Top 10 Reasons your Home Didn't Sell in Good Real Estate Market
Hey, the real estate market around here is good for home sellers, haven't you heard? In fact, it's not just good - it's great.
Still, each season there are home owners that are on the market, and don't sell. Here are the top 10 Reasons WHY that is. The first items address the most common marketing issues that can be addressed to make your home worth more. If these are done - or can't be done - then we have to deal with the price, and those are generally about why your value for your home is different than the markets.
Front Door and Yard
When people pull up to your home, the first thing they see is the front yard. Is the grass cut? The hedges trimmed? Are the walkways in good repair? Is the driveway clear of snow and ice? Making sure the home buyers don't notice a negative before they even cross the threshold is important, as anxiety is already building with each problem. Similarly, make sure that front door (or wherever the lock box is) is looking it's best.
Remember, home buyers spend a lot of time standing
right here - so make sure it looks it's best. You only
get one chance to make a first impression.
Rotted fascia boards, sloppy paint jobs, broken storm doors, chipped vinyl, crooked steps, and broken brick work are all going to get spotted while the buyers stand on your front stoop waiting for the home to get opened. Keep the optimism flowing by making sure this are looks it's best. It's also nice if a little flavor can be brought to the space, with some color, and some home goods.
Clean, Light and Bright
Moving is a huge pain! It creates a lot of time intensive projects and it can be hard to get it all done. But if your home isn't selling, this is the first thing we need to look at to see if it's a potential sale issue. Most people are used to buying things in stores that have lots of light, that are clean and new looking. Like it or not, trying to get your home to look and feel like your shopping at Pier 1 or Bed, Bath and Beyond is what we're trying to do. And not everyone is used to that level of scrutiny. I have created a list that can help you spot the areas that might be an issue from a cleanliness perspective. Things to look close at are water stains in the bathroom, moldy caulk (anywhere), dirty baseboards and air filters. Once it's clean, it's time to let the light in.
Vertical Blinds have the dual effect of making a room look
dark AND making it look dated. Generally, not what you
Many homes have lots of window treatments. Cornices, blinds, and drapes. I'm not against window treatments, but when you're selling your home, you need to make sure that they aren't keeping the sun out, or making rooms darker than they need to be. I almost never show homes at night anymore, because I learned long ago that home buyers don't buy houses in the dark, even if all the lights are on. You just can't see anything!! In kitchens and bathrooms, blinds and curtains need to be set to let that sunlight in, and show off all those clean surfaces. Rooms with dark colors need bright light bulbs if mother nature can't do enough. Having your home clean and bright will almost always have a dramatic and positive impact that you can't do as easily with almost any other item.
Room Usage and Staging Issues: It's about Utility
To quote a great football coach, "it is what it is". Your home "is what it is too", and it will sell best by emphasizing how it works best, and not what you think will sell best. If you have a three bedroom colonial with a forth bedroom in the basement, technically you have a four bed home. However, from a marketing perspective, you have a three bedroom home, because someone who "needs" that forth bedroom isn't a likely home buyer of your layout. The solution is to market to the masses that are happy with a three bedroom home, and they will see your home as one that has something extra, and not something lacking. Similarly, if you've been using your dining room as an office, it may be time to stop. Home buyers pay for useful space, and in general that needs to conform with their ideas of how the house should layout. In general, this isn't something difficult for an experience real estate agent, who works with lots of buyers and quickly finds out what doesn't work, and how most buyers will see the home (not all, but most). Once your home shows the most useful layout, the buyer has to do less work thinking about what should be done, and the feedback improves, and the home sells faster and for more money.
Too Many Projects
I have my own "rule of thumb" in real estate. If a buyer goes into a home for sale, they start immediately counting the things they need to do to make the house "work" for them. "I need to do X, Y,..." etc. In general, if they get to the thumb while counting on their fingers, they're done with the house and they move on. If you know you need to do some projects, it's best to have certain rooms "completely" done. A home buyer feels more positive if the work that needs to be done is centered in as few rooms as possible, as opposed to little projects all over the home. Many home sellers try to do everything at once - which can be overly ambitious - and if all the rooms are mid project, you're not going to do well in the market. Again, finish what you can, and leave what you must, but try not to do a little bit everywhere - it won't help, and it will just wear you out.
