Help me sell my house!
May 30, 2004 7:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm going crazy trying to sell my house. It's been on the market for a little over 60 days now, which I know isn't unreasonable, but it's making me nuts. Any suggestions on getting it to sell faster without lowering the price? Ridiculous superstitions welcome.
posted by LittleMissCranky to Home & Garden (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, the Catholic ridiculous superstition would be to bury a statue of St. Joseph somewhere in the yard.

Other than that, when we were looking, we couldn't help but like the least-cluttered houses the most. The more of your stuff you can remove, the better.
posted by ferociouskitty at 7:07 PM on May 30, 2004

It might help if we had some more information.

Area of the country, house size, price, etc.?

(And you should be happy you're not in Davis County, UT. In my neighborhood some homes are still on the market after a year).
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:24 PM on May 30, 2004

Response by poster: Yep, already done the St. Joseph thing. Waiting for him to come through.

We're in the northeast Houston area, in a 3500ish sf house. I'm reluctant to post the value of the house, but it's sort of expensive for us non-rich Houstonians, although it's pretty much in the middle of the price range in our area.

We haven't had that many showings lately, but have had pretty good interest in it so far. We have had a bunch of second looks and several people who told us it was their "second choice" house, usually behind a brand new build. Fortunately, all of the new builds in our price range have been sold, so maybe that will help.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:48 PM on May 30, 2004

Look at your presentation - as ferociouskitty mentioned, unclutter, then unclutter some more. Make sure everything is absolutely spotless to a ridiculous point, including the yard, garage etc (paint the garage floor if it is oil-stained). Splash some paint around if there is anything that looks a bit tired, then unclutter some more. Almost everyone is incapable of seeing past the facade that involves removing almost anything you need to actually live in a house and, instead, notices all the space.

I suppose it doesn't help to tell you that houses in my neighbourhood are selling for ridiculous prices almost before the real estate agent has finished hammering in the sign.
posted by dg at 7:52 PM on May 30, 2004

I was in a similar situation with selling a car and finally got a bidder (the only one) via an obscure internet classified ad. She loved the car and bought it on the spot. It was just exactly what she was looking for and exactly what she thought she should pay. No one else ever expressed interest. I guess I'm suggesting you canvas the fringe a bit. An agent will be able to reach a greater number of "credible buyers" than you, but don't underestimate the random tangets available online (especially if you're already tapped out otherwise). Houses are different than cars, I'll grant you. But have you tried placing classifieds in every city within 100 miles? Maybe someone's looking to move to where your house is. Someone in that scenario is less likely to have shopped around as much.
posted by scarabic at 7:55 PM on May 30, 2004

Are you sure you have not over priced it? If after some study you find you have, you may want to be careful about dropping the price. Houses on the market for a long time with dropping prices are sometimes seen as suspect by buyers. I think it is sometimes better to just indicate to interested buyers your price flexibility.

Older houses have many benefits. The slightly old house is almost new, but a little less money usually, and has all of the kinks worked out (all new houses have some) and usually has some nice upgrades over the cheap crap that even good builders work into new construction. Much older homes have a charm and construction not available on newer homes (although given the size of your house I doubt it is very old). Most new houses also usually come with a barren landscape, with nothing taller than a ten foot tree. You might find ways of getting these points across to potential buyers.
posted by caddis at 8:23 PM on May 30, 2004

Call some HR directors at some local big corporate outfits. If you can treat some to lunch and really butter them up, next time they hire from out of town they may tell the n00b about "this adorable house I know of..."
posted by jmgorman at 8:29 PM on May 30, 2004

Look at your presentation

Assuming the price is reasonable, this would be the angle I would attack. Make it look nice, a good place to live - it's amazing how much an uncluttered area with some stupid vase of crappy flowers can do to someone's first impression. Also, you don't need extensive renovations but a tiny little patch-up can work miracles.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:47 PM on May 30, 2004

I've recently become involved in real estate investment, and one of the projects I'm working on is taking nice homes that are for-sale by owner (but which haven't sold quickly) and putting them in the rent-to-own market... it's new in this area, but check around and see if there are mortgage companies in the market where you are that handle that conversion.
posted by silusGROK at 8:50 PM on May 30, 2004

Have you asked the agent for her/his suggestions yet? A good one should be earning their commission by doing things like soliciting feedback from the prospects, and helping you use that intel to best advantage.

