There may be many reasons your house isn't selling. The economy isn't working in your favor. Your house is an eyesore. It's random chance that the right buyer hasn't come along. But if you haven't broken a mirror lately (you know, seven years of bad luck), you should look in one. After all, nobody is born with real estate skills. If you're making any of these rookie mistakes, you are torpedoing your chances of selling your house.
[See: 10 Tips to Sell Your Home Fast.]
Your asking price is too high Everyone wants as much money for their home as possible, but you can't be delusional about it, says Kelly-Jo Choate, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Professionals in Port Huron, Michigan.
Choate often sees sellers overpricing their homes. "Everyone thinks they are sitting on a goldmine ... They often seem to forget that even if someone magically came along and was silly enough to pay their price, the house still has to appraise," she says.
In other words, a lender isn't going to approve a client borrowing, say, $400,000 on a house that should sell for $300,000.
There's too much of your personality in the home. Maybe throughout your house you have a collection of pig or owl statuettes or hundreds of thimbles that you've purchased over the years from your world travels? Start boxing them up and put them out of sight.
Too often, homeowners don't clean up the clutter, pictures and knick-knacks, says Steven Dekok, a real estate agent with McMahon Phillips Real Estate in Sacramento, California.
"A buyer wants to see themselves in the house, not the current owner," he says.
Damien Adams, a financial planner in McKinney, Texas, believes his family photos and artwork may have kept buyers from making an offer on his previous home, also in McKinney. It's unsettling to consider in this day and age, but Adams suspects buyers were possibly turned off because his home seemed too African-American.
His neighborhood was highly sought after, with many homes selling, and his neighbors were getting offers within a week or so. But not Adams and his wife.
Adams says their agent kept hearing, "It's just not what we're looking for," or, "Something wasn't right."
So after about 10 showings, Adams says, "My wife and I decided to take down our family pictures and ethnic art work and CD collection – everything that seemed 'black.'"
And then two showings later, Adams quips: "And what do you know? Eureka! An offer."
He adds, "I am not saying that race played a factor in prospective buyers not buying my home, but it was a strange coincidence the way it happened."
Do not give tours of your home. Most real estate agents will tell you: This is a job best left to the pros.
"No, the buyer doesn't want to hear how little Johnny grew up in this house," Dekok says.
Peter Boscas, a real estate broker and owner of Red Cedar Real Estate in Columbia, Maryland, agrees. "Nothing makes a buyer more uncomfortable or disinterested in a property than when the seller is home for a showing," he says.
Buyers, he says, don't feel that they can truly explore the house if you're there, Boscas explains, likening the experience to shopping at a department store.
"Imagine if ... a sales clerk followed you around at the hip, the entire time you were in the store from the moment you entered the front door. You likely wouldn't stay very long. More importantly, you wouldn't be comfortable enough to shop and ultimately purchase something. The same principle applies here," he says.
Do not let your pets take over your house. This can be tricky, especially if you have a menagerie. Still, if you want to sell your home fast, find a place or places for them to go while you're selling, suggests Rachel Hillman, who owns Hillman Homes, a real estate firm in West Newton, Massachusetts.
She also advises homeowners do whatever they can to make buyers forget, as much as possible, that you even own pets. In other words, when you clean your home, don't forget about your pets' clutter.
"Sorry, cat lovers, most people do not like the smell of cats or litter boxes," Hillman says. "This is the same for old and smelly dog beds. As the owner, you might be used to your pet smells, but it is a real turnoff to potential buyers. It's important to pack up all pet toys and beds, put away scratching posts and be sure to clean out the litter box. The best option is have the pets removed for all of the showings and definitely for the open houses."
Restricting when buyers can see the home. You want to make it as easy as possible for your potential buyers to see your home, says Tracey Hampson, a Realtor with Century 21 Troop Real Estate in Santa Clarita, California.
Hampson says that constraints for when homebuyers can drop by the house is one of the biggest mistakes home sellers can make.
"I understand it's an invasion of privacy and a hassle to keep their home clean, but making it hard to view their home is such a hindrance when it comes to selling," she says. "I've had listings where the seller requested 24 hours [advance notice] to view their home. It's one thing to be by appointment only, which makes it difficult enough, but then to put a 24-hour restriction to show it is just ridiculous."
Boscas is also sympathetic that this isn't easy to do, especially for families with pets, but he strongly agrees that you have to make the home as available for tours as possible, somehow.
"No matter how well a property shows, is marketed, is priced, if a buyer can't visit the property due to showing restrictions, they aren't going to make an offer," Boscas says, adding that you're only hurting yourself.
"Sellers who make the property unavailable for showings will end up costing themselves thousands of dollars in carrying costs and lower sales prices as the property sits on the market because they are hindering competition for their own product," he says.
A product, indeed. Right now, you are a business owner. You are in the business of selling your home, and companies do well when they are customer-friendly. If you chase people away with limited viewings, odd cat odors and by hovering over your prospective buyers, you are ensuring that you'll be in this business for a long, long time.
Williams got his start working in entertainment reporting in 1993, as an associate editor at "BOP," a teen entertainment magazine, and freelancing for publications, including Entertainment Weekly. He later moved to Ohio and worked for several years as a part-time features reporter at The Cincinnati Post and continued freelancing. His articles have been featured in outlets such as Life magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Cincinnati Magazine and Ohio Magazine.
For the past 15 years, Williams has specialized in personal finance and small business issues. His articles on personal finance and business have appeared in CNNMoney.com, The Washington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes.com and American Express OPEN Forum. Williams is also the author of several books, including "Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever" and "C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America"
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Williams lives in Loveland, Ohio, with his two teenage daughters and is a graduate of Indiana University. To learn more about Geoff Williams, you can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow his Twitter page.