I know what you're thinking: Why isn't this one higher on the list? Well in a tough seller's market, Marketing is hugely important, but in a softer market it is less so. Young homes in prime locations at good prices can often get by with sub-standard marketing, as people will come to see those homes on just to make sure they work or not. But over 50% of the market is NOT a young home in a prime location! In such situations, even in a good market, quality marketing is CRUCIAL. Why? Better marketing gets more showings, more showings gets more real buyers, and more real buyers gets a better price. It's not rocket science, believe me, but I see so many homes where the pictures are just ATROCIOUS. I don't care how many megapixels your "phone" is, taking a good picture is not just about pixel density. Angles, lighting, and pictures that emphasize a homes best feature make a world of difference. Great photos don't make your home more valuable, but poor photos discourage buyers from coming out to see your home, and that makes the offers you get fewer and lower. I generally recommend using a professional photographer, with virtual tours AND floor plans, to help buyers understand the homes utility and to get them to come out. In 13 years, I've never had a client who was unhappy with their pictures, and I've had some demanding client for sure. If those photos make them happy, they'll make you happy too.
Furniture is furniture right? Unfortunately, no. Styles change quickly today, and the majority of today's buyers are gravitating away from many previously popular styles of furniture for more basic looks with clean lines and a more modernistic feel. Usually, the furniture and the color palettes in the room can make the room - or the home - feel older than it is, or like it needs work. That's a turn off for buyers, who are unable to see past the furniture and look at the room itself. In rooms that aren't used heavily, packing the furniture up can be helpful, and in rooms that are crowded with furniture, taking a piece or two out can be helpful in getting the buyers to see the room, and not the stuff that's in there.
The first six items on this list were all about getting the market to pay more for your home. Of course, the other solution is to charge less, which is a more common refrain. Everyone will tell you that your home didn't sell because the price was wrong, but what I've done next is to break down three ways that many homeowners end up overvaluing their home.
Square footage is not all the same
Knowledgeable home buyers and home sellers today know that valuation and square footage are related. But it's not quite that simple. Square footage, or the size of the home, is valued equally in all places. Generally, space on a third floor and a basement is worth much less than space on the first or second floor, and first floors generally get a premium. Also, rooms can be "too big" or "too small", and if that is the case the utility of the floor plan - and the value of the home - can start to move away from an easy metric. Floor plans can also be non-standard, awkward, and occasionally poorly functioning, and those have big impacts on the final price a home can get.
Bad Data Points: The Neighbors may not Be as Useful as you Think
I am often surprised at how often Home Sellers look only at recent sales on their street or in their neighborhood and make all their judgements based on that one (or occasionally two) data points. Generally, those homes are relevant, however you should look at more data whenever possible. Lots, styles, and features are often significantly different even when homes are in close proximity. The older the houses are, generally the larger the differences as well. Further, homes could be "about" the same size, but in this area, a home just with just 200 extra square feet is usually worth 40,000 more, which is a big difference. Town assessments are also of little help, and don't bother telling me about Zillow! It is possible to do a rational, detailed price assessment of a home, and I would argue that any such assessment that used only two data points has an opportunity to be very wrong. This is especially true when looking at non-standard houses with specific features that will have it fall away from the comparables.
You Know the Positives - but Do You Understand the Negatives?
You love your house. And if you don't love it, you really like it. And why not! You have lots of positive memories there. I have a secret for you though: All houses have Negatives. All of them. It's hugely common for home owners to dismiss a homes obvious marketing issues. Homes that abut a highway, for example, will be ruled out by scores of buyers until the price comes down enough to compensate for the highway noise. Another one is comparing a home with a two car garage with a home that has no garage, and feeling that is not a major issue. It is! That doesn't mean your house is junk, or that's it worthless or a "bad" investment. It just means that it won't sell for as high a price as a similar home without that marketing issue. Too often sellers hold out for the one buyer who both doesn't care about the homes marketing issues AND is willing to pay an above market price. Finding that buyer is called getting lucky and Luck is Not a Marketing Strategy. You wouldn't rely on luck to fund your retirement, and similarly, you shouldn't rely on luck to sell your home. It rarely works that way.
Time on Market
In a slow market, sellers often are forced to be patient. But in a quick moving market, patience is not your friend, if you goal is to maximize your home sale price. In quick moving markets, homes go "stale" quickly, as buyers begin to "assume" something is wrong with their home. Home buyers are often very narrow minded in their search, focusing on the newer listings, and homes that have been on too long can quickly need to resort to deep prices changes to get the market of buyers re-interested. Such action almost always results in a lower net to the the home seller, so be warned about the dangers of waiting! This is especially true if you've had lots of showings, but much less true if you are not getting many showings.