Why is my house not selling?
Online house hunting can only do so much.
You cannot smell a house online.
Or open that mysterious door in the basement, or inspect the walls and ceilings for water damage.
You can rule out many homes online, but there are things about a property that you won’t know till you arrive.
This is where, with your own personally retained agent, you begin looking at houses. Lots of them. Sometimes lots and lots of them.
One such (fictional) couple was at the stage of looking. They had smartly retained me to represent them, and off we went looking for that perfect-for-them house.
Here’s how their search went down.
House one: He loved the garage but the master bedroom wasn’t big enough for her.
House two: She loved the kitchen but he didn’t want to be bothered with making the basement windows bigger so the children could safely sleep downstairs.
House three: The wood stove was something he had always wanted but she thought it was not safe for the toddler to be around. I suggested they could remove it but that would create a renovation project they didn’t want to pay for.
House four: She loved the character in the old house but he wasn’t interested in a property that only had a holding tank. It would be an added monthly living expense that they didn’t need.
House five: The floors had all been replaced, which was hugely appealing to both of them. However, the laminate floors had been poorly installed and already had areas separating and swelling from moisture. They both were super disappointed.
House Six: The backyard was amazing. They could both see themselves enjoying summer out here. Too bad the ceiling had been dripping and was causing mould in the upper level of the one and a half story home. Their son’s allergies would not work with that.
House seven: The ad in the magazine said it was a few minutes from the city. It took forty-two minutes to drive to the property and there were eleven miles of gravel road to travel. It was just too far to drive.
House eight: The open-concept living area appealed to both of them. She loved the large windows… until she saw who lived next door. She would not live next door to his ex-girlfriend. Not happening.
House nine: The smell of cigarette smoke was so strong they never even looked through the entire house.
House ten: The backyard photos were the reason they wanted to see this one. The towering apartment blocks next to the home put a damper on the private backyard life they had imagined. They ruled it out before we even looked inside. That was a quick walk though.
House eleven: Ten acres. Finally. They could have horses and other pets. The current owners enjoyed pets also. They just were not very attentive about cleaning up the cat litter. The rugs were torn in the doorways and in the stairs, apparently having been used as a scratching post. There were snakes, lizards, ferrets, hamsters, dogs, and birds living in the house.
The grass on the ten acres had not been cut in years and the grounds had become a dumping ground for old car parts. They certainly could not see their son playing on these grounds. How long would it take to clean the place? I think I saw her gag at the thought.
House twelve: They wrote an offer. They just wanted to move already. We went back to do a home inspection and when we arrived we found the basement flooded. There was no sump pit or sump pump.
The spring melt was coming up through the floor and the beautiful new rug was soaking wet. Thankfully, because they had the offer subject to a home inspection, they were able to get out of the deal.
Houses thirteen to thirty-one: They compared each of these homes with the one they had fallen in love with and written an offer on. None of them compared. After a while, all the houses started to look the same.
House number thirty two: Adequate size. Treed yard with a garden. Finished basement. Bi-level with large basement windows. The floors were about five years old but they looked nice. The garage was not insulated but it was attached to the house and they liked that. The kitchen wasn’t as big as she wanted but it had a huge walk-in pantry. They could picture their life here.
I watched them as they quietly took it all in. They were in no hurry to leave. They started picturing where they would place their furniture. It all just made sense. Finally, they had found their home.
You might be wondering if I’m exaggerating. I don’t actually show that many houses before closing a deal, right? I must have just gotten caught up in the fictional storytelling.
YES, I’ve absolutely shown upwards of thirty houses to a single client. It’s happened a few times.
The fact is, house-hunting takes time. Lots of time.
If you take anything away from this story, I hope it is an appreciation of the buyer representative who dedicates themselves to you and your process.
We work hard, and are glad to show you loads of listings, regardless of whose sign is on the yard.
Accredited Buyer Representative
Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate
Showings can be scary.
And a little… overly personal.
Some things are better left unseen, you know?
Want to sell your house? Start hiding stuff. Well, unless you want to frighten away potential buyers. Then, by all means, leave out the diapers and sour milk.
