Westport homeowners: 5 reasons why your house isn’t selling

Happy New Year Westport Homeowners! 2024 is sure to be a great one for our local real estate market. Today, we’ll talk about how best to take advantage of those opportunities.

You’ve been thinking about it for ages and finally cobbled together all your mental faculties to list your home for sale in Westport. At last: you’ve hired a top real estate agent, you’ve completed the paperwork, and you’re live!… but for some reason, after two months, all you’re hearing are crickets. Today, I want to share five reasons why your house isn’t selling and what you can do to finally move on to your dream home.

1. Your house is overpriced

Any agent can tell you the number one reason why your house is not selling, all too often, is that your asking price is too high. Coming off the peak of the pandemic-influenced seller’s market of the last few years, fetching top dollar for your home in that market seems to be driving so many sellers to price their homes higher than the conditions that today’s market will willingly accept. Between 2020 and 2022, inventory was short and demand was high, creating ideal conditions for a seller’s market, particularly in Westport, CT. City dwellers were coming in droves to buy homes in Westport often well above asking price. In 2023, demand was stifled by increasing interest rates as well as new construction costs; all of a sudden, with inventory unchanged but home buyers far less willing to buy (most fearing the dramatic increase in prospective mortgage interest rates), transaction activity slowed to a halt, and buyers became far more selective. Looking at this past August, homes across the country spent an average of 46 days on the market – five days longer than in August of 2022, signaling demand has slowed. For prospective home buyers, who wants to pay a 2020-2022 premium on a home for which they’ll also be stuck with a high mortgage rate? As your days on market add up, the desirability of your home takes a dive.

Competitive pricing in line with current market conditions is paramount in today’s real estate market in Westport. Buyers want to have some assurance that homeowners will negotiate with them, in order to reach a fair deal. If your house is already on the market, a seller should ideally decrease their current asking price by between one and five percent.

Another angle: in the unlikely event you get a buyer to agree to an ambitious price, the deal can collapse when they apply for a mortgage. In many instances, successful home sales occur when multiple mortgages are accepted. Lenders examine your house’s accepted list price with true market values, which can quickly expose overpricing and sinking the entire deal.

Your best shot? Stay flexible on pricing when consulting your trusted realtor. They may ask you to accept price adjustments of in the five to ten percent range from the get-go, which can seal the deal with a buyer, accelerate the process, and circumnavigate last-second issues. After two weeks of your house being live on the market, if there hasn’t been much reaction, take the cue (the price of your house isn’t matching up with buyer expectations) and drop the price. Get a comparative market analysis (aka a “CMA”) to determine how appropriate the price of your house is as compared with similar homes in similar circumstances. On the other end of the deal, realtors advising buyers will be conducting this analysis on their own.

Ultimately, consider that the home pricing strategy which yields the most interest, is the most expeditious, and even the opportunity of closing above asking price is to list your house below true market value.

2. Your house needs to be staged!

Imagine a blank canvas of a home: a prospective homeowner walks in and develops that crucial first impression. ‘Where will their couch go?’ ‘What’s the best place to position the bed?’

Alternatively, say this homeowner walks into a non-staged, cluttered home: how can they picture their belongings, their life in this “new” home, when it appears to still belong to someone else? Can you envision transforming a space that is cluttered and personalized to someone else’s liking?

If your house is already priced appropriately to sell (“priced appropriately” does not mean according to Zillow!), staging is the next most vital piece of a quick home sale, even making it more likely to sell for more than your asking price! Staging can remove barriers between generations too, eliminating the characterizing of a home marrying it to one style. Ultimately, most homes in Westport are staged before they go on the market in order to deliver on that great first impression, and appeal to the largest selection of buyers possible. Ideally, prospective home buyers should be able to walk in and see themselves living there – a turnkey sale!

Staging your house doesn’t have to be an expensive ordeal either; according to the National Association of Realtors, the median price for staging services may run around $1,500 – worth it when you consider the upside it can provide both to the speed and price of your ultimate sale. Declutter and remove personal items; then, add some fresh furniture, artwork, and additional decor which will really liven up your home for a more likely sale. See my simple plan for listing your house for more

3. Your house needs some upgrades

If you’re selling your house in Westport, you want to make sure your house is move-in ready, “turnkey” as some refer to it. No one wants to move into a new home, only to have to shell out even more funds for repairs and modifications to make it livable. Don’t make it easy for a buyer to come in and negotiate a lower price right off the bat, as a result of something as obvious as dated technical home aspects (like windows, HVAC, etc.) or old paint. Deep (and detailed) cleaning, painting, and more serious modifications should all be on the table.

Want to really spruce things up, and make your home feel like home to an incoming buyer? Make sure natural light has plenty of avenues into your living spaces. Tie those curtains back – or remove them entirely – to ensure there’s nothing keeping the new tenants from vitamin D right within their new living room.

Here’s an easy tip to get your home market-ready: give your home a fresh new coat of paint, inside and outside. Most real estate professionals can tell you without hesitation that paint in any kind of lackluster condition creates a compromise for buyers from the moment they first view your house. You want your home to feel new and fresh in order to lead to a more likely sale, particularly if the current paint is showing signs of fading, chipping, scuffing, or anything rendering the house “used.” The quality of your home’s paint can quickly impact curb appeal, hence the 5-10 year rule of thumb for repainting your home. This tip is one of the simplest to apply – I find clients regularly entrusting me with their paint color selection. New paint can lead to a faster sale, and often times a more profitable one too. If you have questions about what colors you should use to repaint your home, contact me here.

