Expired Listing Help! Why Your House Didn't Sell.
Did you have your home listed for sale only to end up without a buyer when the listing expired? Don't be discouraged, this is a challenging market and selling a home in the St. Louis area is quite competitive.
Hopefully this report will help you determine the reasons why your home may not have sold and also help guide you and direct you with what to do now to get your home sold.
Let's start with some of the common reasons for a home not selling:
We might as well start with one of the more sensitive subjects for sellers, the price of their home. It is common for sellers, even in challenging markets such as the current St. Louis market, to have an unrealistic opinion of the value of their home. Sellers have to realize the way a buyer sees their home is different than how they see their own. The seller typically sees their home as the palace they are offering at a great price in great condition and the buyer sees it as a house that is not decorated the way they like, needs some improvement and is over-priced. If you house was shown to several prospective purchasers then the price was probably too high since, even if there are extenuating circumstances that can prevent a home from selling (backing to a highway, out-dated kitchen, poor housekeeping) these will all overcome with price. On the other hand, if you did not have many showings, price may once again be the culprit as buyers weren't even willing to look at your home, however it could also be many other things such as poor or ineffective marketing, weak "representation" or some of the other areas discussed in this report.
So what do you do to make sure your home is priced correctly and appropriately for the current market the next time you list?
- When choosing an agent to list with don't just take the "easy" way out and pick a friend, neighbor or co-worker that happens to be an agent. Do your homework and select an agent that is a full-time professional, has experience in your market with your type of home, has resources available to effectively market your home in all mediums and the technological resources to serve the needs of today's buyer.
- LISTEN to the agent as he or she explains to you their justification for a suggested list price. They should back up their opinion with an in-depth market analysis showing what homes like yours, in your area have sold for recently including a comparison showing how your home differs from the ones sold. In addition, the analysis should include the list prices of active listings and FSBO's as they are your competition and this needs to be considered as well.
- It's hard, but as a seller, you MUST take emotion out of your pricing decision. Your memories of your home and evertyhing that has teken place over the years is priceless to you but to a buyer it's just a house that they hope to make a home.
There are a lot of ways to describe this but basically what we are talking about here is getting your home exposed to as many consumers that may be intersted int it as possible, to make sure the home is "represented" properly and that potential buyers have easy access to all the information that may help "sell them" on seeing your home. If you last agent was, well there is no nice way to put it, so we'll just say it, a "real estate dinosaur" and has not stayed up to date with technology, social media, internet marketing, etc, then the sale of your home probably suffered as a result. Consider these facts from teh National Association of REALTORS®:
- More than one-third of home-buyers in 2009 said their first step in the home-buying process was looking online for homes.
- Nine out of Ten recent home-buyers used the internet in their home search.
- A growing number of home-buyers are taking advantage of social networking web sites like Facebook and video hosting sites like YouTube when searching for a home.
What to look for in an agent to avoid the "real estate dinosaur":
- An agent that, for starters, makes sure their listings make a great first-impression and, since as we noted above, that first-impression will probably be via the internet that would mean that your home is going to "shine online." This agent will use plenty of photos of your home (good quality ones that present your home with it's best "face"), take time to write good, thorough remarks about the features of the home as well as use video of the home when appropriate.
- An agent that, before they put your home on the market, walk through the home with you to point out things they see that may keep your home from showing well and sharing with you their ideas on what should be done to make your home show the best, right from the start.
- Ask the agent about their marketing plan, specifically how they will utilize the internet and technology to market your home. A "tech-savvy" agent (non Dino era) will have a lot more to their plan than just a website (there are over 500 million websites out there) and will, while utilizing mainstream internet tools that are available to over 1 million REALTORS® such as, REALTOR.com, Trulia.com, Zillow.com, etc, utilize additional systems and resources including geo-targeted internet marketing, autoresponders and lead-generation and capture systems and more. The tech-savvy agent understands, and will also utilize social media, blogging to market your home as well.
- Even though, as was mentioned above, almost all buyers utilize the internet for their property searches, they also locate homes by driving neighborhoods they are interested in which means it is also important that the agent understand the significance and importance of the for-sale sign. We are not just talking about sticking a sign in the yard and calling it day however. We are talking about using the sign, and the info on it, to help engage a potential buyer, to give them info about your house in a quick-easy fashion and to do all this 24/7. Sure, most agents have a sign with a phone number and maybe the company, or their website, but a smart agent will have riders on the sign that direct the consumer (potential BUYER) to a website specific to that property (afterall, do you really want your home to be used to drive traffic to the real estate company site only?). In addition the sign should have a phone number where recorded information about your home is available at any time and captures the callers phone number so the agent can follow up. Finally, there's no better place for informative, full-color, brochures or flyers on your home then in an info box on the sign or in your yard.
