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I don’t plan to list my home in the near future, so I won’t get my curiosity satisfied anytime soon. But for some homeowners questions about their home’s saleability are matters of real urgency and not idle curiosity. Listing your home and then not finding a buyer is the stuff of nightmares; we’ve likely all seen that one house in the neighbourhood that just took way too long to sell. If you’re about to put your house on the market, or already have it listed and things aren’t moving as fast as you’d like, take a look at our top reasons why homes don’t sell, and expert tips on what to do when your house won’t sell.

Understanding hard-to-sell homes: Why don’t they sell?

Your asking price is too much

If your house is in a nice neighbourhood and it isn’t falling apart at the seams it may not be selling because you’re asking too much. Yes, yes, I know, your home is an absolute treasure that anyone would be lucky to have. But the hard truth is that while your home is priceless to you, buyers won’t necessarily see it that way. You don’t want to price your property out of the market. When you establish a selling price for your home, you’ll have to put emotions aside and take an objective view of your property.

For example, I live about an hour outside of Toronto where the average days on market is one of the lowest in Canada (24 days) and yet there is a house a block away from where I live that has been on the market since July 2020. It’s unlikely to sell in the foreseeable future because the owner is asking more than three times what the most expensive home in my neighbourhood has gone for recently. It’s vital to get your asking price right!

The fix:

It’s important to listen to the experts like your realtor to understand the objective value of your home. If you’re selling a home on your own, check what other similar houses (i.e., ones that are the same in size, similar in condition and have an equal number of bathrooms and bedrooms) in your area have sold for and stick to a comparable asking price.

You’re not working with the right agent

What happens if your home still sitting on the market and your real estate agent is MIA? Or if you’re not getting enough feedback as to why your home is still on the market despite numerous efforts to reach out to your agent. These kinds of scenarios usually happen when a real estate agent doesn’t have enough experience or who doesn’t know the neighbourhood well enough. Or, sometimes it just happens that you and your realtor may not be a good fit.

The fix:

Be sure to go with a real estate agent who has experience in your region and knows your specific neighbourhood well. Reach out to friends and neighbours in the area who have recently bought or sold their homes to see if you can get a personal recommendation. Another trick is to attend open houses in your area and chat up the real estate agent selling the home to see if you like their approach to selling the property and whether or not you have good chemistry. Once you’ve signed a contract with a real estate agent, it’s tough to get out of it. Your agent may agree to end the contract, or you may have to wait until your contract expires and you can re-list your property again with a new agent.

You didn’t stage your home

Much like we should dress our best for a job interview, so too should your home look its best when it’s listed for sale. If you want top dollar, your home needs to look like it fits the price tag. If a property is too stuffed with furnishings or personal items it can make the space look tired and claustrophobic. It will be hard for a buyer to imagine living in the space. On the other hand, if a property is too empty it can make a home seem cold and unwelcoming.

The fix:

Staging helps showcase a home’s high points and hide its less-appealing qualities. Staging can mean anything from removing furniture to a fresh coat of paint to minor landscaping. It may even be worth hiring a professional stager to ensure your home is displayed at its best. While a professional stager will cost you, you will likely more than makeup for the cost with an elevated selling price.

Your home isn’t picture perfect

In real estate, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Much like a dating profile with no photos, your home is not going to get much interest if it can’t attract the eye of potential buyers.

The fix:

It’s worth hiring a pro to take photos because they know how to shoot something to show off its best features and hide its flaws. Also, consider adding extras like videos and 3D virtual tours.

You chose the wrong approach to sell your home

If all else fails, consider that you might be taking the wrong approach to selling your property. Sometimes buying first and selling second might be the best move for hard-to-sell homes—especially if the selling price of your home can be guaranteed beforehand.

The fix:

Does buying first and selling second sound too good to be true? Though it’s a recent development in Canada, there are specialized real estate companies that not only help you find a new home but also take charge of selling your old one. These companies, such as Properly, will list your property for sale and see to all the professional staging, cleaning, and photography. If your home doesn’t sell within three months, they will then buy your property for a mutually agreed-upon price, which can be a huge relief if you’ve already purchased another property. (Read our full review of Properly to learn more.)

The bottom line: Will my house sell in this market?

Unless you have psychic abilities, there’s no guarantee that your house will sell fast. It doesn’t help that COVID-19 has made predicting next year’s real estate market harder than ever. But here’s what you can do: take a look at the latest Canadian housing market research and what the experts are predicting for the next few years. Download the HouseSigma app and track the selling trends in your neighbourhood. Again, you can’t be 100% sure that the predictions will come true, but this gives you some food for thought.

Already got a “for sale” sign on your lawn? Before you start to panic about how long your home is taking to sell, it’s important to first establish if your fears are reasonable. Start off by getting the facts on the average length of time a house usually stays on the market in your area.

The average number of days a house is on the market in Canada might actually surprise you. Believe it or not, the city with the shortest listing time is not Toronto, but rather the city of Windsor where it takes an average time of 12 days to sell a house. The town with the longest listing time is Saguenay, Quebec, with an average of 134 days. The two most talked-about selling markets, Toronto and the Greater Vancouver area come in at 23 days and 56 days respectively. So, the message here is don’t assume you have a hard-to-sell home that is not moving quickly enough until you do some research on your region.

If your home truly isn’t moving as quickly as it should be—don’t lose hope! You have lots of options and things to try out to make your home more attractive to potential buyers.

About the Author

Sandra MacGregor

Sandra MacGregor

Freelance Contributor

Sandra MacGregor has been writing about finance and travel for nearly a decade. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications like the New York Times, the UK Telegraph, the Washington Post, and the Toronto Star.

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