Dammit, why won’t anyone write an offer on my house?

You’ve had your house listed for a couples months. Buyers keep coming in the door almost every day, but you have not gotten an offer. What gives? You see your neighbors’ houses selling. Is your agent not doing their job? Is there something wrong with your house? How can you get an offer?

real estate contractGetting a buyer to tour your home and getting them to write an offer are two very different things. Some nice photos and a snappy description will likely get them in the door, but your home needs to sell itself in person to get an offer. A lot of times it is price, but condition of the home plays a big role as well.

  1. Not everyone loves your home as much as you do – Living in a home for 5-10 or more years is sure to to form an attachment as a seller. You were emotional when you bought it, and are even more emotional if it’s been a big part of your life. I have yet to meet a seller that didn’t let some of that attachment translate into what they think the house is worth. Swallow your pride and be open to feedback that your home is the same or worse than others nearby. Those are the comparisons that buyers are making.
  2. If I wait long enough, I’ll get the price I want – It takes time to sell a real estate listing. Buyers need to see it online, schedule a visit or two and then ponder if they want it. That could be a few days or a few weeks. While you need to allow for some marketing time, if your house has languished on the market for an extended period, the market has spoken and buyers aren’t willing to pay your price. Unless you want to be listed for 6-9 months or more, listen to the market and adjust your price accordingly.
  3. Fix what needs fixing – Every obvious flaw is an opportunity for the buyer to ding the house. The buyer tallies each flaw and either lowers the price they are willing to pay or skips the house altogether because of perceived maintenance costs. You don’t need to replace your outdated kitchen or pursue expensive remodeling projects, but that loose gutter, old water stain or nasty carpet can be a decision maker when a buyer is wavering on making an offer. Either fix it, offer a credit for it or disclose it. Realize that most buyers lack vision for fix up projects and prefer a house to be “move-in ready.”
  4. Set your price within striking distance – Buyers (and their agents) don’t like to make offers that require a huge discount to get to what they perceive as fair market value. Generally you need to be priced withing 5% or so of the right price to get an offer. If they buyer thinks they need 10%-15% off to get a fair deal, you are not going to get an offer. As a seller, you probably don’t want to negotiate with a buyer willing to ask for 15%-20% off, since those are the same sort of buyers who are going to take you to task on inspection negotiations once you are in contract.
  5. Don’t let your listing be “bought” by your agent – It’s one of the oldest tricks in the real estate agent book. Promise a high price to the seller to get the exclusive listing, then work them down on price over time until it sells. Focus upfront on agents who actually get houses sold and are willing to give you objective feedback on price.
  6. But I bought it for $100,000 more just 5 years ago – What you paid for it many years ago is not relevant to what the market will pay for it today. Buyers could care less if you are losing a bunch of money. They simply want something priced similarly to what other properties are selling for nearby.
  7. Make your home sell itself in person – Visiting a home in person is either going to disappoint or impress when compared to the online listing photos. We tour thousands of houses every year, and certain homes give off “that vibe” when you walk in. Part of it is price, but a lot of it is curb appeal and condition. You know intuitively it is going to sell quick and buyers walk away with a sense of urgency to not let the house get away. Maybe it’s landscaping the front walk or painting the front door. Sometimes it is just being spotlessly clean. You need the presentation of your home to play to this basic buyer emotion when they enter.
  8. Is your agent following up? – Buyers who are on the fence sometimes need some coaxing. A diligent real estate agent knows when to follow up and make creative suggestions to buyers who are still debating the house. You need to feel confident that your agent is following up, but at the same time realize that there is no hard-sell that is going to get a buyer committed to your house. At the end of the day, they either want it or they don’t.
  9. Lower the damn price – Sellers who are in denial about their price resist price drops to the bitter end. Every home, not matter how odd, has a price that it will sell at today. If you are not at that price, you are not going to get any offers. To a real estate agent that sells a lot of homes, it is readily apparent when the price needs to go down. To the resistant seller, it becomes a battle of wills with their agent. “My agent keeps telling me to drop the price. I think they just need to advertise more.” If your home looks great and is getting plenty of visitors, but no offers, the buyers have spoken loud and clear. Lower your price and you’ll eventually get one to bite.
  10. Don’t lose sight of the big picture – Few home sellers are completely exiting the market. They usually are selling one home to purchase another. If the market is down and you are getting less for your home than you want, you will be getting a better deal on your replacement home. You can wait around for the market to improve on your house, but recognize that the market has also improved on the house you are planning to buy and you’ll have to pay more.