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What Should You Do If Your Home Isn't Selling?

It can be very frustrating to put your home on the market, expecting a fast sale, only to find that after six months you're still waiting for an offer. What can you do?

First, determine if it's a result of timing. You may have started worrying too soon. If it has been only a month and you haven't gotten a bite, not to worry. The time a home stays on the market is related to the market's strength, which varies regionally. According to The 2003 National Association of REALTORS« Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, two-thirds of all homes sold in the United States in 2003 sold within two month, with the average sale taking place within five weeks. However, homes in the Northeast and West sold slightly faster (four weeks) than those in the Midwest and South (five weeks).

Of course, other factors may be responsible for your home not selling.

Inaccurate pricing. A house priced at market value piques the interest of real estate professionals and buyers, while overpricing chases them away. Even if the seller adjusts the price later, it's difficult to recapture people's interest.

Because it's only natural to overestimate the value of one's home, homesellers should depend on factual reference points, such as an appraisal and comparables (Comparable Market Analysis or CMA) to help estimate market value. Real estate professionals prepare comparables by examining similar properties that recently sold in a neighborhood. This practice is the best way to arrive at a realistic asking price.

Insufficient exposure. If you're selling your home on your own, you may want to consider using a real estate professional. As reported in the previously mentioned NAR study, buyers were most likely to learn about the home they purchased through a real estate professional. Sales professionals develop comprehensive marketing strategies to sell a home. They generally use open houses, yard signs, MLS, newspaper ads, the Internet and brochures to give a property maximum exposure. Limited interest and thinly attended open houses may indicate a need for more exposure.

Condition and appearance of a home. Sellers shouldn't rely on buyers to use their imagination; they need to capture it. Remember that buyers may see seven or eight homes in a single day. The most memorable home will be the one that seemed the brightest, the most spacious, the most cheerful. This invariably means rearranging and eliminating furniture, removing excess knickknacks and so on, to create an open, uncluttered look. Outside, do a visual check of the front of the house from across the street. Does it have curb appeal? It should look inviting, with a trimmed lawn and a freshly painted front door. A real estate professional can offer some guidance in this area.

Terms/conditions. Even if the home is accurately priced, and the buyer is delighted with what he or she sees, if the buyer can't live with the terms of the sale, he or she may walk away. What sort of terms or conditions have you placed on the sale? Evaluate how this may be affecting a potential sale.

Less-than-desirable neighborhood. Normally, there's not much a homeowner can do about the surrounding neighborhood. But if your home is not selling and you've examined every other factor, this may be something to consider.For homeowners who can postpone selling and are aware that certain issues need to be addressed on the neighborhood level, now is the time to join or organize a town beautification group. By the time you're ready to sell, today's eyesores will have been eliminated.

Neda Dabestani-Ryba is a licensed Realtor in Maryland. She is a member of the President's Circle of Top Real Estate Professionals. She can be reached at (800) 536-3806 or visit her website for more information: Carruthers REALTORS is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity

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