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How to breathe life back into a stale listing

May 8, 2018

 Check that curb appeal and reassess your staging to help freshen up a stale listing.

 

If you've been sitting on a stale listing for a while, it might be hard to look at the home and marketing plan objectively. Here are a few ideas to help you reconsider your approach and breathe some new life into that house that just won't sell.

 

Increase communication with the client

The first thing you should do is make sure you are in communication with your client on a regular basis. You have to make it clear you are working for them, even if the house isn't selling. Perhaps even more importantly, you want to build up to having some difficult conversations with them, including a discussion about improving the staging and appearance of the home and a price reduction. These conversations can't come out of left field, or be the only thing you've spoken to them about since the house went on the market. Find excuses to speak to them and then drop the hammer in a gentle way that some changes have to be made. If you have been in regular contact, perfect. You can feel more comfortable speaking to them about the changes required to get their house sold.

 

The appearance

If the house has sat on the market for weeks or longer, it's time to have an honest discussion with your clients to see if you can convince them that selling the home is dependent on how well it shows. This can be a little sensitive especially if you already tried to get your clients to stage the home and they weren't too receptive. However, you know that staging a home and adding curb appeal is a must to sell houses and there's no getting around gently suggesting some of the following:

  • Paint: Fresh paint in neutral colors will allow you to breathe new life into the rooms of the home. 

  • Declutter: Decluttering should include more than just clearing the counters (and hopefully you already convinced them to do that!). It means taking a look at every room and editing out excess furniture, wall art and anything else that will take away from the size and potential of every room in the house.

  • Keep it up: Houses that sit on the market a long time can be very difficult to maintain. Perhaps your clients did well the first few weeks, but with kids, a dog and two jobs, they have failed to keep it up. Offer to help them get things back to looking organized and neat before each showing so you know that at least if you arrive at the home with potential buyers, the home will be presentable!

  • Curb appeal: Drive by the house and see how it looks. If you have seen a change in weather and seasons chances are the house could use a little refresh on the curb appeal. Easy fixes include a front yard raking to remove debris, planting some bright colored annuals in flower beds and adding a trusty urn or two at the front door. Fresh mulch works wonders, even in completely empty flower beds. Look for other red flags such as broken windows, peeling paint on fences and wood trim and eye sores such as trash cans, broken doorbells and anything else that screams "I am unloved!"

  • Backyard: Last but not least check the backyard and see what can be done there. An abandoned backyard is not very inviting and can even raise suspicions about bad neighbors, noise from local traffic and more. You want people to see themselves relaxing in their backyard, not working there to clean it up, or worse avoiding it. Use the same ideas for curb appeal and do a thorough clean up. You can also consider adding some patio furniture and planters to make it more inviting. Even if it means lending them your own patio furniture for the open house! Deliver it and set it up and then take it home when the open house is finished. 

  • Fake a viewing: Consider inviting a friend(s) or family member(s) to take a tour of the home with you to provide feedback. They might provide some important insight that will help you focus on the worst aspects of the home, or areas you didn't even notice!

 

The images

This might seem obvious to a more experienced agent, but if the listing isn't seeing any activity it could be your images. Keeping in mind that pretty much everyone begins their house hunt online and also uses images to get a feel for whether or not they are interested in a viewing, your images have to show off the property in the best possible light.

 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your images taken professionally? If the answer is no, this is your first problem. Professional images are an absolute must when it comes to selling. It is the first point of reference for most buyers. Even if they decided to look up the listing online after driving by a house they think looks interesting, if they end up seeing cell phone images, chances are you'll lose them. Call a professional photographer right away and get that house shot so you can post images with a wow factor.

  • How long is your slide show or virtual tour? If your shots are professional, consider how long your slide show or tour is. If you have tons of photos people will not only lose interest, they will also get lost. Trying to imagine a home, no matter how impressive, can be overwhelming when faced with too many images. Pare down your images to the "best ofs" to help keep the online viewings less tedious and confusing.

  • How old are your images? Depending on how long the house has been on the market, there could be a need from some updates. For example a wintry shot in the spring will look suspiciously old, as would Christmas decor on the mantle or Easter eggs on the dining room table. Look through your images to see if they could use an update and call your photographer to get him in to do some reshoots. If you have made improvements to staging or curb appeal don't forget to reshoot those areas so you can update your online tours and slide shows. This is especially a good idea for outside shots if the seasons have changed and the pool is cleaned, the barbecue and patio furniture is set up and the flowers are in bloom. 

 

The price

This is something that can also prove to be a sensitive topic with your clients. However, it is always good to keep them in the loop when it comes to pricing. Update them on the latest homes in the area that are selling and use this to point out they might want to reconsider their price. This is even more awkward if you suggested the price to begin with. However, if you have the comps to back up your suggestion they will see you are working with their best interests in mind.

 

If you do get them to agree to a price reduction, make sure you remarket the home wherever you can and do an eflyer to announce the price reduction to attract agents. Do a new open house to showcase the home at the new price as well with super staging in place to attract offers.

 

Have an event

Desperate times call for desperate measures. You can consider throwing an event at the house and invite your local real estate community to join. Whether it is a simple lunch, sangria by the pool or having some prizes you managed to drum up, events can draw in agents and get them interested in the property. Another good idea is to hold a charity event with proceeds going to the local food bank or homeless shelter. This is not only a good way to get people to show up, but also helps raise awareness about your involvement with the community. 

 

Whether you choose to explore all of these suggestions, or focus on a few, keeping the listing as inviting as possible is key. This takes effort on both your part and the client's, so strong communication and the ability to come to some compromises is going to help.