What does it take?

January 10, 2007

All of these boards are great and everyone tells you how to sell. Some posters say: lower price, clean & unclutter, update kitchens & baths, put in hardwood floors, have super landscaping. You can do everything everyone suggests and can afford and still your house doesn't sell.

It is hard for me to believe that every house on the market no matter its age or price range has been updated with everything listed. The houses we have looked at are nice but do not have all of that updating. That is fine with me because I can update when and if I want.

We were on the market from July-Nov. In that 5 months we lowered the price by $50,000 (for a quick sale). We took it off for the holidays and will relist the end of Feb.

Our property is unique because for our small, very desirable, waterfront community. We have a 2300 square foot house on 2 1/2 acres. We are 2 blocks from the beach, but can't see the water from here because of all of the beautiful trees.

There are no comps for our house. There are no subdivisions with cookie cutter homes and each home is unique and custom. The agents comped the land and then the house and came up between $475,000 and $535,000. We listed for $499,000.

All of the agents say that our house shows wonderfully and is extremely nice and desirable. We have had a home stager.

We have had 3 couples express extreme interest and then nothing. One couple kept us going with questions, comps and collecting county records for 3 weeks. They had 3 very long visits and their agent kept saying the offer was coming. Then they decided not to buy.

Our agent is fabulous and has marketed our house in ways I had never even thought of. We will use her again.

What does it take?

Comments (22)

  • cordovamom

    Unique properties I think can either be the easiest or the hardest to sell. I think you just haven't found the right buyer yet. What was the reason the couple that spent so much time at your house didn't buy the home? It could be they got cold feet because it's difficult to know if they were getting a good deal or not because comps are so difficult for unique properties.

  • lala44

    cordovamom, I think you hit the nail on the head when you suggested that it was difficult to comp and that may have scared them. Those almost buyers wanted to remodel also and create a new, larger laundry room and expand a bathroom. We have never seen such picky people in our life. Maybe it is just as well. Inspection would have been a nightmare.

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  • laura1202

    lala44 wrote: What does it take?

    The planets aligning?

    Just kidding (sort of). I really do believe that in a declining market it takes a fantastic "coming together" of many, many different factors. Some are under your control...and some are not.

    As a seller, you can only do what you can do. We have spent (to us) a LOT of $$ fixing up/improving our house over the past two months. (We were listed April-Oct of 06 and didn't sell.) At some point though, you just have to say ENOUGH. We hope to be back on the market by this Friday (new landscaping--including a privacy screen of trees to block the neighbors from you know where--is going in as I type).

    Didn't mean to hijack but I just wanted to say that you're not alone.

    Good Luck with your sale!

  • dave_in_jersey

    "What does it take?"

    I wish I knew. We've had a lot of showings, with nothing but positive comments. But here our house sits unsold.

  • lynnski

    What does it take? From my perspective as a buyer, it takes a leap of faith.

    There is so much talk about the real estate market being unstable or heading downward. Following hard on the heels of so much talk and unrealistic gains in value, this kind of doubt is especially powerful. Even if a buyer wants to think about the home as a home, not as an investment, doubts about the financial sense of a big real estate purchase are inescapable right now. Furthermore, in a waterfront community, I would guess that most buyers are paying a premium that one doesn't have to pay for a non-waterfront home. So that differential also might come into play.

    I'd suggest you do everything you can to HELP potential buyers make that all-important leap of faith. Big photographs of the family enjoying the lake and the waterfront lifestyle. Color copies on the listing sheet of your garden (or the woods--whatever) in bloom. Take the boats and water toys out from under wraps. A nice bottle of wine and lovely wineglasses front and center. You want to remind potential buyers that this will be a home and backdrop to their beautiful life, and make them hunger for that life. If people think investment, it's hard not to get cold feet right now. If they think warmth, water, family, relaxation, they're more likely to proceed.

    We're in the process of buying waterfront in Massachusetts (signed P$S, delayed closing). I'm still scared witless about the finances, but I feel great about the purchase whenever I think about how our new home will affect our lives as a family.

  • kaleberg

    Lala, it takes a lower price. Unfortunately, there is a huge difference between being on the water in a waterfront community and being two blocks away. Your problem is compounded by the fact that you don't have a water view. Your house sounds lovely, but you need to reduce its price.

  • lala44

    Kaleberg, the waterfront houses sell from between $1 and $2 million and are on tiny lots with the houses very close together. We seem to be right in line with the pricing. When even the smallest lot becomes available, builders buy them up and put up 2 and 3 story homes on absolutley no land at all--not even a yard.
    Maybe relisting will do it for us this time.

