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The Top 11 Reasons Homes Don't Sell and How to Avoid Making Those Mistakes

Matt Winzenried

Matt has worked in Real Estate since 2005. He has experience in changing markets and economies...

Matt has worked in Real Estate since 2005. He has experience in changing markets and economies...

Jan 16 13 minutes read

As we head into the first quarter of the year, historically in Madison, the real estate market starts to pick up. Usually the weather gets a little better and also buyers/sellers get out of the holiday rush and start thinking about moving to a new home. So, if you want to sell your home or condo, it is important to make sure you are doing the "right" things, to ensure success.

Below, you'll find the top eleven reasons homes don't sell and how to avoid making those mistakes.

1. Limiting Accessibility for Showings - sometimes when I meet with seller clients, they tell me "we want to only show our home on the weekends" or "our child naps between 1 and 3, so we don't want any showings during that time." While there can be extenuating circumstances that don't allow showings, if you have general restrictions on showings, many times a buyer will just "move on" if they can't see your house/condo, and not try to schedule their showing during a different time.

We use a technology called ShowingTime, that streamlines the showing scheduling and feedback after showing process. With ShowingTime, a Realtor calls (or schedules on their website), with a showing request. ShowingTime then contacts a seller to ensure that the day/time the Realtor has requested is "okay" with the seller. If the seller approves the showing request, ShowingTime notifies the Realtor that requested to show, and they then show during the requested window of time.

With ShowingTime, we can actually block out specific times that a seller doesn't want showings. So, we can restrict showings to "no showings after 8 p.m." or "no showings before 7 a.m." Restrictions like these are pretty easy to set up and also relatively commonly accepted. However, restrictions in the middle of the day or only allowing showings specific days of the week, can really hamper your ability to accomplish your end goal of selling your home/condo.

The answer: when possible, allow showings of your home/condo, when buyers want to see it. Realtors in Madison can set you up with an electronic lockbox, that can only be accessed by Realtors holding a special key. Each time one of these special keys is used to access the lockbox, the electronic lockbox keeps a record of access, by the specific Realtor that accessed it, and also the day/time they accessed it. This is a much more secure and controlled method of allowing access to your property, than using a combination lockbox. Between the electronic lockbox and ShowingTime, you'll have a record of anyone showing the property, and can also allow relatively easy and very secure access.

2. Photos/Video - When talking to buyers, they tell me often, they get frustrated when searching online, and see either really bad, or very few photos of a property they might be interested in. With nearly all buyers beginning their home search online, if you have bad or few photos, they can skip right over your listing.

iPhone or automatic camera photos aren't going to cut it here! When it comes to marketing one of your most expensive assets, professional Realtors are using tools like: professional photography, twilight photography, drone photos/video, and video.

The answer: whether you hire a professional Realtor or not, make sure you are marketing your home/condo with professional photos and video. 

3. Photo Order - Another important thing to note with photos is the order in which they appear on your listing. The average buyer looks at the first three photos, before deciding to see additional photos, or to just move on to the next property listing. So, if your first three photos don't do enough to pique prospective buyers' interest, you've lost them!

The answer: use professional photography to highlight the best three to five rooms/features. Many times these are interior photos of the Kitchen and Master bathrooms. There is an old adage in real estate that "Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses", so make sure yours are looking amazing! If it isn't your Kitchen or bathrooms that are the best parts of your house/condo, you better find some other feature/room, to "wow" perspective buyers.

4. Price Bands - years ago, when a buyer was searching for a new home/condo, they would visit a Realtor's office and look through a big book of paper property listings. They would say "I don't want to spend above X", where X was their maximum price. Now, buyers start their search on the internet and search price bands. What is a price band? It can also be known as a price range. Nearly all real estate websites have a search method that allows you to search properties between X and X price. With those search fields, most of the time they are pre-populated with even numbers, or buyers are just conditioned to search even numbers. Meaning, they might search between $300,000 and $325,000. 

Why is this important? If in the last example, you priced your home at $299,999, you'd miss the buyer that was looking in the price band of $300,000 to $325,000.

The answer: proper price band placement is REALLY important, when determining a list price for your property, because you can miss a whole group of buyers, by missing a price band, by only one dollar! Consult with your Realtor to find out exactly which price band you need to be in and how the higher you go in price, price bands widen. (Price bands in the million dollar range aren't $25,000. They could be $50,000 to $100,000, depending on the area.)

