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For sale, no nibbles, what to do?

Dear Steve,
I've had my house on sale for close to five months. We've had some traffic but no offers. The feedback we received from our agent and potential buyers has been positive. What could be the problem? Does the real estate market usually pick up after summer? -- Miranda

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Dear Miranda,
Unless you are simply in a down market with a limited buying universe, the most common reason a house doesn't sell is price. Even if your pricing is a little out of line, it can make a big difference in the time on the market. According to national data culled by the Texas A & M University Real Estate Center, a house has a 10-times better chance of selling at an asking price of 5 percent over market, than one that's priced 15 percent over market. Compare your listing price to the prices of other homes in your general neighborhood and categories that are for sale or have sold. Your agent can help you do this.

Other reasons a home is not selling can include condition, location, unconventional design or lack of agent motivation. An "as-is" fixer-upper will obviously reduce your buying pool, as will a house on a busy street; or in a crime-prone area, or one with a quirky design. Additionally, luxury homes also tend to sell slower than midlevel homes, and sometimes you just have to wait for the right buyer to come along. If you've had buyers who can't quite qualify for financing, you might consider offering a lease-option; or rent-to-own alternatives, or even owner financing, assuming you don't need all of your money immediately.

Sometimes, the problem is your agent. Some will divert attention to higher-priced homes or to sellers who are offering full commission, in the event you are offering less than the standard 6 percent. Others are just not aggressive and are slower to follow up with potential buyers. Some may not level with you for fear of losing a higher commission should you decide to discount the house, to move it fast; or they might not want to risk insulting you and losing your listing -- particularly if you're sticking to your guns on an inflated price.

But most veteran agents worth their salt have a good idea why your home isn't moving and will just tell you how to rectify the problem -- albeit tactfully. If you're not confident in your agent, consider replacing her, particularly if your listing contract ends at six months.

As for seasonality, you've missed the peak, which is generally between late February and early July, when homes can sell for 2 percent to 3 percent more than the annual average. It usually tails off to about average between August and early October but spikes again briefly before Thanksgiving, then dropping 2 percent to 3 percent below average, in December and January.

Of course, those are only averages and don't take into account individual market nuances. In this mobile society, there are home buyers looking year-round. Good luck, and happy selling.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Sept. 24, 2005
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