Should your home need a bigger facelift, a bathroom or kitchen renovation may be in order. As these types of upgrades can outpace some budgets, turn your attention to tightening up the details such as repainting the cabinets, or refinishing the floors. Sellers getting ready to list their homes have so much to choose from – between the larger-scale modifications and the smaller-scale ones – in getting get their homes in tip-top shape to welcome prospective buyers.

If you’re looking for a painter, a contractor, or other home maintenance professional, let’s connect. I can refer you to my most trusted contacts in my extensive Westport network to get your home sold.

4. Inflexibility

Over the course of my career, a familiar problem with which I have dealt is client inflexibility. Understandably, many clients have lived in their homes for a long time, or the home belonged to a relative, and they have have a strong emotional connection to the property. In these instances, I do everything in my power to honor these sentiments without putting the sale in a position to be compromised – but at times, a client may be unwilling to make concessions for the benefit of a more likely, more profitable, quicker sale.

Many of these “concessions” are reflected in the items above – particularly with pricing, staging, and painting – but there are so many intangibles to the home selling process in Westport that a fixture on any one element can really handcuff the ability to sell your home. I’ve had sellers who won’t negotiate with buyers, and sellers who may tour their own homes during showings with buyers. Ultimately, here at the dawn of 2024, the Westport real estate market is a stronger buyer’s market, and a weaker seller’s market. Price inflexibility is a dealbreaker, and many selling homes in Westport have fallen victim to this issue. As we’re seeing longer days-on-market in this climate, price reductions are common – and that doesn’t mean not getting the right price for your home, so much as the price the market is commanding. After a few weeks, in order to maintain the value in your sale, price improvements are critical.

Any realtor with your best interests is going to go to bat for you, in order to get the best price for your home in the current market – or even suggest that you hold off before listing. Listen to your trusted real estate agent, they’re there to help you! Unless…

5. It’s time for a better real estate agent

Having an acute sense of the Westport real estate market is vital to a successful sale at an optimal asking price for your home. That’s why it’s vital to hire a top Westport real estate agent with a large portfolio of local experience. An experienced agent is more likely to have sold homes similar to yours, giving them a honed vision as to what buyers are looking for in your home, and how to attract them. The best real estate agent available to you will be able to take a look at your comps, and find out the strengths and weaknesses of your listing. When you’re first starting out it’s easy to settle for the first realtor available to you, but be careful while vetting your options to make sure you’re hiring someone with the right amount of experience. Be sure to interview at least a few experienced, top-performing local real estate brokers before making your selection. Some metrics to examine include the agent’s average closing price as a percentage of asking price, Google reviews, average days-on-market,

A big piece of making a successful home sale is a marketing budget – not yours, your realtor’s! If you’ve hired an agent who lacks a budget (and a plan) for marketing your home, you may be risking your listing not getting enough visibility in your competitive local real estate market.

Most home sellers in Westport want to maximize the value of their sales; however, when you’re getting home price estimates from a realtor, it’s important to be wary of leaping for ‘the big number.’ A trustworthy real estate agent won’t overprice your home in order to get hired. Real estate agents who make this kind of promise either don’t have their client’s best interests, or might not have enough experience to understand the consequences of choosing a listing price which is too high. Here are several ways to determine whether or not your realtor fits into this category:

  • Your listing is for a higher dollar amount than comparable homes
  • Comparable homes (in your neighborhood) are closing, while yours does not
  • Limited number of requests for showings
  • The marketing for your listing isn’t receiving much attention/traction

Having the benefit of this information, if it appears as though much of the above applies to your home, it may be in your best interest to interview for a new realtor, and get a second opinion. At this stage, it’s important to be open to dropping your price and changing your agent in order to successfully sell your home. When selling your home, your realtor is supposed to be your trusted expert on pricing, and if yours appears to be creating unrealistic expectations for the both of you, it may be time to move on.

Lastly, some agents will attempt to offer you a lower fee in order to win your business. If you hear this, be careful as top agents will rarely compromise on compensation, especially those who are serious about working hard to make the best sale on your behalf. If an agent offers to sell your home for a fixed amount (rather than a percentage of initial asking price), don’t have incentive to actively work on progressing the sale of your home past you accepting an offer. Remember, a top agent in Westport will be straight with you when it comes to delivering the best value on your home sale.

In closing, recognize what got you to the point of needing to sell in the first place. Whether it’s a relative’s home, you’re relocating for work, downsizing your home, or otherwise, selling your home is a major life event. It’s important to know your timeline, hire the best local real estate agent available to you, be flexible, and make changes where needed. If you’re looking for someone with three decades of experience selling homes in Westport, I would be more than happy to meet for a no-commitment consultation to discuss your options. In this climate, with mortgage rates high, price cuts abundant, and a buyer’s market in full-effect, I have made myself available for questions from dozens of Westport homeowners – whether or not they are clients of mine. I would be more than happy to sit down for a chat to discuss the specifics of your personal situation, in order to help you determine what it would take to sell your home in today’s Westport real estate market.

Sources: WSJ, Daily Mail, Moving.com