Things Buyers (And Agents) Don’t Want To See:
An old-style gun rack is a scary sign to a buyer. If it’s full of guns, you look armed and dangerous. If it’s empty, they’re wondering where you hid your artillery. Either way, the thought of negotiating with you may well scare off buyers.
The handcuffs hanging from your bedroom closet door are way too much information. Be who you are in the bedroom and enjoy it, but announcing your fetishes to the buyers walking through your house may not help your sale.
It’s wonderful if you are blessed enough to have a pair of shoes for every day of the year. But every pair doesn’t need to be in the entrance, does it? Tripping on shoes and being unable to see the floor kind of puts a damper on a showing. (We won’t even talk about the smell.)
From the moment we enter, the buyer is annoyed and distracted.
… that’s not what you were going for, was it?
What You Eat
I’m constantly baffled by how common it is for sellers to host a showing while the dishes and food have not been cleared from the table.
Look, buyers don’t care what you had for breakfast. They do, however, connect the dots between a person who does not take care of food and a person who then probably does not take good care of a property.
Tip: It is generally a good practice to put the milk back in the fridge before you all leave for the day.
Little Tommy is getting potty trained, is he? We can tell. We’re glad it is going well and celebrate your success. … but please don’t leave the evidence of his failures lying about, stenching up the place.
Soiled underthings tend to impact the ambiance and detract from the buyer experience, you know?
Basically, try to avoid anything personal, messy, stinky, or inappropriate being visible during a showing.
When it’s for sale, it’s not your home anymore. It’s a product. And your product needs to be presented attractively in order to sell.
Tina Plett, Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate
Photo taken by Eniko Crozier
The Benefits of Using a Real Estate Photographer
When there are so many options for buyers to choose from and so little buyers to go around, what can help attract a buyer’s attention to your home? Proper real estate photography, that’s what!!!
Fact: Most home buyers today start their home shopping online. There are many websites to view homes on, from public ones like MLS to local site like MH&H to the realtor’s own website. As a seller, it is important for you that your home looks it’s best in every picture. When a realtor takes photos of the seller’s home with their cellphone, the pics are often too dark or too grainy for the potential buyer to connect with your home. This can cause them to completely skip over your home and choose to book a showing with the competition instead!
A seller needs a photographer that can connect with their home. One that can hilight all the benefits of living there, without distorting them. Whether it’s the special features or the little extras inside the home itself, the beautiful gardens & landscaping outside, or the outbuildings. A good photographer not only sees but feels those little subtleties in each property that makes it unique and special to any other property that is for sale. They recognize these features and focus on them to help make your property stand out above the rest!
With proper photos, when a potential buyer views your home online, they are drawn in because the photos help connect them to the property. Now they are booking that showing at your home, instead of skipping over it in favour of your competition!
Real Estate Photographer and Real Estate Professional
Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate
You probably have a pile of debt.
And it’s probably getting bigger, not smaller, right?
You’re not alone.
Most of us do, and it’s the kind that gets bigger every year.
According to Statistics Canada, 71% of all Canadians carry some form of debt (2012).
“Yes, that includes mortgages, but it also includes a growing pile borrowed to buy cars, new kitchens and many of the fashionable material trappings of the modern middle-class lifestyle”(1)
How do people deal with it?
They ignore it, letting debt climb every year, and hoping it gets better one day. We won’t go into why that’s a bad idea.
They refinance, using equity to pay off debts. Basically, it’s like using your house as a debit card, withdrawing cash whenever you need it. The plan is shaky, and depends on the market value to increase forever and without stopping. (Don’t think prices will drop? Our neighbors to the south thought that too…)
Or they sell, thinking the profits should be enough to dig them out.
That’s when they jolt awake to the fact that the sale won’t necessarily cover that pile of debt.
And it makes them crazy. The thought of getting a payday can make people do some wacky math. (Just ask anyone who’s dealt with the division of an estate)
They’re shocked. Disappointed. Outraged and defiant even.
But here’s the thing.
The value of a property is not based on how much debt a person has.
Aren’t you glad? Imagine paying double for a house just because the guy who owns it happens to have loads and loads of debt. Would you pay it?
And they won’t pay you either, sorry.
So what can you do when the sale doesn’t cover your debt?
