. My client did not want to compete. He wasn’t that interested after all. We saw another house that he likes even more. But that is the way things happen sometimes. Seems timing might have been a contributing factor to that particular house not selling.
I hope the sale goes through. They were a nice young couple who had had enough of the waiting game. I will be interested to see what this one actually sold for. Everything sells after all and when they do the true market price is revealed.