I never envisioned myself as someone who would own two homes, but that’s what happened after a job offer led to an unexpected move out of state. We put our home on the market as soon as we knew we’d be moving, and that’s where it stayed for 8 months…with no offers. With bills piling up, a tough housing market and a listing that was a bit off the beaten path, we rented the house out for a year before trying to sell it again. Ten more months passed before we finally got an offer. If I knew then what I know now, I could have sold the house a lot more quickly. Here are my tips for selling a hard-to-sell home.
1. Change realtors. If your house is in good condition, decluttered and fairly priced, change realtors if it doesn’t sell after a few months on the market. We stuck with the same realtor for 16 months. When we selected a new realtor, he immediately pointed out simple changes we could make to the home to make it more appealing. Two months after we listed with him, we had a signed contract. When changing realtors, limit your contract with them to 90 days, so you have the option to change again if they don’t get results.
2. Select a real estate agent carefully. Determine who the three top-selling agents are in your market, interview them and pick the best one. Ask them to go through the house and give you their feedback before you choose one. Our new realtor pointed out things in the house our old one never mentioned, little things that were easy to fix and eased potential concerns in buyers’ minds. He also used innovative techniques others weren’t using, such as taking very high-quality photos and doing a narrated video walkthrough of the home (again, very high quality) in which he pointed out various features. Some agents’ “virtual tours” are just still photos set to music — don’t settle for that. Our new agent owned multiple websites and had a subscription service that sent buyers emails weekly with new listings. He even has a camera mounted to a remote-controlled helicopter he uses on occasion to give aerial views of a home.
3. Take a hard look at your price. If your house has been on the market for several months and is in great shape, it’s likely price is the reason it hasn’t sold. Maybe your realtor has suggested a price reduction, but you have been reluctant to cooperate. Think of what it is costing you to carry the house on your books every month (mortgage interest/utilities/maintenance/insurance) and consider a price reduction. We ended up selling our house for about 8 percent less than our original list price in a tough real estate market.
4. Make simple changes, even if they are inconvenient. The home we sold did not have any walls painted in electric pink or stop-sign red, so for several months of the listing, we left the paint in the same condition it was in when we moved out. Even though I hate painting, we eventually bit the bullet and repainted some rooms with tired-looking paint and those whose colors may not have been buyers’ favorites. My mother also graciously repainted many of the baseboards and much of the trim in a fresh, white paint. We also switched out an ugly ceiling fan in the dining area for a more modern (yet inexpensive) light fixture. These changes helped make a good first impression on buyers.
5. Stage at least a few rooms of a vacant home. “Staging” is a term used to describe placing furniture and other items throughout a vacant home to make it look “lived-in” and to help buyers imagine where their belongings might go. You don’t have to rent a bunch of furniture or spend a lot of money to do this. We borrowed an unused couch from my parents and bought an inexpensive coffee table on CraigsList for the living room. We hung a couple of unneeded pans on the stainless-steel pot rack in the kitchen to show it off. In the master bedroom, we used a queen-sized inflatable bed and perched it atop a plywood frame my dad built from scrap lumber. We covered it with a borrowed bedspread and put an unused nightstand and lamp next to it. In the bathrooms, we placed $1 soap dispensers and hung hand towels. Throughout the home, we hung a few pieces of framed art we didn’t need at our new home or that we borrowed. We placed a filled candy dish on the kitchen counter (which proved to be a big hit with buyers). We also hung shower curtains in the bathrooms.
6. Consider expensive repairs when needed. I believe one of the reasons our home did not sell in the beginning was the 7-year-old roof. Even though there was nothing structurally wrong with it, the shingles had streaks on them which gave a bad first impression. We were advised trying to clean the streaks off would damage the shingles. After a hailstorm hit the area, we were able to get the roof replaced with the help of our insurance coverage. While the cost to us was relatively low, it might be worth considering paying for something like this out of your own pocket if you must. Our house sold shortly after the new room was put on.
I hope this advice helps you move from home sale stress to home sale celebration. If you have additional tips to share, please add a comment to help others.