6 tips to freshen up a stale listing

What to do when you just can’t sell

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Unfortunately, not every property you sell is going to close quickly. You probably know the average days on market in your area, and depending on the timing and your location, that value probably hovers between 20 and 50 days.

If your property is listed for more than a month, you might start to get nervous, but if it’s up for more than a couple of months, you’ll need to consider taking serious action to salvage the listing.

If you want to make a real difference, and maximize your chances of recovering the listing, you’ll have to get creative. Here are six tips to help you freshen up your stale listing.

1. Get inspired

Your ultimate goal in trying to push a floundering listing is increasing the perceived value of the house, which you can do by making the listing more exciting and new or by making changes that make the home seem like a better deal.

There are some straightforward ways to do this, but it’s better if you apply a thoughtful, creative touch. Accordingly, your first step should be to cultivate inspiration; look at similar listings in your area, talk to other agents and think of unconventional ways you could make the property more attractive.

2. Focus on room layouts

Start with the big picture: optimize the room layouts that already exist. Conventional room staging strategies would imply that the best thing to do is arrange the furniture so that the room looks as big and open as possible — but if this strategy isn’t working, you’ll need to try for something new.

Consider drawing the furniture out to the center or repositioning it to frame the room in a different light. You never know when someone’s key holdup could be transformed into a selling point with a simple layout adjustment.

3. Use colors and flair

Next, think about the colors and superficial flair of each room. If the house has been up on the market too long, it might use a fresh coat of paint — at least in some of the most prominent rooms. Fresh paint makes a room look cleaner and newer, but may also be a valuable tool to make it look bigger, more welcoming, or more interesting.

This is where your creativity and artistic sensibilities will come into play. You can also experiment with highlights, such as table arrangements, to complement your work.

4. Create new images and video

One of the most important changes to make to your listing is the gallery of photos and videos you have. Chances are, homebuyers in your market have already seen this home several times in their search. If they see the same images again, they won’t give your listing more than a second of consideration.

New visual content gives you the chance to make your listing look new and stage it for new viewers. Be sure to experiment with the lighting, and as always, apply best practices for photography.

5. Adjust the price

Price is the least creative — but possibly most important area you’ll need to consider when dealing with a house that’s been on the market for a while. Part of the reason the home isn’t moving could be a price that’s higher than buyer expectations; if it doesn’t look like a good deal, people are going to consistently pass.

One of the most obvious solutions to this is to lower the price, but you have to be careful. If it looks like you’re desperate to sell, it may make the property look even less attractive or invite lowball offers from buyers looking to take advantage of you.

6. Pull and restart 

If you’re still having trouble getting the listing to move, you can always recommend pulling the listing and restarting from scratch. Different areas have different rules for what qualifies as a new listing; for example, there might be a “wait period” where the listing cools off, between 45 days and six months.

If your seller is willing to wait that long for a chance to refresh buyer expectations and begin anew, it may be worth it. However, it’s usually best to reserve this as a last-ditch strategy — especially if your seller might switch to another real estate agent.

If you’re properly motivated — and willing to think outside the box — you should be able to generate momentum on even the most stubborn properties. You’ll need to work closely with your client, compromising where you can and coming up with creative solutions together to make the property seem fresh and exciting.

Larry Alton is the CEO of Alton Enterprises in Olympia, Washington. Follow him on Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.