AgentMarketing

Stuck with a stale listing? How to flip the script

  • If you can’t quite pinpoint the problem with your listing, invite your broker or other agents over to help you figure it out. Use their feedback to fix the issues with your sellers.

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Anyone who enjoys gardening will tell you there is nothing better than that elusive, perfect vine-ripened fruit or vegetable.

If you love tomatoes, like I do, finding that perfect orangey-red fruit on the vine at its peak of ripeness and freshness, blemish free, still warm from the sun, is like finding the holy grail of summertime eating splendor.

However, it never fails that in any harvest, everything ripens at the same time.

Every year, you end up getting more fruit and vegetables than you can eat. So you put the spares on the counter, ready to eat in the near future. But you get busy or go out of town, and these perfect specimens sit longer than you planned.

Then one day you walk into the kitchen, and you are overwhelmed by a rancid stench that you can’t quite place as you are swarmed by hundreds of fruit flies.

You see that those once picture-perfect fruits are now spotted, swollen, bruised and leaking the foulest smelling fluid you have ever had the misfortune to experience, and into the trash the former beauties go.

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Real estate listings can be much like that perfect tomato.

Although we all do our best to present the perfect listing package that will sell quickly, some listings just end up rotting on the shelf. But unlike a tomato that has turned to the dark side, there are ways to give CPR to a dying listing.

Determine why it went stale

There sometimes can be just one reason a listing goes bad, or a combination of reasons. The main consensus of real estate agents is that any property will sell for the right price.

If you have gone two weeks with 20 showings and no offers, this slow-to-move property is probably priced is too high. What we often fail to ask at that point is why the price is too high.

There are countless reasons a listing may be getting staler than a three-day-old bagel, but these are the six most common reasons a for sale sign becomes a permanent landscape addition.

Property condition

Sellers sometimes have the ability to overlook things in a home that may be a deal-breaker to a buyer.

Kitchen cabinets that don’t close securely on their own are a sign the hinges may be shot, but when homeowners get used to having to “double close” a drawer or jiggle a temperamental toilet handle, they may forget this is not how these items actually work.

Replacing broken hinges is an inexpensive repair that even the least handy of us can accomplish in a short period of time.

A buyer may look at this easy fix as a concern that all of the cabinets need to be replaced, and if they are in bad shape, the rest of the house probably is, too. Then, they move on to the next house.

Go through the house room by room with your clients when you get the listing, and look at the home as a prospective buyer would.

Be gentle and tactful with your comments, but point out items that are likely to bring negative comments from buyers.

By pointing these out from the beginning, your clients may be able to address some of these potential deal-souring items before your listing goes active.

Sub-par photos

If your listing is starting to mold, it’s time to take a good honest look at your photos.

I know it’s tempting to save the money and do the photos yourself, but with more and more agents hiring professional photographers and using drone technology where allowed, your poorly lit iPhone shots just won’t cut the mustard with prospective buyers.

A word of caution: making the photos better than the actual home will backfire.

The goal of your listing photography should be to accurately display the property to its best potential. Nobody wants to be told they are going out to dinner to Le Bec Fin and then get served a hamburger from McDonald’s.

The property is hard to show

It’s hard to have your house on the market, and there are some circumstances where a fair amount of notice is legitimately necessary before a showing can happen.

However, you may have the most gorgeous photos, a perfect price and be in a market with low inventory, but if the buyers can’t get in to see the home, they are not going to buy it.

Especially in areas where there may be a lot of business relocation, setting strict showing rules and times can be why a listing continues to marinate in its own juices.

It’s often best to make the showing instructions as easy as possible, and if a request comes in and your sellers just can’t do it, decline that showing.

Better yet, instead of just saying no, see if you can determine another time that is mutually acceptable.

Change in property staging

Sometimes homes sit long enough that the homeowners have already moved on, or the tenants have already vacated.

Buyers get a bit disconcerted when the photos show a furnished home, and they arrive to one that is not.

