Why Isn’t My Home Selling? Mistakes to Avoid!

When I’m walking my dog most mornings in the Easthampton park with my friend, we talk about a lot of things while the puppies romp.  The topic yesterday was—why isn’t her friend’s house selling?  It’s in a good Florence location, the Northampton market is hot, yet it is sitting on the market.  I told her I would look at the listing on MLS and give my opinion.

Well, it looked well-priced, for the size and amenities.   I had previously told my friend, “It’s ALWAYS the price point—everything will sell, if it’s priced right.”  But this house?  As beautiful and classic as it looked from the exterior, and the list of amenities was long—the photos shocked me.  She had mentioned there were some “accent walls” painted bright colors, as was the fashion awhile back.  (Quite a long while back!)  My reply was—paint is easy for a buyer to change.  That can’t be what is keeping the buyers away.  But when I saw the photographs—EEEWWWW!   Every room had at least one bright, overwhelming, awful circus-y color—-some rooms were multi-colored.  As a person who loves color, and as a Realtor who can see past a lot of things, I was surprised that these rooms elicited such a strong turn-off reaction in me.  But—WOW!

I told my friend that in this case, the seller absolutely had to change the interior paint colors.  Considering the price of the home, if he invested even a few thousand dollars in the cost of interior painting, that house would move.  A seller has to de-clutter and minimize decor anyway, so why not take the opportunity to paint the walls a neutral color?  There are so many neutrals to choose from these days—warm gray, very pale green, and of the course the always popular shades of white.

There are also a lot of other  reasons a home won’t sell, too—things that home sellers could have easily avoided had they made a minimal effort to do their homework and enter the fray prepared.  (Side note—if your Realtor doesn’t advise you to avoid these mistakes, you need a different Realtor!)  Here are a few common mistakes that you, as a seller, can and should easily avoid:

Pricing a home based on feelings rather than data–oftentimes people who’ve lived in their house for a long time believe the property is worth more than what the market is dictating—and insist on listing it at above fair market value,” says an experienced agent. “When sellers are too emotionally attached to the home, it inhibits their ability to sell it.” Pricing a home right the first time is crucial, because if it’s too high, no buyers will touch it—and the longer it sits on the market, the more it starts to look like damaged goods.  Even if you lower the asking price at a later date, this inhibits selling success.

So try to take your ego out of the equation and price with your head, not your heart.  Your agent should research what comparable homes in your area have recently sold for, and build a pricing strategy around that.  After all, the memories don’t come with the home, so buyers aren’t going to pay extra because your kids learned to play catch in the backyard.

Keeping all your stuff in the house—Sorry, but some of your stuff has got to go. Remember, too much clutter can make a place seemed cramped; plus you never know what might offend a potential buyer.  Start with removing all personal items, and anything political or religious.  Maybe your beautiful Buddha statue is museum-quality and you feel it adds to the decor—nope.  It’s gotta go into safe storage somewhere.  When selling a home, it’s best to keep any strong opinions or eccentricities out of the picture.

Not bothering to spruce up—Many homeowners are reluctant to spend a little bit of money to make their home look nice before it goes to market. We get it—receiving a long punch list of fixes to do before you can list your home is not fun. But consider this: Certain small tweaks cost a pittance, yet can reap big returns. For example, a fresh coat of paint can boost your sale price by 15%.  And keep the colors, exterior and interior, neutral—the last thing you want is that “EEEEWWW!” reaction when a buyer enters an otherwise-lovely room.

Also keep in mind that other small “flaws”—such as creaky floors,  sticky doors, or light fixtures that don’t light—will be noticed by buyers and further drag down your sale price. So try to not be so shortsighted: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.  Even basic staging—paintings, hand towels, throw blankets, duvet covers, decorative pillows—is extremely helpful and should not be cost-prohibitive for any seller.

Using lackluster listing photos—  I am always amazed when I see dark, crooked, listing photos.  Professional photography, or a Realtor who is very good with lighting and a wide-angle lens, is crucial.  With the advent of the internet, a purchaser’s first impression of the home is gathered from their computer screen.  A picture that shows only a small corner of a room, or —worse—a portrait of only a toilet, with no attractive bath features visible— not helpful at all.

Being inflexible with viewing times— “Showings on weekends only”.  “Showings on Tuesdays between 4-6 p.m.”  Buyers, especially ones who may travel from a distance to tour homes in the area, have schedules.  Make it easy for them!  You’ve spent the past however-many weeks cleaning, repairing, repainting, decluttering, and staging, and now you’re supposed to just clear out of your house (including pets!) with no warning when buyers come calling? Yep, pretty much. Luckily, if you do it right, offers should come in quickly. In competitive real estate markets, if you are going to get an offer at all, it will likely be within the first two weeks of the home being listed. It’s important to make sure the house is available to see in person, which means the sellers will have to keep the home tidy and allow their schedules to be flexible. You get only one chance to be that fresh, new listing. Just like it’s important to get the pricing right the first time, you want to let excited buyers see your home right away. You never get another chance at those first few weeks, so it really is silly to shut them out, since they may not be back later.

Rejecting lowball offers—Selling a home that you’re emotionally attached to is tricky, and a lowball offer can feel like a slap in the face. But often, buyers don’t mean it that way. So tempting as it may be, don’t shut them down hard.  Sometimes, a successful negotiation starts with a low offer, perhaps from a buyer who doesn’t really have a good handle on the market. Other times, what you thought was a low offer might just be a more realistic view of what your home is really worth at the moment.  In any case, it can’t hurt to begin a dialogue instead of getting offended and refusing to even consider these “insulting” buyers.  Bottom line: Until you’re at the closing table, it’s smart to keep your options open. Deals fall through, buyers walk away, financing gets mucked up at the last minute. You don’t want to be reapproaching someone hat in hand down the line.

Let the experience Realtors at Delap Real Estate guide you through the selling process.  Preparation is critical, so avoid these little mistakes by choosing the right listing agent!

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