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Why isn't my house selling?

Find out the most common reasons why people struggle to sell their homes, and what you can do to speed your own property sale up.

In this article
How long does it take to sell a home? 13 reasons why you might be struggling to sell your property
What should you do if your buyer pulls out? Compare high-street estate agents in your area

How long does it take to sell a home?

Every homeowner dreams of a quick and stress-free sale when they put their property on the market - but it's not always that simple. Some homes can sell in the blink of an eye while others take much longer to shift.

If you're struggling to sell your home several factors could be responsible. From lazy estate agents to overly punchy asking prices, read on to understand what could be behind your property languishing on the market and what you can do to sell your home faster.

13 reasons why you might be struggling to sell your property

1. Your asking price is too high

Getting the asking price right is crucial to landing a sale quickly. 

If your property is above a potential buyer's budget, they're unlikely to view it - or even know it's on the market.

Most people set a maximum price when searching property portals, so if your house is on for just over a threshold (eg £305,000), buyers with an upper limit of £300,000 won't see it in their search results.

Even if you do secure an offer, if it's for more than the property is really worth things may fall through when the mortgage lender values the property - they won't lend if they think the buyer is paying too much.

The best way to gauge your home's value is to research what similar homes have sold for in your area and get valuations from at least three local estate agents.

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

2. Your property isn't on Rightmove

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

Other major portals include Zoopla and OnTheMarket.

You can also spread the word yourself by advertising in the local press and internet (many areas have Facebook groups or independent forums).

High street estate agents' offices are important, too: 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 attract any potential buyers passing by.

3. The photos aren't doing your home justice

With more and more people searching for properties online, photographs play a significant role in attracting 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 whether they could take some new ones. 

4. You have too much clutter 

Before viewings and photo shoots you should make sure that your home is looking its best.

Ensure that every room is brightly lit and clutter-free - put the toilet seat down, open curtains, switch on lights, plump cushions and make beds at the very least - as small touches make a big difference.

The image below shows an example of a living room before and after being decluttered by firm Doctor Photo. Use the sliding tool to see how small tweaks can improve the look of a property.

Images courtesy of Swift Property

5. Key features aren't mentioned in the listing

Check that the listing of your property online and in your agent's marketing materials is accurate and highlights the key features of your home.

Words such as ‘garden’, ‘garage’, ‘parking’, ‘freehold’ and ‘detached’ are all popular search terms, so make sure they're included in the description if applicable.

6. Your home disappoints on viewings

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? Has Rover the dog's incontinence problem made your home a little whiffy?

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

7. Your estate agent isn't working hard enough

Your estate agent should give you regular updates on what buyers think of your property and how much interest it's getting online.

You might also want to check how well your agent is marketing your property to potential buyers. If you suspect there's a problem, get a friend to phone the agent pretending to be a potential buyer to see if they mention your property.

If they don't, consider switching agents. If they do, your friend could book a viewing and gauge how hard - or not - the agent works to sell the property during the viewing itself.

If you do want to change to a new estate agent, check your contract as you may be bound by a tie-in period and you'll also need to factor in the notice period.

8. It's the wrong time of year to sell

The time of year you list your property can have an impact on how long it takes to sell.

Spring is traditionally a busy time in the property market with plenty of buyers around (but also more competition from other sellers), while the last couple of months of the year are quieter as people focus on Christmas.

9. Brexit is making buyers cautious

No one knows how Brexit will affect the economy, and some people are nervous about buying now in case exiting the EU causes a house price crash.

Talk to your agent about how Brexit is impacting buyer behaviour in your area. If the market has slowed down, 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.

10. 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 have had similar 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.

11. You're in a long property chain

Buyers may be put off if you're planning to move to a property that's part of a long chain.

If you can find a way to be chain-free - for example, by selling your property before buying the new one and living in rented accommodation in the interim - this could boost how appealing your property is to potential buyers who want to move things along quickly. 

12. Your property is hard to mortgage

The type of property you have could be hard for buyers to get a mortgage on.

Mortgage lenders can be less willing to lend on flats above shops, properties with a short lease or homes made of unusual materials.

Talk to your estate agent to check if this could be a problem for your home and whether there are any extra steps you can take to alleviate the problem, such as recommending specialist mortgage providers or offering to renew the lease as part of the conditions of the sale.

13. You're picking the wrong buyers 

To make it less likely that a deal will fall through, 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.

What should you 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.

If they've simply changed their mind about your property, ask why so you can fix any problems.

Compare high-street estate agents in your area

We’ve teamed up with estate agent comparison service GetAgent to provide sellers with a way to find the best high-street estate agents, based on past performance. Use their tool for free by providing a few details about your property or read more about how it works. Use of the service is governed by the terms and conditions of GetAgent, which will process your details in accordance with its privacy policy.