If you’ve had your San Jose home listed for sale with a real estate professional but after several months on the market it didn’t sell, you are probably tired, discouraged, and maybe even angry. What went wrong? Isn’t this a hot seller’s market?
Everyone likes “easy answers”, and the most common easy answer to the question of why the house is now an expired listing is price. Most homes that don’t sell are overpriced. This is true but an oversimplification. It’s not the only answer, and it’s not the answer every single time.
When selling a house, townhouse, or condominium in San Jose or Silicon Valley, the best starting point is to try to see things as the buyer does and to make your property competitive enough that the buyer will see it and be interested. That’s Job # 1: make the buyer want to see it.
It’s not price so much as value: The buyer is looking not for the cheapest property, but for the best value for the money. The buyer wants the best house, in the best location, with the best terms that he or she can buy.
Sellers, of course, want to sell the home for top dollar with the least hassle (meaning asmooth escrow and no surprises). Sometimes, in the effort to sell for the highest possible price, the sellers simply aim too high – and it’s out of the buyer’s line of vision because it’s unrealistic. I wrote about this awhile back and invite you to read more about pricing in this post: What’s My Silicon Valley Home Worth? Estimating the Probable Buyer’s Value.
A good Realtor can help with realistic and competitive pricing but only if your agent has your permission to be totally honest with you. Sometimes sellers hire the “yes man” who agrees with a wrong price, a wrong condition of the property, and wrong access for buyers and their agents. Everyone ends up unhappy that way because the house won’t sell unless it’s a bizarre fluke. Better to hire a great agent, work together and encourage honesty (even if it’s not what you want to hear).
It’s often easier to increase perceived value than you might think. Agents around the globe will tell you, rightly, that a good price can fix any problem. But most sellers would like to know that lowering the price isn’t the only way to improve the home’s ability to sell.
How else can the home be seen as the better value? Here we need to take homes on a case-by-case basis. Here are a few of the areas I’ve seen that can be tweaked in order to make the property more appealing to home buyers:
- lots and lots of good quality marketing photos that convey your home and yard in the best possible light – when the photograph is taken, the house and yard should be immaculate: no cars in the driveway, no junk on the kitchen counters, toilet lids closed, the home uncluttered – it needs to look like you care!
- decluttering, depersonalizing and staging the home – it needs to be a neutral, clean palette so the buyers can envision themselves moving in
- the front yard needs to be perfect and perfectly inviting – no bushes growing over the sidewalk or front walkway, no chain link fences in the front yard (white picket is ok, chain link is not!), colorful annuals and more
- inside, the house should be light, bright and airy – curtains open, lights on, no stuffiness but instead fresh air and a clean and uncluttered house are all imperative
- sellers need to be GONE during showings – lurking is creepy
- home in good repair – have presale inspections and take care of the repairs!
- improve the wording in the MLS comments
- improve the commission or compensation offered to the buyer’s agent
- improve the visibility on the web
Several times I’ve been the 2nd, 3rd or 4th agent and been able to get the house sold without doing a drastic price reduction by instead implementing some of the items listed above or others.
If I were meeting with a homeowner whose house was listed on the MLS but did not sell, I would have a lot of questions to ask in order to help them assess what needs fixing:
- how many showings were there each week? (it’s one thing if the house is being shown but not getting any offers and of course a bigger problem if it’s not being shown at all)
- how was the listing price established? was it adjusted after a few weeks?
- what were the showing instructions – appointment only, appointment only through the listing agent, 48 hours notice required or any other “strict” showing instructions?
- what was the feedback like from the agents who showed the property to their buyers? what were the buyer objections?
- were there a lot of photos for the MLS and websites? (were they professionally taken?) Video tours don’t matter that much to buyers but good still photographs matter a lot….
- did the seller interview several Realtors? how was the last agent chosen? (sometimes the seller picks the agent who suggests the highest price)
- what was the commission rate offered to the buyer’s agent? how competitive was it?
If your home becomes an “expired listing”, you can be sure that agents will be phoning and dropping by, many hoping that by being persistent they will display their enthusiasm and tenacity and win an interview with you that way. (They have also all read that typically it takes hearing “no” 7 to 10 times before they’ll hear a “yes”.)
Many agents whose primary business plan is “working expireds” will focus almost exclusively on price. I sat in on a real estate training class where the instructor lectured that the only element of marketing that mattered was price – photos, fliers, mls comments – all of them were not important, only price mattered. So beware of that angle. (Many sellers have the opposite approach and tend to believe that if the home didn’t sell, it was not advertised enough in the paper. Paper ads or magazine ads don’t sell houses, so forget that idea.)
If your home is now off market as a canceled or expired listing, you may grow weary of the calls, mailings and “pop bys” from all the agents who want your business. If you re list your home, with either the prior agent or a new one, the calls will stop. But in the meantime, unless you want to talk with a lot of these folks, you might just let all calls roll to voice mail until the flurry dies down in a few weeks.
If you would like to interview me (I’m assertive but not pushy) for your property in Santa Clara County, please call or email me. I will have a look at your property and give you a copy of my book to keep (whether you and I decide to work together or not), “Get The Best Deal When Selling Your Home in Silicon Valley”.
For more reading:
Pull up the pdf of my 60 page pre-listing packet (no registration required) from this page on my Valley of Hearts Delight website
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(all data current as of 5/29/2017)
Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.