It also may make a buyer to look at the days on market again, and ask more questions about why this house has yet to sell.

Most homes are going to show better furnished than not. In an empty room, the eye will find those settling cracks and nail pops much quicker than in a room where there is more to distract the eye.

If the walls are scuffed or dirty, they will look much worse when there aren’t furnishings.

On the flip side, if the home had been too cluttered or staged poorly while still occupied, now is the time to take new photos that may show the home to a better advantage.

Regardless, after home occupancy changes, make sure to revisit the property regularly and make recommendations to the homeowners for repairs and other ways to make your listing shine.

Hire a service to mow lawns, clean and service open swimming pools, and dust and vacuum the interior.

Low cooperating agent commission

Although it shouldn’t be the case, we all know that it happens. Some agents simply won’t show homes that offer low commission to the buyer’s agent side.

There are also agents who require buyers to kick in the difference between the offered commission and what they “require.”

If a buyer was to sign such an agreement, and was to hypothetically see two homes that are the same in size, condition and price, but he or she would have to pay part of a commission to their agent on one, which one do you think they will put an offer on?

Influences beyond your control

There are some circumstances that may be out of you and your sellers’ control.

The next door neighbor may have a hoarding problem that has overflowed from their home into their yard, or the state may have just started construction on a new six-lane highway right behind the listing’s backyard.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you or your seller can do about these issues.

So, even if your price, photos, commission and everything else are spot on, the perceived inconvenience of these external issues will decrease the value of a property in a buyer’s mind.

Still don’t know why it won’t sell?

Sometimes you have looked at a property enough times that you stop seeing it with quite the same clarity that you had in the beginning. This is where a second or third opinion can be very helpful.

Also, the more opinions you get, the more information you have to help you convince a stubborn seller to make changes.

Brokers opens, or more informally, setting a time to bring your broker or other agents from your office for a property preview, are a great way to get additional opinions.

Have an anonymous feedback card with specific questions you may want answered, like opinions on the current price or where they think it should be priced to get it to sell.

Always ask why they think the price needs to drop. If it’s for repairs, or something easily fixable, like changing to more neutral paint colors, give those as an option to the sellers, as well.

Some sellers may prefer to spend a weekend repainting a few rooms or hiring a handyman than dropping the price.

It may also be time to enlist a home stager, if you haven’t already.

Hiring a home stager is an excellent way to get reluctant sellers to consider repairs and changes that they may have thought were unnecessary when recommended by their agent.

Some agents even pay for a complementary consultation for their sellers once they have a signed listing agreement.

By bringing in a professional stager to back up what you have already said, or to break the “bad news” that the collection of 400 Hummel figurines should probably get packed away before listing, having a stager lend his or her trained eyes is always a great idea.

Leigh Newport, owner and principal designer at Staged By Design in Loudoun County, Virginia, said some of the easiest and least expensive updates can also make a huge difference in how a property is perceived.

She often recommends updating light fixtures, such as replacing builder-grade brass dining room chandeliers and Hollywood vanity lights. She also regularly recommends changing out kitchen cabinet hardware and painting dated bathroom vanities.

“These changes provide great impact in photos and are a tremendous return on investment, dollar for dollar,” Newport said.

As a gardener, when are expecting a bumper crop, instead of letting what you can’t use rot on the windowsill, have a plan.

Donating your extras to a food kitchen or cooking those extra tomatoes down and making them into pasta sauce is a much better use of surplus foods than letting them rot in a landfill.

Have a similar plan for your listings.

Instead of waiting for them to hit their expiration date, find ways to spice them up, make them more appetizing, maybe offer a “second-day discount,” and in the right combination, you will get a bite.

Maria Dampman is the owner and manager of Smiling Cat Farm and a Virginia State licensed Realtor and ABR with Century 21 Redwood in Leesburg, Virginia. Visit her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Email Maria Dampman