In the absence of that info, my vote goes for presentation too. Buyers tell themselves they can see past stuff, but the less they have to stretch their imagination the BETTER. Declutter so that the spaces look bigger and it's easy to mentally replace your furniture with theirs (oh, and try to get the clutter out of the house altogether; finding crowded storage also can leaves a "too small" impression), where possible replace strong colors/patterns with neutrals or white, check that every room is getting adequate light, make sure the plants/grass look lush and healthy, etc. The priority areas are the "first impression" visuals: view from driveway or curb, the front yard and facade, front hall/parlor. It's amazing what contorted logic people will come up with to brush off every other flaw once they've fallen in love with that first impression.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:37 PM on May 30, 2004

everyone is pretty spot on. presuming it is priced accordingly...

try to picture your house as the buyer would. start with the outside, and work your way in as they would. maintain the landscaping meticulously (shrubs, lawn mowing, flower beds, etc)

make sure the entrance way is inviting. polish brass fixtures, make sure the doorbell works, if the front door is painted and needs it -- slap a new coat of paint on it, clean the glass on storm doors, put down a new welcome mat, maybe put a few planters out on the steps. oil any squeaky hinges. check for any blown lightbulbs inside and outside of the house.

clear the counter tops. same goes for closets. if you can store away stuff you aren't using, all the better. closets are going to look bigger and better if they are free of storage and better organized. countertops are going to seem more spacious if you put away the small appliances, etc.

open the window dressings, brighten the place up. if a room or the house still seems dark, turn on all the lights. be conscious of pet areas. empty all the trash cans. fresh flowers can be inviting. its summertime, so it's not feasible now, but lit fireplaces add a lot of atmosphere also (it also shows that the fireplace works and is used).

and what i notice right away... the bathroom. remove all the bottles, notions and shampoos and bars of used soaps before a showing. make sure soap dishes are completely clean of soap residue.

also, if you have photos of your family all over the house, replace them temporarily. the buyer is going to want to picture the house as their own and it will be hard to do that with photos of your family around.

good luck :)
posted by jerseygirl at 9:58 PM on May 30, 2004

I've heard -- though I've no experience with this -- that you should bake something in the oven about 1/2 hour before prospective buyers arrive. Something about smelling fresh cookies or a nice cake stimulates us humans.
posted by herc at 10:46 PM on May 30, 2004

I'm no economist, nor do I play one on TV, but I would offer the following. There have been numerous reports about slowing new home construction due to the skyrocketing price of plywood and other wood products. (I've spoken with a few builders who have confirmed that their profit margins are decreasing to the point where new home prices in some areas are now guaranteed for no more than 30 days.) So the existing home sale market may pick up where the new home construction market declines.
Is there a way to find out what the houses closest to yours have sold for, when they sold and how long they were on the market? Have you thought about checking the phone book for a consultant who specializes in such issues? What are the major differences between your house and the houses that are selling?
Why the concern about lowering the price? Are you priced at a comfortable or a break even price point, or do you think a yard sign with a 'price reduced' sticker reeks of desperation?
posted by TomSophieIvy at 10:50 PM on May 30, 2004

If you're talking to a potential buyer who seems to be drifting away, losing attention, you should take them aside and reassure them that, no, despite what they might have heard, the house is definitely NOT haunted. All of those stories passed around by the schoolchildren and whispered at the real estate offices are just foolish superstitions, bought into only by the gullible and the insane.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:14 PM on May 30, 2004

Drop the price - just a bit. When people think that they are getting a bargain -- even a modest one -- they are much more likely to pounce.
posted by davidmsc at 11:22 PM on May 30, 2004

You can also fake the "fresh baked" smell by dotting vanilla on the lightbulbs. Then turn the bulbs on, and the scent is released. It's an old realtor trick. I've heard of other variations too, like lemon extract, but I wonder if that doesn't smell more like Lemon Pledge than baked goods.

(Though before you start adding new scents to the house, you may want to check whether there are any lingering odors that need to be subtracted first. Doggy bed, mildew in the bathroom, mustiness is the closed guest bedroom, leftover garlic bread in the kitchen, etc.)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:33 PM on May 30, 2004

There was a thread on this subject a few months back you may want to read.
posted by chill at 4:10 AM on May 31, 2004

Response by poster: Yeah, chill, I know. As you may have noticed, my house is now on the market, and I'm looking for tips on getting rid of the damn thing tout suite, rather than how to do it at all. Sorry to take up precious moments of your time, what with all the searching and all.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:34 AM on May 31, 2004

My husband is a realtor.

Basically what he says in these situations is that the house is priced too high. Sorry. It is also true that it is hard to compete with new construction...having said that, sixty days is not all that long considering. Talk to your realtor.
posted by konolia at 6:19 AM on May 31, 2004

My $500 tip is stay away from people in the house business suggesting you that the fast way to sell fast is to lower price ; it's obvious, but it is not the best way to sell, it's not even selling it's giving away for cheap (anybody can do that)

The "houseseller" professional doesn't give a crap if you're satisfied by your sale, all he/she want is to earn a commission, which is not necessarily the highest possible commission if he/she needs money in a hurry.

Don't rush take it at -your- pace.
posted by elpapacito at 7:16 AM on May 31, 2004

get rid of as much of your stuff (furniture, paintings, bottles of stuff in bathroom, things in the kitchen (wash and put away pots), outside in garden etc) as possible. put stuff in a u-store. paint walls white. clean windows. get rid of old carpets and polish wooden floor underneath. tidy garden. buy fresh flowers. pull back curtains. open windows.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:29 AM on May 31, 2004


Does this have anything to do with the spouse acting weirdly?
posted by Irontom at 7:31 AM on May 31, 2004

Elpapacito, my husband depends on referrals for his business. He is not going to give out crap advice and risk that. He's a professional, and has been in the business a long time.

