When everything is right and it still doesn’t sell

It can happen.  I am not going to be one of those agents that pretends all my houses sell fast, like I am some sort of magician.   A lot of selling a house has to do with….the house and the market.  I put the same effort into all my listings.  Most sell quickly, even when the market was terrible.  Sometimes though, a house struggles to find a buyer, even when you’ve done everything correctly and the price is right.

Here are some reasons:

  1.  Too much competition.  If there are like 50+ houses competing for a buyer and all are pretty darn nice and equal to each other, you’re waiting for the right buyer who likes your house just a bit better than the rest.  I am seeing this a lot in a few towns surrounding Lexington where there are a ton of new construction homes.
  2. Bad timing.  Usually the market slows down when school starts in the fall.  The week that school starts is usually really slow because everybody with kids is getting ready for the school year and wants to enjoy that first weekend.  If your house is in a neighborhood with a very popular school district, you may have missed most of your buyers and are waiting for somebody to move during the school year.
  3. There are no buyers….at the moment.  I see this one occasionally.  Sometimes in a certain neighborhood or price range, there just aren’t any active buyers.  This is like fishing when you have the right rod and bait, but there just aren’t any fish there.    I had a listing in a neighborhood of $450-600k houses a while back.  I put my listing on in the late winter.  It got a few showings.  Over the next 6 months there were about 8 houses that also were not selling in this small neighborhood.  It got so bad that all of the agents got together and did a neighborhood open house to try to get some attention for our listings.  Of course, it was a total waste of time and energy because none of them sold any time soon.  It was much later in the year when several of them began to sell left and right.  It wasn’t the neighborhood’s fault.  It wasn’t the fault of all the listing realtors.  All of the houses were priced right.  There were just no buyers at that time and the sellers had to wait for them to enter the market.

 

Advice as we dig out of a housing shortage

I’m starting to see an interesting thing happen.

We all know that due to the lack of new construction for many years, we have a shortage of houses for sale.

Many people have said the way to solve this is to build our way out of it.

I am starting to see this happen.

In Nicholasville between $200k and $250k, 17 of the 30 houses for sale are new.  In Lexington’s 40509 zip code, there are 104 houses for sale between $300k and $500k.  48 of them are new.  That’s an incredible amount of houses for sale in the Hamburg part of Lexington.  No wonder sales are slowing way down in that price range and I am seeing $10k price reductions left and right.

So what does this do to sales of existing houses?

Most people who buy a new house are only looking at new or newer houses.  If you live in an older existing neighborhood, you are probably in good shape.  Few buyers will seriously consider a 20+ year old house on a bigger lot with mature trees AND a brand new one on a smaller lot with trees shorter than they are.  If you have a house that is less than about 10 years old in this price range, well, you may have a hard time competing with brand new houses.

Any time I have a buyer wanting a newer house in an area with a lot of new construction around them, I always tell them that it might be hard to sell and/or might not appreciate that much until the last new house has sold.  The longer they plan to be there, the better.  If they tell me they may only be there for 2-3 years, I tell them it might be wise to pick another house.

If you are buying in an area with lots of new homes around you, try to pick one that has some unique feature or has a super good lot.  In a neighborhood where most homes aren’t too much different from each other, these small things are the difference between your house selling and always being a buyer’s second choice house.

What is market value?

Pretty simple.  It is what a ready, willing and able buyer is willing to pay.

READY.

WILLING.

ABLE.

It has to be all 3.  Not 1 out of 3, not 2 out of 3.  All 3.

Too many times when I have gone to list a house, a seller tells me how they have or had an offer from somebody they know or a friend of a friend that is waaaaay over what the house is worth.

I start asking questions.  Most of them end with replies like:

“They had to sell their old house first.”

“They had to get preapproved.”

“They have to wait to file their tax returns.”

“They haven’t returned my call from last week yet…..”

