Why Isn’t My House Selling and How to Finally Get Your House Sold

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You’ve had your house on the market for a while now and you’re asking yourself “why isn’t my house selling?”

People sniff around but no one is biting.  What’s going on?!?

Yes, the market may have a lot to do with it but houses do sell so there’s probably more than the market at play here.  Let me give you some clues why your house isn’t selling so you can finally get your house sold.

11 Reasons Why Your House Isn’t Selling and How to Finally Get Your House Sold

1. You’re Charging Too Much

I know you think your house is worth $x dollars.  But just because you think your house is worth an amount it doesn’t mean it actually is.

You know what your house is worth?

Whatever someone is willing to pay for it – no more, no less.  Want to know something else?  Every house can sell, it just needs the right price.  You may not want to lower the price of your home, which is understandable, but if you need to sell you may be better off lowering the price now to move it than wait months and end up lowering the price anyway.  Cash in hand may be better than waiting and having the market go down further.

2. There’s No Curb Appeal

Imagine your house isn’t yours.  Remove yourself emotionally.  Now go across the street and look at that house that’s being sold and ask yourself if the house looks appealing?

Does it?  How is the lawn?  Is it green and weed-free?  The hedges?  Are they cut and neat?  How’s the paint job?  Does it need touching up?  Is it weathered and cracked?  Does the overall layout of the look of the house make sense?  How is the lighting?

Look around your neighborhood at houses you love.  Go look at some houses that just sold too for good measure.  What do they look like?  What about them appeals to you?   Is that how your house is?

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Curb appeal is something that you may be able to spruce up inexpensively and the return could mean selling your house!  A good landscaper may be able to suggest a few inexpensive touches that could make your house look much better.

3. Your House is Cluttered Inside

If you are serious about selling your home, do what you can to open it up inside and out.  Get rid of as much as you can.  All of those knick-knacks you have on the shelves are visual clutter for the potential buyer.  Your amazing furniture doesn’t allow a buyer to see the layout as they need to see it.

It helps to live like a minimalist when selling your home.  If you have to put things in storage then so be it.  Make sure your clutter isn’t costing you a sale.  Open up the place and keep only the bare essentials.

4. Your House is Actually a Mess

Why your house isn't selling

Can you figure out why this house can’t sell?

Be honest with yourself – is your house clean?  Really?  Are the appliances clean (I’m looking at you oven and refrigerator shelves)?  Is the bathroom spotless?  Even in the corners?  How about the kitchen?  Is there laundry visible anywhere?  What’s in the kitchen sink or the dishwasher?

I know it’s hard keeping up with all of the household tasks as it is, but when you are selling a house you really have to work to keep things clean.  Your house may be awesome but if it’s in any way a mess then a potential buyer won’t see the awesomeness, they will see the dirty toilet and be skeeved.  If you need to, hire a cleaning service to scrub your house from top to bottom.  A few hundred dollars to sell a house is well-worth it.

I know some of you are reading this and are saying there’s no way someone would sell their house with it being messy.  You’d be wrong.  I’ve seen houses where there was laundry all over the place and other places where I wouldn’t want to touch the walls.  And these weren’t “fixer-uppers,” foreclosures, or short-sales.  These were people who were legitimately looking to sell their house.  Really.  Don’t let your mess costs you thousands of dollars.

5. It Looks Like Your Home, Not Mine

This one is related to the previous two tips.  Your house is full of stuff that is yours.  When I, the buyer, look around I see your house.  What you want is for me to see “my” house.  You need a buyer to be able to imagine the place as theirs.  You want them to walk around and think about where they will put their vacation pictures and mug collection.  I know you love your family, but all of your pictures hanging up makes the homebuyer think of you – no good.  De-personalize the house as much as possible.  Think about what a furniture catalog looks like.  Those catalogs are set up in a way that anyone who opens them imagines their life in that room they are looking at.  That’s what you need to aim for.

Related: Take a look at some mortgage and re-finance rates in your area.

6. You Stay While I Look at the House

There’s a tendency, when showing a home, for the seller to follow the potential buyer around the house and tell them everything that’s great about the place as well as be there to answer any questions.  Don’t do that!!  That’s what the agent’s job is.

Following the buyer around makes the buyer nervous and they don’t get to really look around.  They feel rushed, watched, and they can’t speak to their family about what they like or hate about the place.  When you follow a buyer around you might also be hurting yourself by appearing too eager.  Or you might accidentally let out a piece of information that sours the buyer on the house (“ten years ago our little guy tripped on the steps and hit his head there but he’s OK now…”).

Give people space to talk about what they like or talk smack about the house.  Who cares what they say as long they want to buy it, right?

True story – when we were selling our co-op we stayed and showed our place to those that were interested.  We got some interest but not a lot.  A friend told us it was a mistake to stay in the home while they looked.  We started letting people look on their own while we waited outside for a bit.  We started to get more return calls and repeat looks.  Really.

7. Your Real Estate Agent Sucks

This one hurts.  You hire a real estate agent and you expect them to bust their hump for you and get your house sold.  After all, they are getting a commission, right?

But not all real estate agents are created equal.

Some look to get your listing and hope it sells itself.  Or they have so many other listings that they can’t devote enough time to you.  What adds to the problem is many agents have you sign a form saying you will only work with them for a period of time and if another sells for x months after they still get a piece of the action.

Get on the agent’s case.  Stay in touch with them and find out what they are doing to move your home.  Call their bosses, if possible, and let them know you are not happy.  Make sure your real estate agent is working for you.

8. You Place is All Busted Up

Broken house

Why isn’t my house selling? It’s mint!

