Paycheck Chronicles

Why Your House Won't Sell (Or Rent)


We are one of those crazy military families who bought a house when we were first married, and we've lived in it more than once over the years. (Note: I do not recommend this strategy.) After several tries, we finally found a great property manager (Jeff)  who has been taking care of our house for over 10 years.  I've learned quite a few things from our property manager, and I'm using all that knowledge know that we are trying to rent or sell another house.

One of the smartest things that Jeff ever explained to me was his system for evaluating why a house isn't renting.  I think that it can be applied to selling as well.  Jeff breaks it down into three categories:  A)  not getting any telephone calls, B) getting telephone calls but not visits to the house, and C) getting visits but not getting offers.  You can figure out where the problem is by what category of activity is occurring.

First, if you aren't getting any telephone calls (or emails), then the house isn't being properly advertised.  We've never had that problem.  My property manager uses the MLS for our house in Virginia, and here in Maryland I've used and the Automated Housing Referral Network.  Both tactics have resulted in plenty of telephone traffic.

Second, if you are getting telephone calls but not showings, Jeff thinks that it is a price issue.  I think that it could also be some other objective problem:  a pet policy, a school question, or something tangible.  I think that if you are the person answering the telephone calls, you can probably figure out the problem by keeping track of the questions that people are asking.  In a sense, Jeff is right about the price aspect because the only way to adjust for tangible issues is through price.  You can't change the school district, or the houses location, but you can adjust the price to compensate.  Of course, one thing to remember with military folks - often visits are hard to organize.  You certainly have to weigh the reasons that people aren't visiting and consider how much of the "calls but no visits" is due to geographic constraints.

This brings us to the third, and toughest problem.  If you are getting visits but no offers, then the problem is something in the house:  either the house itself, or its contents.  Both of these problems are hard to see when you are living there.  Perhaps the house has an odd layout, or the rooms are small, or there are signs of house neglect (guilty!).  Alternately, your things are making the house look unappealing.  If you watch HGTV, you've probably seen houses that are so full, or so personalized, that it is hard to imagine your things in them.  In my case, it is usually that we have too much darn stuff.  For example, right now, I have the contents of my closets pulled out and strewn around the house in piles:  to go, long-term storage, to be sorted more, etc.  Makes the place look small and dark, even though it is not.  The good news is that if you are getting calls and visits, you can make your house look fabulous and get it sold or rented.  The bad news is that it is often a lot of hard work!

I like Jeff's theory of house renting because it makes it easy to know where to make adjustments.  No phone calls?  Expand your advertising.  Phone calls but no showings?  Consider a price adjustment.  Showings but no contracts?  Clear it out and fix it up, pronto!  By evaluating the reasons your house isn't selling or renting, you can take the necessary steps to make sure that it does.

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