For home sellers hoping to move on to their next chapter, seeing an exclusive listing agreement you signed with your real estate agent come to an end without a viable offer can be a huge disappointment. You likely signed that listing agreement feeling optimistic about selling your home quickly and at a great price. If you had a skilled agent at your side, she had a strong marketing plan in place, scheduled open houses and showings and did all the requisite signage and advertising. If all that hard work didn't bring in interested buyers and offers, was it all for naught?
Disappointing though it may be, an expired listing shouldn't always be considered a failure. Instead, think of it as a chance to make an even better effort with the help of some solid market feedback. So, how do you rebound and get it right the next time? Here are five tips for turning an expired listing into one headed for the closing table.
1. Don’t Be Emotional
Yes, it's discouraging to see your hopes of a quick and profitable sale evaporate. Your home not selling within the prescribed timeframe might cause stress and complications, especially if it is around a planned relocation. If you were buying and selling simultaneously, you're probably feeling your blood pressure rise. You might also be taking your home's lack of buyer interest personally and asking yourself, why don't potential buyers love my home as much as I do?
The more emotion sellers can strip away from the selling process, the better. It's time to stop thinking of it as your home and start thinking of it as someone else's new beginning. Try not to get emotionally attached to your kid's height notches on the door jamb or your painstakingly perfect kitchen remodel, and by all means, don't dwell on your home's failure to sell in its first outing. Instead, stay positive and focus on what can be improved in round two.
2. Do a Thorough Post-Mortem
To avoid making the same mistakes twice, you really have to analyze all the feedback garnered during your home's initial listing period. The most likely culprit in an expired listing is sale price, and price reductions can be a challenging pill for sellers to swallow. Ask your agent to revisit the comparative market analysis to make sure your price makes sense. Keep in mind that with much of the country in a buyer's market, pricing your home too high is a literal deal breaker.
But while the price is a key driver for buyers, it's not the only deciding factor. Be sure to review all the feedback that came in from brokers and buyers during open houses and showings. Categorize each piece of criticism on a scale of "easy fix" – think chipped trim or a broken light switch – to "can't be helped" – that would include things like a small lot size, lack of building amenities or less than desirable school district. Be sure to address all of the issues on the easy end of the scale, and take the other feedback into consideration when revisiting your listing price.
Be sure to review your agent's original marketing plan and take a look at what was and wasn't completed. Did you drop the ball on anything? Did your listing agent? Could any efforts – say, local advertising – be emphasized or added in the next go-round? By the way, if your agent didn't prepare a formal marketing plan in the first place, that can be a clue that it's time to move on.
3. Incorporate Smart Improvements
Much of the country is in a competitive buyer's market right now, meaning prospective buyers are taking their time to find the right home at the right price. In this type of climate, creating a high-impact first impression is absolutely critical. The first impression matters. Fresh paint and carpet can be immediate game-changers in reinventing your home, and these tasks offer the least expensive and dramatic makeover. Minor updates to bathrooms – modern vanity cabinets, upscale fixtures or new lighting – can create an upgraded look without a huge expense. Beyond cosmetic updates, professional deep cleaning and decluttering is in order, and don't discount the impact of professional staging. Research consistently shows that staging recoups its cost in higher sale prices.
And of course, all of this hard work should be thoroughly documented with professional photography and high-end marketing materials. Take a look at comparable homes for sale in your neighborhood for inspiration. In the end, your home should look so good you almost don't want to sell.
4. Consider a New Broker
Keep in mind that an expired listing doesn't necessarily mean it's time to move forward with a new agent. In fact, changing horses midstream, so to speak, can result in a lot more work to get your home on the market again. If you trust in your agent and you feel confident that they've worked hard on your behalf, you should definitely consider renewing the listing with him or her.
However, if you feel like your agent dropped the ball or that your working relationship just didn't click, by all means, consider a new representative. Keep in mind that once your listing expires, real estate agents will be coming out of the woodwork to earn your business. Get recommendations from friends and family, especially those who've gone through an expired listing situation of their own. Interview candidates carefully, being sure to ask hard questions about their approach to and success with expired listings specifically.
5. Make a Fresh Start
Try not to think of your home's next outing as a relisting, but as a relaunching and rebranding. Stay positive and confident in the fact that, by listening to feedback and making smart tweaks, you and your home will find its new owner.
Take advantage of the peak home-selling season.
If you’re thinking spring or summer is the ideal time to put your house on the market, you’re certainly not the only one. Real estate information site Zillow reports home sellers make the most money and sell fastest in the first two weeks of May, with July and June, respectively, serving as the next best months to list your home. While the market may be as hot as the weather this time of year, there are still some key steps you shouldn’t skip – and details you should know about – before selling your property in spring and summer.There are more buyers.
There are more buyers.
The change of seasons naturally encourages people to start thinking about options to move to a new home, and for homebuyers who are financially ready, that’s certainly the case. Many buyers may also be excited to move forward with a home purchase knowing that mortgage interest rates aren’t expected to climb particularly high in the near future. In March, the Federal Reserve confirmed its plans to not increase interest rates from the current 2.5% for the remainder of 2019. While mortgage rates vary based on the individual financial history and current market conditions, the Fed’s decision helps many first-time homebuyers start shopping for a home confidently.There is more competition among sellers.
There is more competition among sellers.