If your place needs work, that’s one thing.  Every house has its warts.  But if there are big problems with your house then you have to understand that will be reflected in the price someone will pay.  The problems may not even be major.  If the paint job is dull and dirty, a white-wash can do wonders to make the house more attractive and the cost is relatively low.  But if there is more work than a person would expect it leads us to the next point…

9. You Flat-Out Lied in Your Description

Being “colorful” or “taking some liberties” in your description is probably something most house listings do.  But some real estate listings flat-out lie.  Don’t call your house “mint” if it’s far from it.  If there is serious work that needs to be done then you have more than a “fixer-upper.”

Here’s the deal, all houses have their warts (trust me, they do).  And we all want our house to sell.  But when you lie in your description it ticks off the potential buyer.  You lose all trust and you waste their time.  When a buyer sees a house where the description is way off they ask themselves “what else is hidden and wrong here?”  They are going to think the house is much worse than what they see.

I can’t tell you how many houses we saw that said they were four bedrooms but were really three with a big closet as a fourth.  Or there was a room that basically had some divider.  Or a couple of rooms were a converted attic where you had to duck in places.  You get the picture.

10. You’re Still Doing Work on It

If you are still doing some major work (or even minor) on the house you have to understand that doesn’t look good to a buyer.  They are looking at a house that is incomplete in some way.  Even if the work sounds like it will be great they can’t be sure it will turn out well.  If you are the one doing the work then that’s really bad.  A buyer wants to know any work is professionally done and up to code.

I’m not talking a paint job here.  I’m talking about renovations or big repairs.  Either get them done before you put the house on the market, get a pro to do it (with documentation), or understand that your house isn’t exactly “ideal” right now.

11. You Have “Unique” Tastes

I don’t begrudge you having tastes that are out of the norm.  There’s nothing wrong with that – until you want to sell your house!

If your tastes are more eclectic than most people’s then you may be limiting the audience that you can sell to.  Heck, your interior may be genius in some circles but for other people it may mean doing a lot of painting and renovation.  Take a look at your home and honestly ask yourself if it looks like most of your neighbors.

True story, part II – We were checking out a house that was in our price range and was in the neighborhood we were looking at.  It was a nice sized place that had what we required, for the most part.  One big problem, the owner seemed to be stuck in the 80′s circa Miami Vice.  Just about all the walls have some sort of black striped theme going diagonal.  The kitchen cabinets were black Formica.  We just couldn’t see ourselves having to re-paint every wall, strip the wall paper, and put in new cabinets.  Not for the price they were asking.  Know what?  That house has been for sale over a year now at least.

Finally

You may not realize that you are sabotaging your chances at selling your house.  Take a look at your house like it isn’t yours.  If you can’t do that find a friend that will give you an honest opinion.  Ask friends and family if they know someone in real estate that will give you an impartial opinion.  You have to put yourself in the mind of the buyer.

If you can’t figure out why your house isn’t selling then seriously go through these reasons again and honestly ask yourself if any apply to your situation.  With a few changes you may be able to finally get your house sold!

What other reasons can you think of to answer the question “why isn’t my house selling?”

Published or updated July 15, 2013.

Comments

  1. #15 You’re forgetting to look at your local market to see what your buyers are actually looking for.

    I live in a popular neighborhood in a town with one of the lowest foreclosure rates in the nation. Although common advice tells you to paint your walls white and keep things neutral, I find houses that sell well in my neighborhood are often painted cheery colors and have lots of “character.” (But, yes, they are in good repair and spotlessly clean.)

    People who are attracted to my quirky neighborhood aren’t looking for a vanilla box. If they were, they’d buy a McHouse out in the suburbs.

    Each market is different and it’s important to find out what people are looking for in your neighborhood.

    Of course, you realize, home selling is such an emotional issue that the people who most need your good advice will never take it, don’t you? :)

    • Good point Pamela. Look at your neighborhood and see what works! If the houses that sell fast have garden gnomes then get one. If, like you say where you are, cheery colors are better, then consider a paint job.

  2. No Debt MBA says:

    We saw one house when we were looking that had taken the “paint everything neutral” idea too far. They’d taken an early 90s tan/beige and painted everything that color. Walls and trim. It was awful. If they’d only painted the trim a bright white the place might have been saved, but it looked awful.

  3. The house we bought was on the market for 9 months. At first they’d tried to get every penny back that they put into it. They also didn’t freshen up the paint. So the listing got stale. By the time we saw the place they had dropped their price $40,000 but it was still about $30,000 too much. They did the beige thing, save for the master bedroom and bathrooms which helped given the old colours were random and not appealing. Once the house dropped $30k more, we put an offer in and got the house. We’re now in the process of adding colour to the walls!

    • You can add whatever color you want once it’s yours to live in, but if you’re selling you better keep it conservative and similar to what’s selling in your neighborhood.

  4. I think we saw the same black formica kitchen cabinets when we were looking several years ago. ;) We were just shocked to see how many houses we looked at were so guilty of many of these things on your list. It’s not really a surprise when they’re not selling then.

    • Glen Craig says:

      Hey do you live near me?!?

      I get that it’s hard to see your own house through another’s eyes. But when your house isn’t selling you really have to start to look at why. It isn’t always the market.

  5. This is a great post! We are really working on our curb appeal. We’ve done little things so far and it has already transformed the front of our home!

    • Glen Craig says:

      Investing a few dollars to make your home look a little nicer can really reap huge dividends for you in being able to sell.

      What little things have you done?

  6. If house sellers in the market saw this list, they’d have probably closed sales on their houses within the week :) Curb appeal cannot be emphasized enough, I think in this case, first impressions do really matter! So simple and practical tips and one is on his way to selling their house…thanks for sharing

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