My home has been on the market for a while - what can I do?

If your property isn't selling, there are several strategies you can try before you consider lowering the asking price.

House sale sign

Don't panic

Failing to find a buyer is not necessarily a result of an overly bullish asking price. Potential buyers will be considering a multitude of factors when house hunting.

Reducing the asking price should be an option of last resort. Potential buyers may even be deterred by a price reduction as they may imagine there to be something wrong with the property, especially if it’s been on the market a while.

Reducing the price effectively frames your home as unwanted by other buyers, which can have a profound psychological impact on a buyer.

Online property portals like Rightmove highlight and date price reductions, and send email updates to subscriber lists when an asking price has been reduced. Once you have reduced the price you can’t hide the fact online.

If your home has been on the market for a while, here’s what to consider:

Review the marketing

Do the photos of your property show it in the best possible light? There really is no excuse for poor photos. If they are not up to scratch, declutter, tidy up and ask the agent to take new photos:

  • The house and garden will look brighter and more appealing if the photos are taken when the sun is out.
  • Removing anything that detracts from the property, such as bins or dead pot plants.
  • Move toys and other clutter out of the shot.
  • Try to keep the TV out of the photo. TVs have a familiar aspect ratio that can be distorted by the agent's use of wide-angle lenses.
  • Arrange furniture to maximise the sense of space.

Some agents only take a handful of photos. In an age of digital photography, this approach seems suspicious - as though there is something to hide. Ask the agent to take as many pictures as possible.

Once you’re happy with the photos, check them online to make sure they’re presented and ordered well. The first photos displayed should be those with the biggest wow factor.

Ensure your home is looking its' best

Try to view your home through the eyes of a buyer. Be critical. If you haven’t done the following already, it could be putting buyers off:

  • De-clutter to give your buyer the maximum feeling of space
  • Neutralise your walls to present a blank canvas
  • Finish any basic DIY jobs
  • Tidy the garden

Your home should feel ready to move into. Before a viewing:

  • air the house
  • turn the heating on (or light the fire in winter)
  • put fresh flowers around the house
  • put pets outside
  • consider popping out for a coffee while the agent handles the viewing. (This puts buyers at ease and makes them feel less awkward)

Is your estate agent letting you down?

You need an estate agent who specialises in selling homes in your area. If your home isn't generating much interest, could your agent do more?:

  • Is the quality of their marketing material up to scratch?
  • Do you receive comprehensive feedback after every viewing?
  • How many viewings has the agent arranged?
  • Does the agent offer helpful advice on how to make your property more saleable?

You could ask a friend to masquerade as a buyer and arrange a viewing. Your friend can then give you feedback on how the agent performed.

Most sole agency agreements are 3 months long. If you are nearing the end of the agreement or are out of it, it may be time to try a different agent.

Read more:

Can I get out of an estate agent contract?

Finding anther agent

Think about how your current agent could do better.

Shop around, meet a few agents and get a feel for who you think has the best track record and is most proactive and professional.

All, agents work on a no sale no fee basis – they earn a commission if, and only if, the property sells.

Agents charge anywhere between 0.5% and 3%. Most are negotiable. A good agent could, however, get you a higher asking price that more than negates the higher commission.

It may be worth paying more for the best service. Be cautious if the agent's fees seem particularly low.

Ask the agent:

  • for examples of similar properties, they have recently sold
  • what their marketing strategy would be for your property
  • what they would do if your home failed to sell after a certain period

Don’t be tied into a contract that would prohibit you from taking on a new agent should your home still fail to sell after a couple of months.

Read more:

Choosing an estate agent - What should I check?

Estate agent contracts - What should I check before signing?

What about multi-agency?

An alternative to a sole agency agreement, multi-agency agreements allow multiple agents to market your property simultaneously. There is a catch however in that the agent that secures the sale will want a considerably higher percentage commission.

If all else fails, it’s time to consider your asking price

If you have done all of the above and your house is still failing to sell, it could be time to look at the price. Compare it in detail to other properties for sale like yours in your area, and be realistic.

Talk to a few reputable estate agents and look online to get as full a picture as possible on a price that will lure buyers in.

Final selling prices of properties are in the public domain at the Land Registry. You can look through these and see what prices have been acheived for properties like yours.

Your next step

If you are buying, selling, remortgaging or transferring equity in a home, we can help you find an expert conveyancing solicitor.

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Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Author:
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher