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Selling a house

7 reasons why your house isn't selling

By Joe Elvin

Article 11 of 12

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7 reasons why your house isn't selling

Find out the most common reasons why vendors struggle to sell their homes, plus how you can fix them if any apply to you. 

The papers might be full of stories about demand for property outstripping supply, but that doesn't mean it's always easy to sell your house.

From estate agent problems to overambitious asking prices, read on to understand what you can do to sell your home more quickly and easily.

  • If you're planning on buying a new property once you've sold your old one and want expert, impartial advice on your mortgage options, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0808 252 7987 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

1. The photos on your property's online listing aren't up to scratch

With more and more people searching for property online, photographs play a significant role in attracting would-be buyers.

It's hard to be objective about your own home, so get a friend to look at the photos on your property's listing and give some frank feedback. If they don't think the photos are working hard enough, ask your estate agent whether there are any more images to choose from or even whether they could take some new ones. 

Before the photographer comes round, make sure that rooms are brightly lit and clutter free - remove bins, open curtains and make beds at the very least - as small touches make a big difference.

2. Your property isn't being properly promoted

Ensure your home is listed on Rightmove, the UK's biggest portal, as well as being on the estate agent's own website. 

Other major portals include Zoopla, Prime Location and OnTheMarket. You can also spread the word yourself by advertising in the local press and web forums (many areas have Facebook groups or independently run forums).

High street estate agents' offices are still important, too, so make sure your home has got a prominent spot in the window. Also ensure that you have a for-sale board outside your house to entice any potential buyers passing by.

3. Your asking price is unrealistic

If a potential buyer sees your property but it's substantially above their budget, they're unlikely to view it. Many people also set a maximum price when searching property portals, so if your house is on for just over a threshold (eg £310,000), buyers with an upper limit of £300,000 may not see it in their search results.

The best way to gauge your home's value is to combine web research and conversations with a range of local agents. 

If you decide the asking price is too high, there's no shame in reducing it.

Find out more: how much is my house worth?

4. Buyers aren't being given the best first impression

If your property has had a decent amount of viewings but no offers, there might be a problem with the way it's being presented.

Could the front door do with a fresh lick of paint? Is the garden tidy? Does Rover the dog's incontinence problem leave a little to be desired in the aroma stakes?

Walking around the property as if you're on a viewing might help, as could asking your estate agent, friends and family for their honest opinions. And never underestimate the importance of smell, particularly if you're a smoker or a pet owner.

5. Your estate agent isn't working hard enough

Get a friend to phone your estate agent pretending to be a potential buyer to see if they mention your property. If they don't, you should definitely consider switching agents.

If they do, your friend could book a viewing and then gauge how hard - or not - the agent works to sell the property during the viewing itself.

Before deciding to change agents, do check your contract as you may be bound by a tie-in period. 

Find out more: estate agent fees and contracts

6. It's the wrong time to sell

Are you trying to sell in a slow market? If so, it might be worth taking your property off the market for a while, as buyers can be put off by a house that's been up for sale for months.

To see whether prices have gone up, down or stayed the same in your area recently, check out our interactive house prices map.

7. Buyers aren't aware of the property's potential

If there's potential for a buyer to add value to the house, make sure they know about it.

Did you get planning permission for a loft conversion then decide against it? Display the plans somewhere prominent during viewings. If you haven't got as far as that but know neighbours with similar properties who've had projects approved, or if it would be easy to knock down a wall to create an open-plan living space, ask the estate agent to mention this.

Some buyers need a little help visualising what a property could look like in the future.

What to do if your buyer pulls out

While a buyer pulling out can be incredibly frustrating, it isn't the end of the world - and there are things you can do to lower the chances of it happening in the future. 

If your buyer's mortgage application has been turned down, other lenders may be willing to make them an offer. Your estate agent or even your financial adviser should have some ideas on this.

If they have their own property to sell and are pulling out because their sale has fallen through, consider whether you're willing to wait for them to find another buyer. If you aren't in a rush and it took you a while to get an offer, it can sometimes be easier to sit tight and wait for them than starting your own selling process all over again.

They may simply have changed their mind about your property, in which case ask why, so you can fix any problems.

How to reduce the chances of a future buyer pulling out

To make it less likely that a deal will fall through in future, you can ask your agent to ensure buyers have a mortgage ‘agreement in principle’ proving that they can borrow enough money.

If you receive multiple offers on your property, look at the bidders' circumstances as well as how much they're offering. If someone without a chain (a first-time buyer, for example) is offering slightly less than someone with a property that needs to be sold, the chain-free buyer may be the safer bet.

  • Last updated: December 2016
  • Updated by: Joe Elvin

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