To sell problem properties, focus on the positives

by Andrew Morrell

Even in the hottest of markets, there can still be listings that simply won’t move off the market for one reason or another. An agent may sometimes need to move past the frustration of a house that won’t sell, and instead think strategically about why it’s not selling and what to do about it.

Unsurprisingly, the most common reason behind sales trouble on a particular property has to do with price. In a survey from Zillow, 76 percent of sellers said they had to make at least one concession on their home sale — even during a strong market — and a price cut was the most-cited outcome. It probably doesn’t help that Zillow itself, and other websites like it, often lead homeowners to overestimate their home’s market value.

Therefore, an agent’s marketing skills shouldn’t be focused solely on buyers — the sellers might need just as much convincing when it comes to pricing. Data on recent comparable sales in the area remains the gold standard of the sales process, as well as additional regional and national statistics that speak to broader market trends.

While there’s no better way to make a case on price than comps, agents need to take time to understand why similar homes sold the way they did, and communicate that insight to their clients in a meaningful way.

If price has already been addressed, or if going lower simply isn’t an option anymore, the agent needs to approach the problem from a new angle. According to real estate coach and author Tom Ferry, there are only three factors other than price that will make a listing compelling to buyers.

  • Emphasize the opportunity presented by the property, specifically the home’s potential as a teardown or investment property. This may require seeking out builders or investors willing to take on such a project.
  • Focus on exclusive features or amenities as selling points. That could be a home’s historic status, its beachfront lot or the giant guitar-shaped swimming pool in the backyard.
  • Failing that, recognize that many buyers simply want a move-in-ready home. Look for opportunities to make minor repairs or even stage the home so that open house guests can walk in and imagine themselves living there tomorrow.