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Trying to sell your listings faster? Ask yourself these 15 questions

Welcome to the new market! Now that there are more listings, buyers have more choices. With more choices, buyers’ agents look for reasons to not show a property, and buyers look for reasons not to buy it, or to simply keep looking.

Now that fewer buyers are looking, each showing is far more valuable to you as a listing agent. No one wants to have slow or no showings and then have to talk to the seller who trusted you and figure out what to say to them while the house languishes on the market. That’s no fun.

Active listing inventory in the U.S. continues to rise. As of the end of October, nationwide, the increase was 33.5% over last year. Many markets had far higher increases year over year, such as Phoenix; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee, leading with gains of 173.9%, 167.4%, and 145%, respectively.

Along with more inventory comes longer days on the market, fewer showings, no more competing offers and more power to qualified buyers.

What causes a listing to not sell? Why does it expire? Why does it get deprioritized by buyers or buyers’ agents? Why would a seller fire you when it’s only been on the market a few weeks?

In a hot seller’s market where a home sold simply because it was available, you didn’t have to know any of this…it’s not your fault! But it will be your fault if you don’t upgrade your listing skills immediately. Don’t make these mistakes:

1. Is your listing poorly presented?

Perhaps it has poor or no staging. This includes clutter, questionable smells, not being clean, and not being bright.

The goal is for the listing to show like a new construction model home. Consider adding shoe covers in a basket in the foyer. Welcoming signage could include the adage: ‘Please remove your shoes or cover them to protect the floors which may someday be yours!’

2. Does your listing have a non-compelling description?

This includes plain vanilla words like ‘open and airy floor plan. Don’t make it sound like every other listing. Make the description convince agents to show this property first.

Fact: The mindset of most buyers and buyers’ agents has not shifted to the conditions of the new market. Many agents and qualified buyers still believe they’ll have to compete with other contracts, pay over the list price, not be able to inspect the home, waive the appraisal contingency and pay a higher interest rate. This is inaccurate, as we have already seen the return of contingencies.

Tip: Write in your MLS descriptions and agent-to-agent comments that your seller would consider a home sale or closing contingency and will allow inspections. This will motivate buyers who have already sold their homes to see your listing and write an offer.

3. Are your listing pictures boring? Or worse, are they off-putting?

This includes tiny iPhone pictures, pictures with kids sleeping in their beds, kitchen pictures with dirty dishes, bathroom pics with toilet lids up, the agent’s reflection taking the picture in the bathroom mirror and any number of unprofessional pictures.

This issue is easy to fix. Hire a professional photographer, or take a photography class yourself. There are tons of easy and free photo tutorials on YouTube.

4. Does your listing have too many showing restrictions?

If you can only show it on a Friday afternoon if the baby isn’t sleeping and it’s sunny outside, you won’t get many showings! If you can’t show it, you can’t sell it.

5. Does your listing have poor curb appeal?

Fifty percent of the buying decision is made from the street.

Does your listing look like a house that someone would be proud to come home to, or does it look abandoned? Do some simple things to improve the curb appeal, like adding a wreath on the door, putting out a nice front doormat, plants on the porch and keeping up with the landscaping.

6. Does your listing give a bad impression when you open the front door?

The other 50% of the buying decision is made in the foyer.

A clutter-free, bright foyer should make the buyer want to see the rest of the house, not make them want to turn around and go see the next home.

7. Could something be wrong with your actual MLS listing?

Maybe your pictures aren’t loading, the description doesn’t make sense or it’s not categorized correctly.

If you don’t put in the square footage and someone is searching for it, your listing won’t pop up. If you’re advertising a bunch of stipulations of what the seller will or won’t accept, your listing will go to the bottom of the showing list or simply not get shown at all.

8. Is your listing in the wrong pricing segment?

If you’re at $509k, you’re possibly the least attractive listing for a search from $500k to $750k. That should be $499k to make it the best option for someone searching from $350 to $500k.

It’s best to list at the correct price in the first place, but if you’re asking for a reduction, always call it an ‘adjustment.’

9. Does your listing look clearly overpriced when compared to its competition?

If there are 10 listings that meet a buyer’s criteria, and your three-bedroom listing is priced as if it’s a four-bedroom, you’ll always look overpriced and go to the bottom of the showing list.

Split levels or bi-levels priced like two stories or ranches usually look overpriced, as well as anything else unusual for your market, like a house on a slab when its competition all have basements.

10. Does your listing have a confusing floor plan?

For example, a modern home in a colonial area, split levels, or anything unusual needs to have extra staging so buyers and buyer’s agents understand how the floorplan works. If you can’t tell what a room is supposed to be, the home just won’t resonate with a potential buyer.

11. Does your listing have negative feedback that never gets remedied and the price hasn’t improved to reflect that?

Repetitive negative feedback causes listings to expire. Many expired sellers will tell you that they knew something must be wrong but no one ever helped them fix it.

12. Does your listing have too many personal items like family pictures or degrees on the wall?

These things can distract the buyer from focusing on the property and how they would live there.

13. Does your listing have obvious detriments that are turning off buyers?

Things like bugs, dog hair, cat box smells, unidentifiable smells or stains or other off-putting things can easily make the buyer run away.

Either price it to reflect the condition or fix the condition. Even a dirty, smelly, scary house will sell for the right price.

14. Does your listing have a lower-than-expected buyer-side commission?

If a buyer’s agent is setting up showings and they have other choices, your listing will be deprioritized if the commission is too low.

Tip: Commissions are rising in this shifting market. Don’t be the only one paying a terrible percentage to the buyer-side agent. They may just opt to not show your listing at all.

15. Is your communication ineffective with the seller?

When there’s competition in the market, you must have a proactive strategy for being the listing that wins.

Work to eliminate these 15 potential challenges before you launch the listing. If that’s impossible, you must price the home to be more competitive. It’s no longer good enough for a listing to just be available. The home you’re listing must shine and be the clear choice for any buyer who sees it.

Tim and Julie Harris host a podcast for Realtors called Real Estate Coaching Radio. They’ve been professional real estate coaches for more than 20 years, helping agents succeed in many different market conditions.