5. Not Properly Staging Before Photos/Video - when I meet my photographer at a listing for him to photograph, it is very common for us to move furniture or "hide" things from the camera view. We put items away that perspective buyers don't want to see in photos. Remember, these photos are really your first impression, to hopefully get a buyer to make a visit to your home, and them make an offer. So, if you have things that should be hidden from buyers, make sure you do that, before photos. Easy examples of this could be items like toothbrushes in the bathroom, soap/shampoo/razors in the shower, kitty litter pans, personal photos, guns, or valuables.

The answer: take the time to put away anything you think might "turn off" perspective buyers or that you don't want them to see. 

6. Hiring a family member or friend to sell - sometimes this can be a great thing, if your family member or friend is an experienced, full time, professional Realtor. However, if you know are only having them represent you, to do them a favor, you usually aren't doing yourself any favors. Realtors that work full time at their profession bring a different skill set to representing you, than someone only handles one or two transactions a year. 

The answer: choose your Realtor by asking them about their experience, their years in the business, and most importantly, how they plan on marketing your home or condo.

7. Hiring a "limited service" broker - there are some real estate agents that will charge a nominal fee, to get you set up with a listing in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This type of broker usually has one to two prices, for the services they offer. But with those services, it typically will cover just putting the listing in the MLS. As a home seller, you are then responsible (usually) for your own photographs, description, and any additional marketing on your house. This can definitely save you some money if you are great at marketing to your target homebuyer audience, versed in real estate contracts, an expert negotiator, and generally are comfortable representing yourself in the sale of your house. However, if you fall short on any of those last qualities, you will most likely leave money on the table (if the house/condo ends up selling).

The answer: Hire a professional Realtor, to represent you, market for you, negotiate for you, and handle the myriad of details involved in selling (and closing) one of your most important assets.

8. Looking at a home through "seller's eyes" not "buyer's eyes" - When you are living in your house, there is a certain way you live in it, that might not be the best way to have the house/condo shown to prospective buyers. One example of this can be when you are living in your house/condo, you leave your toothbrush in a stand on the Master Bathroom counter. Or you leave shampoo and soap sitting in the shower. However, a buyer doesn't want to see these things, as they are looking at homes. They want to see themselves living there, not someone else. 

Another example is in your Kitchen. You might have knives, a mixer, coffee maker, cutting board, and/or a toaster oven sitting on the Kitchen counter. You probably use a lot of those items on a daily basis, while living in your home. However a buyer, wants to feel like there is a lot of counter space in their Kitchen, to prepare their own meals. By you having all of that on the counters, it can be hard for them to picture how much counter space is there.

The answer: Have a close friend or your Realtor walk through the house with you, as a perspective buyer. Have them point out items that might make it hard for them to picture themselves living in your house. Make a list of those items and correct them. 


9. Selling For Sale By Owner - sometimes sellers decide to test the market by attempting to sell FSBO. There are websites that cater to this and allow you to list your house for a small fee. By doing this and maybe putting up a sign in the yard or holding an open house, you are limiting the exposure of your house. You aren't putting your house in front of a huge pool of buyers; buyers represented by professional Realtors.

The answer: Talk to a professional Realtor before trying to sell on your own. They are experts in marketing, negotiations, pricing, and all of the small details that go into successfully selling and closing homes. They do all of this on a daily basis, so are far more qualified.

10. Your home is outdated (wallpaper, appliances, bathrooms) - unless you are trying to appeal to investor buyers, this can be one of the most common reasons I see homes not selling. Years ago, buyers were willing to put some money and "sweat equity" into a home they purchased. But now nearly every buyer I represent or that I talk to on the search for home, want instant gratification of being able to buy their new home and move right in. They don't want to have to remove wallpaper after moving in. They don't want to have to replace/update appliances.  

The answer: You have two options here. Either update your home/condo, to appeal to a wider range of buyers OR discount your asking price, to allow a new buyer to make the updates. If you do decide to discount, you'll want to discount it for both the price of doing the updates, and also the bother the buyer will incur with having to do the updates. 

11. The Price is too high - this is a really common reason that homes/condos fail to sell. Often times when I meet with clients that are wanting to sell, they tell me "Scott, let's start at this higher price and if it doesn't sell, we'll drop the price." This can be a huge mistake. If you are priced too high, you can turn off buyers that think you are priced too high and they don't want to insult you with a lower offer. You can also have issues with non-cash buyers needing to get the house/condo to appraise. Meaning, an appraiser will prepare an appraisal of market value for the lender, and you have to be able to prove why your house is selling at a higher price than those around you.

The answer: talk to a professional Realtor about pricing and all the aspects involved with it. You'll want to discuss comparable sales in your area, updates or no updates to your home, and also absorption rates (more on this, in a later blog post).

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