It always breaks my heart to tell these sellers that their Buyer is not ready, is not willing, and is not able to buy their house.  These people are not buyers.  I call them Dreamers.  It is easy to make a high offer if you’re never going to buy the place.

Another thing on market value.  It’s what most ready, willing and able buyers will pay.  Out of 100 buyers, probably something like 98 will all think a property is worth the same.  Those last two buyers are the oddballs.  There is always one person who thinks eveeeeeeeeeerything is overpriced.  And then there is that one buyer who will pay too much.  This of course is the one ever seller wants, but in 14 and a half years of being a realtor, I have only come across a few of these buyers.  LOL, they are usually the ones who go way over the list price or make a full price offer on an overpriced listing…..making me look bad to my client.

A house I was going to flip is a perfect example of this.  I put this place on the market for, I think, something like $138,500 because that was what the recent sales showed.  I got 7 offers.  One was for $122k.  One was for $143k.  The others were a little over the list price because there was nothing for sale in that price range at the time and they all knew there were other offers.  The 5 offers were all within $500 apart.  That was probably market value since 5 buyers independently came up with pretty much the same value.

 

How to pick your first rental house

The first thing to know is that you want an exit plan.  You want to buy something that will be fairly easy to sell when that time comes.  That is why I usually suggest a single family home in a decent neighborhood.  When you sell it, your buyer pool will be owner-occupant buyers who will happily pay a full retail price.

The second thing to know is that you pick your tenants through them picking your house.  You have a crappy worn out rental, guess what type of tenant is going to be willing to live there?  You make your house one of the nicest ones in it’s price range and you will attract the best qualified tenants out there.  Also, if you have one of the best houses they could ever afford, why would they move?

Here are some things that I think make a house a good pick:

1.  A ranch house.  Who doesn’t like one?  They are suitable for buyers/tenants in all stages of life.  They are easier to paint by yourself since there is no staircase.  You can clean out gutters with a step ladder.  They are just easier to work on period.

2.  A house on a slab.  When the wax ring around the toilet fails and when water gets splashed out of the tub, there is no wood to rot.  Also there is no water to collect under the house and grow mold.

3.  A smaller house.  Fewer people can live in a smaller house.  That means less wear and tear.  While a 2 bedroom house has a little more limited market when you sell, tenants usually don’t care if a house is 2 or 3 bedrooms.

4.  A simple roof line with not much of a pitch.   The fewer ridges and valleys the better.  Not only are they cheaper to replace, there are fewer places to get a leak.

Here are some things I try to avoid:

  1.  Basements.  They all have the potential to leak.
  2.  Sheds.  They are just one more thing to maintain and tenants usually leave you stuff they don’t want when they move out.
  3. Huge yards.  When they get out of control, it takes a lot of time to bring them back.
  4. Big garages.  I’m talking more than a regular two car garage.  Usually tenants who are attracted to a huge garage have a lot of stuff to store or hobbies that need the space.  Either one means you might need a dumpster when they move out.
  5. Fireplaces.  Do you really want somebody starting a fire in your house?

Now a lot of this is based on paying retail.  If you get a great deal on a house with a huge lot or a basement, take it.  A good deal can make up for potential future headaches.

My ideal house would be a smaller ranch on a slab built after 1960.  It would be 2-3 bedroom and have 1-2 baths.  A normal sized, flatter yard for good drainage.  On the lower end, no garage is okay.  If the house is worth more than about $150k, I would want a garage more for resale than to make a tenant happy.

 

 

How real estate really works

Maybe it is because this is the only industry I have been in, but there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to get a house sold.