When it comes to evaluating the condition of your home and it's suitability to be marketed in that condition, remember "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Many homeowners not only don't see the flaws that others may see in their homes, but many times can "justify-away" deficiencies or negative aspects of their homes. This is understandable as, to many of us, our houses are much more than just a house, they are a home. We have many wonderful memories of family and friends in the home, and may have a hard time taking an objective look at our home's condition to determine what needs to be done to prepare their home for sale. This is another area where an objective opinion would be a big help. If you home was shown several times during the listing period then this may be another reason it didn't sell.
What to do to address condition and other defects
- This is where, once again, a good agent is invaluable. Your agent should be able to take an objective look at your home, it's surroundings and location and see all the positives as well as the negatives.
- In terms of how to address the "negatives" the agent needs to put them into two categories: the one's that CAN be corrected or improved (the ugly, out-dated kitchen, worn carpet, etc) and the one's that CANNOT be correted (the railroad tracks behind your house, the airport a block away, etc.).
- For the items that CAN be corrected, there are two ways to deal with them: correct them, or make sure the price is adjusted adequately to compensate for the effect those issues will have on the buyer. For the itmes that cannot be corrected the only choice is the price adjustment.
If the buyer can't see it they are NOT going to buy it! Sounds simple, right? Well, many times sellers underestimate the effect that not making their home available for showing whenever requested has on the agents success with selling the home.
The answer to this issue is simple:
- Allow a lock-box to be put on your house to give agents easy access to it to show. Fortunately over the years, the technology and security of lock-boxes has improved to the point that there is NO reason for a seller to have a concern about having a lock-box on their home and in fact most all sellers do. Here in St. Louis, REALTORS® use the SUPRA lock-box system which is the leading electronic lock-box which records all activity, can be programmed not to allow access during certain hours, etc.
- Get out. When it is time for your house to be shown take your family and leave ahead of time. This allows the buyer and their agent to freely and comfortably walk through your home and look at it. It also saves them from listening to you tell them about every little thing you have done to the house over the years and all the great times you had there. Quite frankly, for the most part, they don't care. They are more interested (and you should be too) in them picturing THEMSELVES living there and making memories. Don't worry, if you selected a good listing agent, he or she will make sure the buyers agent knows all the important details about the house.
- Take the pets with you. You think your dog is cute and harmless but a buyer may not. It's simple, just take the pets with you while the house is being shown.
- The customer is ALWAYS right. Yes, it would be nice if all buyers and agents were courteous enough to give 24 or 48 hours advance notice of a showing but in the real world this isn't always possible. Sometimes it may simply be rudeness or sloppiness of the buyers agent but other times it may be because the agent was showing another home in the area and your home caught the buyers attention. In either event you are going to receive short-notice about a showing. Say YES. If you don't, another seller will and buyers are way too hard to come by to let one slip through your fingers.
If you had one or more offers on your house while it was listed but could not come to an agreement with the buyer, then it's probably worth reviewing the deals and trying to determine what kept you from reach a deal. Most sellers are emotionally attached to their homes and many times this causes some emotional, and even irrational, reactions to offers from buyers which impedes the chances of coming to terms.
To keep from blowing the deal during negotiations try these things:
- Don't take it personal! Remember, today's home-buyers have watched home prices drop throughout the country over the past couple of years and St. Louis was no exception. The St. Louis market is flooded with foreclosures and short-sales, both offering attractive prices in many cases. This has buyer's head's spinning and they are just being extra-cautious today to make sure they do not overpay. Try to look at all offers without emotion and even if it seems you are too far apart, don't give up on the deal.
- Don't get hung up on the "principal of it". Too many times, a potential sale will blow apart not because of price but of stubborness of the seller taking a stand on something for the principal of it. For example, a seller refusing to correct a defect in their home, not because of the cost of it, but simply because they disagree and don't feel it needs correcting.
While your home was listed if you had it sold one of more times only to lose the deal weeks down the road when the buyer was unable to obtain their financing then you may have one of a couple of problems. One, your house may be over-priced and therefore instead of attracting qualified buyers, the only people willing to pay the price are people that know it's a long shot that they will be approved for a loan so they tend not to be as savvy of a negotiator. Or, your agent may not have done enough to try to assure that the buyer was qualified, or relied too much on a pre-approval letter.
To avoid a repeat of this:
- If the price is the issue see the price section above.
- Make sure your agent is doing what they can to make sure that a buyer is qualfied for financing and should be able to obtain a loan. Many good agents will, before showing the buyer homes, have the buyer visit a lender first to get "pre-approved" for their fianancing. While this is an excellent practice, there are many types of pre-approvals and some simply are not worth the paper they are written on. A good, experienced agent, will know the difference