Five Reasons Why Your Home Isn't Selling

Remedy these pain points and your house will be off the market in no time, say our real estate experts.

Whether your home has been sitting on the market for weeks or you're just getting ready to list it, familiarize yourself with these five common reasons that buyers look elsewhere—and how to address them—from experts at Sotheby's International Realty. They could be the difference between getting your home off the market (and at your asking price!) or a deadlock.

house for sale with white picket fence
Tom Merton / Getty Images

It's in a problematic spot.

Tough real estate locations aren't always a reflection of the neighborhood: If your home backs up to the fire station, with alarms ringing out at all hours; sits a block from the train crossing where the overnight express whistles at midnight; lies directly in the flight plan for your local airport; or faces a street that feels bustling, buyers may hesitate. "A surprising dealbreaker can be a double yellow line in the street," says Liane Dobson of Kienlen Lattmann Sotheby's International Realty in New Jersey. "Some buyers don't understand that doesn't always equate to a busy street and will rule out a home unnecessarily."

If you can't change a less-desirable element of your location, says Nancy Tallman of Summit Sotheby's International Realty in Utah, work with it: "We try to turn it into a positive, mitigate it, or deal with it in pricing." She's used landscaping to block the view of a commercial towing company, reframed a highway overlook as "evening lights," and highlighted the simplicity of evening walks from a first-floor condo for dog owners.

It's dirty or cluttered.

Real estate experts famously recommend making your home as clean, sparse, and impersonal as possible to lure buyers. Repaint accent walls or bold trim in neutral colors, pack up your extensive assortment of travel souvenirs, and remove litter boxes, dog beds, and pets before your showings. "The buyers need to visualize themselves living in the home, and anything that is too taste-specific can be a turnoff," says Tallman. "This can include artwork, light fixtures, or furnishings that are too bold or stylized." Even smaller groups of sentimental items need to go, says Dobson. "A buyer wants to envision their style and belongings in the home—your grandmother's large Hummel collection may send a dated vibe."

Once you've cleared your surfaces, make sure every space—from the top corners of your closets to the basement floor, is spic-and-span. "A dirty house is a huge turnoff to a buyer," says Dobson. "When they see deferred maintenance or a house unkept, they begin to worry about the things in the home they can't see."

It makes a bad first impression.

Don't underestimate the power of curb appeal: The way your home looks from the outside when potential buyers arrive for their showing can make or break a sale. "The first time the buyer drives up to the home, they begin passing judgment," says Dobson. "First impressions matter. Start at the beginning: The first thing the buyer sees when they drive up to the house is perhaps a fresh coat of paint on the front door, welcoming pots of flowers, bark mulch in the landscaping beds—these are simple fixes that go a long way."

It needs a better online profile.

Put as much effort into your home's online listing as you would into a dating profile or your LinkedIn bio by creating a thoughtful lineup of well-lit, properly-framed images that show your home at its best. "Once the home is market ready, the next most important item is the photography," says Tallman. "High quality photos matter, [and] the order of the photos is very important: We need to capture the buyer in the first five photos." When another agent Tallman worked with once put photos of a home's jaw-dropping views at the end of the online slideshow, a simple re-order made an instant difference. "I doubt anyone went through the first 47 photos to discover the view," says Tallman. We employed the strategies above, made the view the first photo, and the home sold almost immediately without changing the list price."

The price isn't right.

Multiple agents cited a home that's overpriced for its neighborhood—or its condition—as a primary reason that a house sits on the market. "After 35 years' experience in real estate, it's my belief the driving force of a quick sale is buyers' perception of value," says Joseph Barbieri of Sotheby's Greenwich Brokerage. "It boils down to price. Most sellers do not realize how valuable pricing is—it's the biggest issue. There are exceptions, but pricing is the most common denominator."

And while sellers may not want to lower their asking rate, it's the simplest way to make up for any other obstacles your home presents, from its location to its leaky basement. "There is really nothing that price can't overcome," says Dobson. "By analyzing feedback from showings, your agent should be able to assess how much the asking price needs to be adjusted so you can find the right buyers that see value even in a home with challenges."

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