Why Isn't My Home Selling?

What is it about My Home that is Keeping Offers Away?

Michele Allen
MilitaryByOwner staff writer

Tough question many homeowners ask.  One may find the answer if you have a crystal ball.  But in the absence of a crystal ball, a mirror might come in handy.  You have a personal relationship with your home; you may not see things as clearly as a potential buyer. Almost like a good long look in the mirror at ourselves, sometimes that unflinching stare can reveal flaws or weaknesses that we don’t really want to see.  Hold up the mirror to these 5 areas to consider, and don’t blink. 

Improvements or Repairs Needed
Stand in front of your home, look at it like you have never seen it before.  Use that scrutinizing eye to see if it needs a paint job, trim repaired, perhaps screens or blinds fixed.  Walk in the front door; don’t look at the decorating, look at the bones of the house.  Are there stained carpets? Broken cupboards? Loose railings?  Often, we live with things everyday that become invisible to us.  Hold up your mirror and look hard.  Most new homeowners want a house that is move-in ready. The prospect of having to do repairs on a home they just purchased may turn many of your buyers off. To help this problem before you put your home on the market, review this list of repairs or improvements that give you the most Bang for your Buck.

Not Staged
Now that you have set the foundation, by improving or repairing what you can afford, set the stage.  Ever been in a model home? That’s the competition.  Your goal is to make your rooms feel bigger and useful.  First rule to note: Empty rooms feel small. Cluttered rooms feel small.  Small usually interprets to " my stuff will never fit"! 
Don’t photograph or show your home with empty rooms if you can help it.  You can even hire "staging" furniture, if you have had to relocate before your home sells.   If it’s still your residence, rent a storage unit and start moving everything into it that you do not need immediately.  Take everything out of every closet that you can live without.  Leave the garage with just the basics that make it look useful and remove all of the extra furniture that might make a room feel crowded.  
Once you have moved out the big stuff, walk around with packing boxes and clear horizontal spaces.  Remove all appliances from the counters that you do not use every day.  It may be time to clear tables, bureaus, mantles and shelves of all but a minimalist decorative touch.   
If you have decorating tastes that run far from the neutral category, consider a fresh coat of paint or removing that 1,000 piece ancient Turkish art collection.  Buyers need to be able to envision their furniture in that space

Bad Photographs
Homes with a good assortment of photographs get noticed. Take quality photos or hire a professional photographer.  Here are a few tips:
•    Unless your bedrooms differ from one another significantly, just shoot the master bedroom or largest bedroom. 
•    Take exterior shots of your house on a ladder, or standing on top of your car!  Take the front shot when the front door is lit by the sun.   
•    No pictures of hallways or narrow spaces! 
•    The kitchen is very important to buyers. Take photos from different angles to show off improvements.  
•    Don’t let the flash be seen in a mirror reflection… or yourself!
•    Stand back as far as possible to make rooms feel large.  Shoot two walls only, with a bit of floor and ceiling. Shooting three walls creates a shoebox effect.
•    Turn on as many lights as possible, and fill in dark areas with work lights. 
•    Consider using props, like a plate of cookies on the counter, towels positioned perfectly on the beautiful tub to make it look like someone was just there.   

Not Enough Marketing
Turn that mirror away from the house and start looking at your business decisions.  Start with your marketing.  Have you utilized your marketing budget to get your house noticed?  Militarybyowner.com is an incredibly effective and an inexpensive way to advertise your home to the military community.  But, like all real estate experts, MBO would recommend that you utilize as many resources as you determine you can within the budget you have to advertise your home.  

•    Create four-color flyers containing several photos to distribute to prospects and those who tour your home. 
•    Create a virtual tour. 
•    Hold Open Houses. 
•    Review this resource for Utilizing Social Media to market your home!

Priced Right for the Market
Now the million dollar question, is your home priced to sell?  You may have a threshold set by your remaining loan balance, or capital investment in the home that skews your perception of what the home is worth.  In current markets, your information about what a home sold for just a few years ago, may wildly distort your expectations. It is essential that when pricing you set emotions and perceptions aside and deal only with the facts.  
    1. Look at every similar home that was or is listed in the same neighborhood over the past six months. Don’t consider home outside a 1/2 - 1 mile radius. Note neighborhood dividing lines and barriers such as major streets, freeways or railroads, and do not compare inventory from "the other side of the tracks". Perceptions and desirability have value. Compare similar square footage, within 10% up or down from the subject property. Keep the age of the homes in mind. Find comparisons as close in age as possible.
    2. Compare original list price to final sales price to determine price reductions. Note how long these homes were listed before they got their bite! Be a detective. Were these homes overpriced? Or maybe under marketed?? Do you see a pattern to the homes that didn’t sell, such as location or who listed it?
    3. Research homes that are your competition. Ask yourself why a buyer would prefer your home over any of these and adjust your price accordingly.
    4. Square Feet – the Tale of the Tape.  It’s important to consider homes of similar square feet when reviewing your comparisons. Keep in mind that the appraisal that will follow a contract will usually involve a square feet cost comparison.
    5. Know the market.   In a weak market, you might need to evaluate whether you can shoot for the last comparable sale price.  In a buyer's market, price your home a minimum of 2% less than the last comparable sale. If that price doesn‘t fit your needs, then don't put your home on the market. Overpricing is the worst mistake a home seller can make.

Now that you have peered hard into the mirror, what do you see that you can change?  Having the house sit on the market seriously impacts a buyer's sense of urgency and creates a question of what is "wrong" with it.  Avoid those high Days on the Market numbers by removing the house from the market, retooling what you can and entering the marketplace fresh.  Let the selling begin!