Brace yourself, you’re about to hear things you already know.
- Adjust your expectations. Remember – house value is not at all impacted by your finances. Besides, no one owes you financial freedom any more than you owe it to them.
- Decide to stop adding to the debt pile now! It won’t grow if you don’t feed it.
- Make a plan to pay off existing debt. Selling the house, when the value doesn’t cover it, is not the plan. Make a new one. Second jobs, selling other assets, reducing spending and throwing down higher payments… do what you must to climb out.
It’s that simple, and that difficult.
Overspending is killing us, and entitlement about house prices is not helping.
Welcome to the reason we’re all in debt up to our eyes.
I’m in the trenches with you, and the other 71% of Canadians.
What’s say we climb out instead of expecting others to pay our way?
Tina Plett, Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate
Sometimes loyalty is a bad idea.
Even to family.
And especially to the neighbor’s uncle’s cousin’s friend.
Like the woman whose loyalty is causing her crippling pain to continue.
She had been seeing a physical therapist to help her with the constant pain she was in. For all the therapy she’d been receiving, her condition was getting worse, not better. There were other therapists who were skilled at treating this very problem.
“Maybe it’s time to try another therapist,” I said.
“Oh! But I can’t do that! I know somebody who works there.”
I let her statement just hang in the air, hoping she’d hear the lunacy of it.
After a moment, I chided with my signature brand of sarcasm.
“Oh. Well, in that case, you’d better just stay in pain.”
She smirked. “Good point.”
I guess she felt like her leaving would mean the therapist would be out of a job.
Which, of course, is totally false.
Loyalty can be a bad idea in real estate too.
Too often people have hired a realtor because their face is on a sign (here’s why that’s a dumb idea) or worse, because their neighbor’s friend’s son is an agent.
Which apparently means you are obligated to hire them.
Let’s just let that hang in the air for a moment so we can hear the lunacy of it.
Imagine this loyalty applied to doctors. Using only doctors who someone knows, regardless of their skill level or expertise, would be stupid.
“Oh, you’re an OBGYN? Perfect. Because I have this heart condition…”
“Oh, this life-saving pill was made by Valeant? Sorry, I only buy from Pfizer because my dad worked there for twenty years.”
Do you hear the lunacy of it?
“Oh, you’re a realtor specializing in rural properties and digital marketing strategy? Sorry, my brother Bob always uses another agent, so I have to too.”
Your loyalty should not be treated so cheaply.
Don’t give it away.
Especially not just because someone thinks you should.
Loyalty is precious and should be earned.
When it’s not earned, it’s treated poorly. Then you get poor results.
What else could you expect from a doctor not skilled in your area of need? From a therapist that can’t help you? Please, at least find out about the services a real estate agent offers before you make a decision on who you will hire to represent you.
Make them earn your loyalty.
And if they can’t, they didn’t deserve it in the first place.
Tina Plett, Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate
In southeastern Manitoba, home sales have slowed. And sellers are getting frustrated.
For the last decade, our area has enjoyed a boom – a fast-paced market where buyers were tripping over themselves to secure the house they desperately wanted to buy. Prices swelled, there were competing offers, and it was a thrilling ride.
In the last year or so, something changed. We suddenly have an abundance of homes to choose from in today’s market. Buyers are now able to take their time (and they surely do), and browse the wide selection. They are no longer desperate to get whatever they can.
This is why to sell a home takes much longer than it did only a year or two ago.
Homes listed on MLS can take twice as long to sell than they would have in the past. It can take six months (or more) to sell your house in the R16 region.
If you’re a seller, this is disappointing news.
If you’re a seller in a hurry to sell, this is downright scary.
There is a way around it, but new markets call for new ways of thinking. Are you ready to adapt to the new market? If you are willing to change with the times, you’ll have an easier time. Stubborn adherence to past prices, old marketing, or even just your own perceptions though, can cause you a world of unnecessary hurt.
If you’re eager to sell, and willing to accept that the tides have changed, here’s how to change with them.
If your home is listed at 100% of market value, expect the sale to take six months or more.
Pricing at 95% of market value would bring you back up around 2-4 months.
Listing at 85% of market value may take closer to 3-8 weeks.