Before I begin, let me tell you how it doesn’t work:

  1.  Open Houses and/or Broker Open Houses.  I will occasionally have sellers ask me about these.  Open houses used to be a non-committal way for the public to see inside a house before the internet.  Today, all you get is neighbors, thieves and buyers so early in their search that they are not yet ready to make any decision….which is why realtors that need work love to do them.  They get to meet unrepresented buyers at your house and hopefully sell them something in the near future.   Broker open houses are for social realtors who want to win a $50 gift card and hang out with their realtor friends at your house.  Same deal as open houses, these worked best before any agent can look online and see if your house is a good fit for their client.
  2. Marketing.  Again, thanks to the internet, exposure is never a problem.  Google your address right now and see how many websites your house is on…even it if isn’t for sale, it will be on tons of sites.  Something like 98% of buyers find their house online.  I guarantee you that those remaining 2% have a realtor who is online looking for them.
  3. Gimmicks.  These are things that agents do to make themselves stand out.  Many years ago it was those QR codes.  That trend didn’t last long.  Today it is the 3-D house.  I mean, most people have a hard time figuring out a 2 dimensional floor plan.   They will soon go away and be replaced with something else.  Companies come up with these things to sell  us realtors to make us feel like we are cutting edge.  There is a house listed in town that has a unicorn and a dinosaur in many of the pictures.  It has been shared many times.  Everybody loves it.  It is a lot of fun.  The house has been on the market for 38 days.  Do you think it is helping to sell the house in a market where houses in it’s price range rarely last 3 days?

There are 3 things to selling a house.  If you do all of them right, your house will sell fast in any market.  How do I know?  I have been doing them for nearly 15 years with great success.  Every day I scroll through the old posts on Facebook I made on the same day over many years.  I was posting about selling houses the first day on the market or getting multiple offers back in 2009 when I joined Facebook.    It was a buyer’s market back then.  Selling fast and for top dollar is common now.  So much so that I don’t even bother to post it when it happens.  Any agent can do it since there are so many more buyers than there are sellers.  It is nothing to brag about these days.

The 3 things that matter are price, condition and presentation.

If the price isn’t right, then no amount of work can make a house sell.  You can post it all over social media, have dedicated websites, have a hot air balloon over the house, have Drake make a video at your house…none of it will matter.  The public thinks exposure will sell an overpriced house.  Trust me, nothing will make an overpriced house sell.  I have tried to do that when I was a newer agent and I see many agents try today.  Usually it doesn’t sell.  The seller thinks it is the realtors fault.  The seller gets a new realtor, who talks the seller into reducing the price a little bit.  It usually sells AFTER the price reduction.

Condition is the next big thing.  Buyers are looking at every house in their price range.  If your house isn’t one of the better ones, it won’t sell.  I often see an average to below average house sit on the market  because there is always a better house for a buyer to pick.  Sometimes these houses sit on the market until late fall or winter when there is no new competition.  I have always said the best time to sell a below average house is in the late fall and winter.  That time of the year is like going to a buffet right before the restaurant closes.  All that is left are the least popular items.  Of course, price trumps everything in real estate.  Often, getting real about the value can make a house sell.  A below average house listed for $200k might be an average house when reduced to $190k, and an above average house at $180k.  You can also improve the condition of your house to make it sell.  I often work with sellers and tell them some small adjustments they can make that will make their house more attractive to buyers.

Presentation is twofold.  The house has to look attractive online to make somebody want to come see it in person, and it has too look as good in person as people imagine it does from what they saw online.  I think the big takeaway here is that the public loses interest quickly.  You want to grab their attention and keep it as they look at all the pictures.  That is why I order the pictures beginning with the most interesting one first.  Whatever the best feature of the house is, that is what I use as the lead picture because I know as soon as people get bored, they stop looking.  You won’t see 14 pictures of the water heater in my listings.  The words in the description are very important too.  I try to use those to tell a buyer what they can’t deduce from the pictures and what isn’t already mentioned in the listing.  If the specs say the house has 4 bedrooms, I see no need to tell the buyer again that it is a 4 bedroom house.  I want to use that space to tell the buyer how the house feels while they are inside.  The goal of the listing is to attract a showing.  You’re not trying to sell the house from the listing, only make somebody want to come see it in person.

So, that is how getting a house sold really works.  Get those 3 things right and it will always sell.  Anything else is just a waste of a seller’s time.