What To Do When Your House Won’t Sell


You’ve heard all about the hot real estate market that’s been sweeping the country the past couple years. Selling your house, you assumed, would be quick and easy. But that isn’t always the case. If you’re caught in a situation in which your house has lingered on the market while you’ve watched neighbors sell and move, then it may be time to make some changes.

Economists at the National Association of Realtors expect homebuying activity in the next few months to lose a bit of steam, but maintain a strong clip despite increasing interest rates.

“But even with the increase, mortgage interest rates currently are below the average for all of 2002,” David Lereah, chief economist, said. “Given that last year was a record for home sales, today’s interest rates are still very attractive and will keep sales at relatively strong levels going forward. We expect only a modest rise in interest rates, with the 30-year fixed staying below 6.5 percent for the rest of the year.”

The national median existing-home price is expected to increase 6.6 percent in 2003 to $168,600, while the median new-home price should rise 3.2 percent to $193,700. “With a more balanced market between buyers and sellers expected in 2004, home prices should rise in the range of 4 to 4.5 percent,” Lereah said.

That prediction is proving true in some parts of the country, like Sun Valley, Idaho.

“Things are neutralizing more each day in Sun Valley as interest rates move upward, ever so slightly,” said broker Mo O’Connell. “Everything that is priced well is still being shown, though marketing times are getting a bit longer.”

A similar situation exists in Northern Colorado.

“Northern Colorado is experiencing some “market corrections” in response to an abnormally high-priced market,” said agent Mary Roberts, of Fort Collins. “Days on market for a home in the high $100,000’s to low $200,000’s is now three to four months instead of one to two months.”

So if your house has been on the market longer than you had anticipated and you’ve seen few – if any – reasonable offers, then the first thing you should examine is your asking price.

If you’re working with an agent, he or she conducted a market analysis of similar homes that have sold recently in your area. The specifics of your house – any home improvements you may have made, the condition of the roof and paint, the size of your lot, the location in the subdivision (cul de sacs and courts are usually more desired while houses closer to the front of a development and closer to main thoroughfares might reduce the asking price) should have been considered.

Perhaps you got a little greedy and insisted your house be listed on the high side, or even higher than your agent recommended. Now’s the time to reduce the asking price.

Other things you can do and consider include:


  • Ask your agent to talk to other agents who have brought clients to the house to try to determine what potential buyers thought of the house and why they passed it up.
  • Fix the obvious. If you started out with a situation you knew might deter buyers, take care of it – now. Whether it’s a worn roof with missing shingles, the dirty peach-colored carpet, or the back yard that is nothing but dirt, remedy the problem so it can be an attribute.
  • Think about your curb appeal. In other words, the way your house looks from the street – the roof’s condition, how the paint is holding up, whether the windows are sparkling, the lawn is mowed, the landscape is attractive and not buried beneath a peppering of fall leaves, and the driveway and walkways are free from toys and clutter.
  • Try to see your house through someone else’s eyes. If you have too much furniture, put some of it in storage. Fewer pieces of furniture will make the room seem larger and more open. Also, clear counters in the kitchen and bathrooms. Make sure closets are clean. Pack up some of your clothes now. Fewer hanging clothes in the closet will make the closet appear bigger.
  • Showcase any assets. If you’ve already had your own home inspection, provide a copy of the report to anyone who looks at the house. If you have an Energy Star air conditioning or heating unit, or an Energy Star water heater or appliances – all of which typically reduce energy bills – display your utility bills and any fact sheets of information you have on your Energy Star amenity.Finally, don’t lose hope. Barring any major structural problems, when your house is priced right and looks its best, it will sell.


Written by Michele Dawson



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