A seasonal influx of buyers certainly won’t go unnoticed by other homeowners. Many sellers wait to put their house on the market in the spring with hopes of a higher number of potential buyers. But they also choose to hold off because it makes sense to sell, find a new place to live and move before summer ends – especially if school-age kids live in the home. Keep the extra competition in mind as you prepare your house for the market. Consider checking out open houses in your neighborhood to see what nearby homes look like inside, what price they’re listed for and how your home measures up.This year won't be the same as last year.
This year won't be the same as last year.
The spring and summer months tend to be the most active for home sales, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always see home prices climb year over year. While some markets are still as hot as ever, places like San Francisco and Seattle have slowed significantly, with home values even dropping slightly compared to recent years when houses couldn’t stay on the market more than a couple days, says Skylar Olsen, director of economic research for Zillow. Even if you live in a more moderate housing market, expect a slower pace than previous years. “It’s still in the whole scope of history a seller’s market, but it’s not quite as extreme as it was,” Olsen says.Your buyer may be on a specific timeline.
Your buyer may be on a specific timeline.
Spring and summer are ideal for many buyers not just because the weather’s nice, but also because the timing gets them moved before fall, explains Dario Cardile, vice president of growth for real estate brokerage Owners.com. That said, if your house goes under contract in early May, the buyer may ask for a delay in closing or move-in until the school year finishes or his current home has sold. Alternatively, a buyer later in summer may be looking to close quickly and move in under a month. Remain flexible to keep the deal running smoothly, and your buyer may be willing to throw in concessions, like covering some of your closing costs or overlooking the old roof.The market varies from city to city.
The market varies from city to city.
As housing markets are shifting, you should expect to see more differences from city to city. “Last year and the year before, everyone’s story was a little bit more similar than it is now,” Olsen says. Tracking national housing information can be valuable, but for an understanding of the housing market and how it pertains to the sale of your home, focus on the local market only. If homebuyers start house hunting later in summer, for example, your real estate agent may suggest holding more open houses, adjusting the asking price or even waiting to put it on the market.Landscaping can make a difference.
Landscaping can make a difference.
Green grass and blooming trees help your home’s exterior look its best for photos and open houses, but that doesn’t mean you should let nature do all the work. Keep your grass cut, plant fresh flowers and trim shrubs or bushes that have a tendency to grow into walkways. If your grass didn’t return from the winter as green as it could be, you may want to consider new sod to improve your curb appeal.More days on the market doesn't spell doom.
More days on the market doesn't spell doom.
No one wants their house sitting on the market for months with little buyer activity, but don’t be afraid of a house that needs a few weeks – or even a couple months – to find the right buyer. The median days on market for properties nationwide ebbs and flows throughout the year, and it changes as conditions shift more slowly to a buyer’s market. Real estate brokerage Redfin reports the median number of days on the market for U.S. housing hit its lowest point last year in June at just 35 days. In March 2019, the median number of days on the market was 49. While you can expect that median to drop again during the spring and summer, you’ll likely see more houses sitting on the market as buyers are more selective.You may have to lower your asking price.
You may have to lower your asking price.
You may have watched friends and family sell their homes in previous spring seasons with multiple offers on the first day and above the list price. In many parts of the U.S., however, that part of the real estate cycle is over. Instead, you may find your real estate agent recommending a drop in the asking price to ensure the right buyers are touring your property. “That initial list price needs to come down,” Olsen says.Some staging is required.
Some staging is required.
As with your home’s exterior, there’s no reason to slack off when it comes to preparing your house to impress would-be buyers. “Staging is one of the things that is very important,” Cardile stresses. That means decluttering the house, emptying closets to make them appear larger, moving some furniture to storage to help rooms look bigger and keeping counters clear and show-ready at all times.Some projects can be DIY.
Some projects can be DIY.
It’s common for real estate agents to recommend that home sellers repaint some rooms, clean the carpet and power-wash the deck or driveway. Fortunately, many of these smaller projects can become a do-it-yourself task that requires minimal cash to get your home looking fresh. But taking on a task yourself doesn’t mean it’s OK to get sloppy – especially with paint, Olsen says. “Be careful – use a drop cloth and everything,” she says.A professional touch on bigger upgrades may see more return.
A professional touch on bigger upgrades may see more return.
For certain parts of your home that need work outside your skill set, incurring the cost of a professional will be worth it in the end. “You can upgrade the bathroom on your own, … but that’s also something you can hire a professional to do,” Olsen says. While spending money often isn’t what you have in mind when you think about selling your home, a bad DIY tile job could become a sticking point with buyers, who may be concerned other work was done poorly elsewhere in the house.Here are 11 things you should know about selling your home in spring and summer:
Here are 11 things you should know about selling your home in spring and summer:
- There are more buyers.
- There are also more sellers to compete with.
- This year won't be the same as last year.
- Your buyer may be on a specific timeline.
- The market varies from city to city.
- Landscaping can make a difference.
- More days on market doesn't spell doom.
- You may have to lower your asking price.
- Some staging is required.
- Some projects can be DIY.
- A professional touch on bigger upgrades may see more return.
Larson has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Real Deal and other top-tier outlets for her industry insights and expertise. Recognized among her peers for her eye for design, she has bought, renovated and sold apartments and homes in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Nantucket, providing her an acute insight into the needs of buyers and sellers alike.
Lisa holds a Master's degree in History and was a member of the Division I cross-country and track teams at the University of California, Berkeley. Larson also remains actively involved with various charitable foundations, neighborhood associations and at both of her children's schools, and serves as a director on the board of the USA Track & Field Association.
Devon Thorsby | June 5, 2019
Homeowners should not fret, as long as they're prepared for the possibility of a downturn.