We have watched plenty of good houses languish on the market because they were overpriced. Perfectly good homes, too-and as a consequence, stayed on the market way too long. Many of them either wound up either not sold at all or sold at way too low a price, as their length on the market indicated to buyers that something was wrong with the house.

When a realtor prices a house he or she is supposed to use market comparables. Or in other words, what similar houses in the neighborhood-or similar neighborhoods-go for. Many times homeowners want to sell for higher for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual value of the home. A smart realtor will actually walk away from a listing in some of these cases, precisely because of what can happen, as enumerated in my first paragraph.
posted by konolia at 7:49 AM on May 31, 2004

Response by poster: Irontom - no, this is thankfully unrelated. :)

konolia - but how long, exactly, is too long? Obviously if the house doesn't sell in a week, it's not because it's overpriced. When's the magic day?

Regardless, dropping the price much is not an option. Maybe a couple thousand dollars or so, but that's about it.

Thanks for all the tips. AskMe is so helpful.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:42 AM on May 31, 2004

konolia - but how long, exactly, is too long? Obviously if the house doesn't sell in a week, it's not because it's overpriced. When's the magic day?

That's variable, which is why you need to talk to your realtor. He or she will know what the average time is for a house to sell in your area. Competing with the new homes is an added variable as well. You just don't want to be on the market a whole lot longer than homes comparable to yours.
posted by konolia at 8:54 AM on May 31, 2004

Anonymize your house. If you have distinctive artwork, in addition to photos of your family, take 'em down. You want to make it as easy as possible for the prospective buyer to picture his/her stuff in the place. This is just another layer of uncluttering.

If you know they're coming, boil a bit of vanilla-in-water on the stove before they get there, but don't overdo it.

Be utterly intolerant of any mess whatsoever.

(haven't been involved in a house sale since 1985. we sold it in a week or two.)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:12 AM on May 31, 2004

Yeah, chill, I know. As you may have noticed, my house is now on the market, and I'm looking for tips on getting rid of the damn thing tout suite, rather than how to do it at all. Sorry to take up precious moments of your time, what with all the searching and all.

I couldn't work out why you were being a complete fucking arsehole, then I realised it was also you that posted the thread I linked to so I can see how my comment may have come across. Sorry to take up precious moments of your time with my misplaced attempt to help out.
posted by chill at 10:16 AM on May 31, 2004

If you want to sell the house quickly, there are some books available on how to auction it off. Not sure whether it works, but the books are available at most major bookstores.
posted by drezdn at 10:16 AM on May 31, 2004

1) If your realtor can't give you any idea why your house is still on the market, have him or her be more aggressive in following up with the other agents who have presumably shown it. They should be able to get some pretty frank feedback from their peers on why their clients aren't biting.

2) If you're getting genuine interest from folks, but nothing's actually turning into firm offers, try manufacturing a sense of urgency. Have an open house, try and get a number of people coming through, and then let your agent communicate that you're accepting offers until "next Tuesday", or whatever.

3) If the time on the market is starting to become a factor, and people start presuming there's something wrong with the place because it's not moving, it's not completely unethical to take it off the market for a little while (couple of weeks, maybe) and then put it back on. Granted, it's not completely kosher, either, but getting a new MLS number and "resetting the odometer" might help get rid of the taint.

Other than that, if you're really unwilling or unable to move on the price, you might want to focus on really making it seem like an easy house to _buy_. Go to town hall and get the CO/title release papers (which you can always do, as the homeowner), have a credible inspection company come in and certify its worthiness--anything else you can think of to anticipate the closing process. Package that stuff up, and make it clear to any prospective buyer that they'd have a quick, easy close if they bought the place.
posted by LairBob at 10:49 AM on May 31, 2004

Response by poster: Chill -- sorry about that, thought you were being sarcastic. Thanks for posting.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:27 PM on May 31, 2004

A close relative of mine has been a broker and agent for about thirty years now, and he's proven to me that the single best way to speed up a sale is to get your selling agent to give up commission points to the buying agent. Usually one point will suffice. It's usually 6% commission split between both agents, 3 and 3. Convince your selling agent to make it a 2/4 split and more often than not, it will sell in a week.

If you do this, it might be a good idea to make it worth your selling agent's time to give up a point of his commission though :D
posted by tomierna at 4:31 PM on May 31, 2004

LittleMissCranky - what was the resolution on the weird spouse? It's been killing me, not knowing!! (and yes, I am a nosy bitch)
posted by Irontom at 4:20 AM on June 1, 2004

« Older Why are savings / investment interest rates so...   |   Movies with crazy stunts and explosions? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.