If your home is listed at 70% of market value though, which is what investors typically pay, you can expect a sale very quickly – in 1-3 weeks!
Then there are those who insist on listing above that value. Theirs can be a dark road.
That road often ends in the listing becoming stale, receiving low-ball offers, and then either selling for way, way, way below even market value, or being repossessed because the owners could not finance the long haul that kind of greed demands.
The bottom line is that you can control your bottom line.
You can’t force people to buy, but you can certainly sweeten the deal for them. And in a buyers’ market, that’s an essential element to selling your home.
Like much of life, it seems the home seller must choose between time or money.
Which are you willing to pay?
You’ve advertised your house For Sale By Owner.
Soon after, a real estate agent lands on your doorstep saying they have a buyer for you.
All you have to do is lock yourself into a listing contract, and the buyer will appear.
If you’ve ever agreed to sign based on that promise, you’ve also probably noticed that the elusive buyer never shows. Perhaps they conveniently changed their mind. Maybe they never existed. Either way, you’re left empty handed, wondering if signing was the right thing to do.
Ever been there?
You’re not alone.
It’s an age-old tactic agents use to acquire listings. People easily fall for it, so the method continues to be used.
“But what if they really have a buyer? I don’t want to miss out!”
It’s true, they may have a buyer for you. I let my buyers choose if they want to include private sales in their search. There are a lot of good agents who go to such lengths to seek out a property for their buyers. And they should be compensated for their effort. (No one likes working for free)
But here’s the thing – YOU certainly don’t need to fork over the entire listing with full commission!
Two Ways to Protect Yourself
You Can Offer the Agent a Fee Agreement for Bringing a Buyer.
You want to sell, they want to be paid for working.
Both are great and make sense. Neither requires giving them the whole listing though.
Offering a set fee for bringing a buyer assures them you won’t swipe their contact (and paycheck) away from them if they do bring a buyer.
It also allows you to keep your private seller status, and saves you the cost of a full commission.
Sign for Only That Particular Client, or for a Specific Time
If the agent really has a buyer, they’ll be glad to be paid a commission for bringing their buyer. They did the work, and should be paid. They will gladly agree to a fee agreement.
If they balk, you can have a pretty good idea that they’re after the listing, not trying to bring a current, existing buyer.
*Please note that if you sell your house with the buyer’s agent that the buyer’s agent is representing the buyer and not representing you as a seller. You will still be legally responsible for your representation and documentation.
Tina’s personal thought. “If your goal is to sell and someone wants to buy it, then sell it. It does not make sense to turn away a sale in this market.” Negotiate a fee and start packing.
And, as always, if you know someone who is selling privately right now, share this with them!
Help them protect themselves, and save them a load of cash!
A long, long, long time ago, before the invention of the printing press and internet, knowledge was power. Those who were in-the-know leveraged their special access to information for personal and professional gain. Those without such information could only submit themselves to the expertise of the elite.
Times have changed. Information is widely available and accessible. Information is no longer power. In the new age of Relationship Marketing, relationship is power.
“Technology has enabled the transition into the new economy, but connections in the new economy are fueled by a focus on two specific aspects…” one of which, Seth Godin explains, is generosity. “Generosity is critical because no one wants to connect to the selfish person, or to the people that are only taking. Think always in terms of offering something of value to other people and they will willingly connect to you.”
Still, there are those who insist on using old methods in a new time. Some real estate agents continue to withhold critical information from a listing in effort to leverage power. Despite being obligated by industry standards (and the law) to provide such information, they omit such things as lot size, age of house, and other tidbits necessary for a CMHC mortgage approval. What these agents don’t know, is that it’s a tired, short-sighted trick, it annoys the daylights out of people, and it will cost them in the long run.
An investor client of mine echoes Seth Godin’s assertion, saying she won’t even look at properties where the information is clearly being withheld. She says of such agents, “We haven’t even met, and I feel manipulated. No thanks. There are hundreds of other properties to look at.” And she moves on to listings by more generous, cooperative-minded agents.
