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14 reasons your listing might not sell and how to fix them

Tim and Julie Harris|September 7, 2022

14 reasons your listing might not sell and how to fix them

According to a recent Forbes report, active listing inventory in the U.S. is up nearly 31% for the third month in a row. Along with this comes longer days on the market, lighter showing activity, fewer competitive offers, and more power to qualified buyers.

With more listings to choose from, buyers’ agents look for reasons to not show a property. Buyers look for reasons not to buy it — or at the very least — keep looking and delay their decision.

What causes a listing to not sell? Why does it expire? Why does a listing get deprioritized by buyers or buyers’ agents? Some of the reasons may surprise you, but all of them can be remedied by the listing agent, the seller, or both.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons listings get overlooked in a market where there’s more to choose from.

The first three mistakes are all within the listing agent’s control:

The listing is poorly presented. Little or no staging and other issues — clutter, questionable smells, messy or dirty and dark — all create problems. The goal is for the listing to show like a new construction model home. Consider adding shoe covers in a basket in the foyer. ‘Please remove your shoes or cover them to protect the floors which may someday be yours!’ The sellers will love you for saving them from vacuuming before and after every showing, and asking for visitors to cover their shoes sets a good precedent that this is a well-kept home.

The listing has a non-compelling description. This includes plain vanilla words like ‘open and airy floor plan’. Don’t make it sound like every other listing. Make the description convince me to show this property first. We used to borrow language from British Homes magazines; they’re more descriptive and unique than the typical listing language we all see every day.

The listing has terrible pictures. This includes tiny iPhone pictures, pictures with kids sleeping in their beds, kitchen pictures with dirty dishes, and worse. You’ve seen pictures where the agent’s reflection is in the kitchen mirror, holding their iPhone to shoot photos.

The next three mistakes that can cause a listing to sit and not to sell are in the homeowner’s control, but can be directed by the listing agent:

The listing has too many showing restrictions. If you can only show it on a Friday afternoon if the baby isn’t sleeping and it’s sunny outside, you won’t get many showings! If you can’t show it; you can’t sell it. If you’re a buyer’s agent who can show four homes this afternoon, but there are eight to choose from, the one that’s hardest to show will always go to the bottom of the list!

The listing has poor curb appeal. Some 50% of the buying decision is made from the street. Does your listing look like a house that someone would be proud to come home to? Do some simple things to improve the curb appeal, put a wreath on the door, add a pretty front doormat, plants on the porch, landscaping, weed removal, re-sod dead portions of the grass, make the pool blue again and get that dog poo cleaned up from the yard.

The listing gives a bad impression when you open the front door. The other 50% of the buying decision is made in the foyer. A clutter-free, bright foyer should make the buyer want to see the rest of the house, NOT make them want to turn around and go see what’s next on the list.

The next reasons a listing might not be selling are more technical and strategic mistakes:

Something could be wrong with your actual MLS listing. Maybe your pictures aren’t loading, the description doesn’t make sense or it’s not categorized correctly. For example, in some MLS systems, if you don’t put in the square footage and someone is searching for it, your listing won’t pop up. Maybe I’m searching for 1,500 to 2,500 square feet for my buyer; if you didn’t enter the square feet, I won’t even see your listing. Take an MLS class so you know all of the ins and outs and won’t make these simple but hidden mistakes.

The listing could be in the wrong pricing segment. If you’re at $509k, you’re possibly the least attractive listing for a search from $500k to $750k. That should be $499k to make it the BEST option for someone searching from $350 to $500k. This has been analyzed many times and some contend that the right price would be $500,000 so that it appears when you search from $350,000-$500,000 as well as $500 to $750,000. See what works best for you.

The listing looks clearly overpriced when compared to its competition. If there are 10 listings that meet a buyer’s criteria, and your three-bedroom listing is priced as if it’s a four- bedroom, you’ll always look overpriced and go to the bottom of the showing list. A price adjustment may be the only remedy here.

The listing has a confusing floor plan. For example, a modern home in a colonial area, split levels, or anything unusual needs to have extra staging so buyers and buyer’s agents understand how the floorplan works. If you can’t tell what a room is supposed to be, the home just won’t resonate with a potential buyer. They may not put their finger on the reason, they’ll just say that it didn’t feel right.

The listing has negative feedback that never gets remedied and the price doesn’t improve to reflect that. Repetitive negative feedback. This is what causes listings to expire. Be proactive and get estimates to address condition issues. Ultimately, if the price doesn’t reflect the problems, it could be an unsellable listing.

The listing has too many personal items, like family pictures, degrees on the wall, specific artwork, etc. These items can distract the buyer from focusing on the property and how they would live there. Buyers want to think about their stuff, not the seller’s stuff. You’ve all heard people walk through a listing and imagine where they’d put their couch, wonder if their dining room set would fit and which kid would get which bedroom. Too many personal items can make it so that conversation never happens and the buyers just want to move on to the next option.

The listing has obvious detriments, like bugs, dog hair, cat litter smells, a green swimming pool, or other off-putting things that are making the buyer run away. Either price it to reflect the condition or fix the condition.

The listing agent simply isn’t proactive or effective at communicating with the seller. When there’s competition in the market, you must have a proactive strategy for being the listing that wins.

Work to eliminate these potential issues. If that’s impossible, you must price the home to be more competitive. It’s no longer good enough to just be available. The home you are listing must SHINE and be the clear choice for any buyer who sees it.

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