What to do if your house doesn’t sell

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

If your home has been on the market for a while without selling, it’s best to put emotional issues aside and understand why it isn’t appealing to buyers.

You can’t understand it - you love your home and thought it would be snapped up when you put it on the market. But months have gone by and although there may have been a little interest when it was first listed, buyers have stopped coming around and the offers have dried up.

Owning a home that no one else wants to buy hurts, and hurts a lot. However, you need to put emotional issues to one side, understand why the property isn’t appealing to buyers and take the necessary remedial action. There are of course a number of reasons a home doesn’t sell, but the two most common are the actual condition of the property, and the price.

Listen to your agent’s feedback and act on it. No one wants to hear that their home needs improving, but if that’s what you are hearing, it may be time to put your pride in your pocket and put things right. Listen to what buyers don’t like about the home and see what you can do to make it more appealing. If the home needs painting, paint it; if the deck is looking tired repair it and if the garden is a little worse for wear, sort it. Remember that making small cosmetic changes can have a huge impact. You can take things further if there are aspects of the actual building that don’t appeal. For example, if the fact that your home only has one bathroom is putting buyers off, consider getting plans drawn for a second bathroom and estimates outlining the cost of the job. Buyers are scared of making the wrong decision, but will often be more open to negotiation if they are in possession of all the information.

The price: sellers are very quick to blame their estate agent if the property doesn’t sell and this isn’t necessarily fair. Yes, it’s true that ‘good’ agents have a knack of finding the right person for the right home, but no one, regardless of how desperate they are, is going to buy something if they don’t think it is up to par and/or the price is too high. Agents are also sometimes accused of pricing a home below its true value because they want to get a quick sale. The easiest way to find out if the agent is trying to pull the wool over your eyes is by approaching several different agents and getting a broad cross-section of valuations. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because other homes in the area are being advertised at a higher price this automatically means you’re going to get a similar price for yours. Remember, homes don’t necessarily sell for their asking price – indeed, a recent FNB report indicated that some 93 percent of houses sold for less than the asking price in the third quarter of 2017.

So what can you do if you’ve dropped the price and the home still doesn’t sell?

The obvious answer would be to rent it out. However, being a landlord can come with its own set of problems. Putting the wrong tenant into the home can be disastrous because of the risk of rent not being paid or the property being damaged. It can however be a lucrative way to let the house pay for itself while you bide your time before selling. It is important to remember that the tenant has the right to live in the home for the duration of the lease (unless they are evicted for non-payment or for damaging the property) and you as the seller as well as the buyer will have to abide by the rental agreement, allowing the tenant to remain in the property until the lease comes to an end.

The other options are to make some changes to the home and stay put, or you could simply wait things out until the market turns and selling prices begin to increase.

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