How It Makes Agents Look Dumb
Aside from irritating and repelling would-be buyers, the agents who employ such see-through tactics also risk damaging relationships with their peers. I have had to go many extra miles to find the information for my clients that these agents purposely leave out. I do it to serve my client well. But I shouldn’t have to. These agents are hired by the seller to do their job, and they sluff it. It sure bothers me when I have to do another agent’s job! Likewise, it irritates many other agents.
It’s a challenge to do a comparative market analysis to establish the value of a house when I don’t know what age house I am comparing it to.
Those who use these short-sighted tactics also risk torpedoing a buyer’s mortgage approval. CMHC has a four-hour turn around time for mortgage approvals … unless there is information missing from the application. Then the application gets tossed on the research pile, and all buyers, sellers, agents and lenders are left in limbo. All because of someone’s selfish sales ploy.
Why They Will Continue To Do It:
So why, on this green earth would an agent risk offending colleagues, sinking mortgage approvals, irritating would-be buyers, and looking dumb? One reason. Their hope is to double-end the deal. The logic goes something like this: if prospective buyers have to come directly to me for information (which I alone control), I will be the one to sign them, so will represent both buyer and seller, and keep the whole commission for myself. Hooray for me!!
I told you it was dumb…
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Real Estate is full of anomalies that would never fly in any other industry. It’s not just because of agents either – sometimes it’s the clients themselves who pull crazy things that would never fly anywhere else.
The buyers and sellers I work with are, for the most part, fantastic. I love helping them, working with them, and discovering who they are. But some people – you know, other agents’ clients – I don’t know what happens to their brains when they decide to sell their house. Suddenly they’re not acting like people who have something to sell, but rather like spoiled royal heirs to whom all others must bow. It’s bizarre. All I know is that their salesmanship would bankrupt any restaurant.
If Home Sellers Did This with their Restaurants, They’d Go Broke
We’re Open… NOT
You enter the restaurant, eager for the kind of sauce-laden burger you’ve enjoyed there before. A waitress rushes to greet you at the door, “Sorry, but we’re closed.” You argue that the open sign and hours of operation posted on the door suggest otherwise. She folds her arms and shakes her head. “We’re closed.” You point to the staff wandering about the restaurant serving no one, and to the chef who stands in the kitchen with nothing to do. “Well, I don’t care about any of that,” she argues back, “I have a headache and don’t feel up to this today, so we’re closed. Try again tomorrow.” She then proceeds to shove you out the door. Try again tomorrow? Fat chance.
Super Price Me
Still salivating for a big, saucy burger, you see a diner across the street. It’s an unheard of hole-in-the-wall place, but they have a burger on the sign, so you go in.
You open the laminated two-page menu to discover a wide selection of burgers. Prices start at $50 each, fries are extra. You summon the waitress, and explain there must be some mistake. You have never heard of such burger prices in your life. Others sell for $8. “People can sell their burgers for whatever they like. Mine start at $50.”
You scratch a dried ketchup stain from the menu, and ask what makes these diner burgers so special. “I made them from a recipe handed down to me through four generations. I have great sentimental attachment to each burger I make, and that’s what makes them so valuable.” You really, really wish you could eat a burger, but cannot bring yourself to pay obscene prices. Alas, you must move on and leave the woman with her beloved burgers.
Do You Have The Time?
Wondering if you’ll ever get to eat a burger, you discover another restaurant and try once more. The place is, in fact, open, and the prices on the menu are reasonable. Hope sets in as you wait for your server to arrive at the table. Other customers at tables crane their necks, searching for the server who is nowhere to be seen. Finally, she bursts in and dashes table to table. She takes no orders, she delivers nothing. She only leans in, says a few words, and moves to the next table.
She approaches you, breathless, “You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had. Between the traffic, meeting the banker and returning calls, it’s tough to find time to work!” She ignores your attempt to get a word in, “So anyway, I have to bring my cat to the vet and pick up some groceries, but then I’ll be back to take your order. Thanks for understanding my demanding schedule.” Her swift exit leaves you puzzled, infuriated, and realizing you may never again taste a restaurant burger.
You might think I’m exaggerating, but these are actual attitudes and behaviours agents and buyers must endure. Please help spread the word that the kinds of numbskullery illustrated here help no one sell their house.
As a buyer or agent, which of these situations have you encountered in your attempt to buy a home?