  • laura1202

    kaleberg wrote: it takes a lower need to reduce its price.

    I disagree. It is not "just" about the price.

  • western_pa_luann

    Either the neighborhood as desirable as you think or the price is too high..... otherwise, it would sell.

    Two blocks and no water-view makes a huge difference...

  • peppermill

    One thing that scares me, as a first-time buyer, is fear that the house won't be as well-built as it should be. I keep reading horror stories over on the Housebuilding Forum, about cookie-cutter houses built on the cheap that let rain in b/c of poor window flashing, which ends up rotting the frame of the entire house. Eeek! It's a leap of faith, I guess.

  • c9pilot

    Where in the country are you? The real estate market really slows down in the winter in some parts of the country.

    Also, are there other homes in your town selling? My highly desirable neighborhood has had the same 2 homes sitting on the market for over 6 months. The rest of the town is selling some, but not like 18 months ago. It's like someone slammed on the brakes here.

    It is always tough selling a non-waterfront home in a waterfront community, especially since you don't have the view either. Just my experience from my townhome in MD. 6 waterfront townhomes and about 25 non-waterfront. The non-waterfront homes would just sit on the market forever. I don't know why. Maybe buyers just look over there at those homes on the waterfront and say to themselves, I'd buy this home in a minute if it was over there...and then they buy a land-locked home somewhere else because they just can't get over it?

    A unique home takes a unique buyer. When I tell people I just bought a home in St. Pete, they want to know how much homes cost in that area (so they can compare it to the outrageous prices here in the SF Bay area). I have to tell them that I honestly don't know. I was looking at a few dozen very specific properties that had the protected deep water for our sailboat, and meant $$$. The people asking me want to know the average cookie cutter price, but I wasn't even glancing at those homes.

    So, I hope this just gives you a little food for thought, even though it's not going to help you sell. Sorry.
    Lisa A.

  • Nancy in Mich

    When I think of waterfront homes this winter, I figure that they will all be under water in a few decades! If we can have temps in the 50s in January, no snow sticking to the ground since October 12, rain, rain, rain - who knows what to expect? That big chunk of the arctic shelf that broke off may be a drop in the bucket. A few more of that size melting, a warm north Atlantic, a flip in the Gulf Stream, and maybe all of Michigan and your waterfront property, too, will be submerged. How can one not contemplate the possibility of such catastrophes when we are reminded of the strange weather every time we go outside in our spring jackets?

  • triciae

    lala, where are you located? It makes a huge difference. Are you in La Jolla or on Nantucket...or, are you on a land-locked lake in one of the central fly over states?

    Just the term "waterfront" does say enough for me to guage what might help you sell.

    We also own a "waterfront" home. Ours is in CT. We're on Fisher Island Sound which is part of the greater Long island Sound....with a straight shot to Montauk (think fishing). How and to whom we would market this property would be very different than if the home was located on Lake Winnepasaukee in NH (think family fun). Different buyers...

    Give us more info &, maybe, somebody can provide a useful marketing tip.


  • dabunch

    Lala44- What you're experiencing is peoples' reaction to the MEDIA. Many are afraid to buy because of all the bad publicity about home prices "crashing."

    Many people who are buying anything else other than starter homes remember the 1990 recession & they don't want to buy high while the prices are coming down.

    I will get attacked on these boards for blaming the MEDIA, but I'm sorry, that is what everyone around here (NE) is saying....They have good jobs, the economy is fine, yet the RE is very unstable. There is no reason for it in this area, other than the media hype. Potential buyers are saying that they would gladly pay the going price to buy a house IF they could be assured that they can get top dollar for their property.

    RE is regional, so I'm sure that Cali, Florida & some other parts need an adjustment because their prices are outrages, where only the top 2% of America can afford them. Unfortunately, the media traveled & now even the priced right homes are suffering. People are lowballing, no matter how well you priced your house. It's not always about the price. Right now it's about "fear adjustment." Lowballing soothes some of the fear, because the buyer feels that even if the housing market crashes, if they get a good buy, they will be in line with the lower prices. Some buyers don't even want to chance lowball buying, so you have "interested lookers" who will not commit. It's frustrating.

    I went through the same thing. People would look at my home for hours at a time , say they love it, ask questions, say they're going to buy.....and nothing.

  • cordovamom

    dabunch -- I do think the media has a lot to do with the real estate slow down -- lots of people that would normally buy homes with low interest rates and lots of homes on the market are waiting for the crash that the doom and gloomers have prophecied. The market in my area typically has a very steady slow increase, basically 5% a year. We never saw any of the huge increases that the markets out in Cali or out east had. But we're still seeing a slowing of the market because of the doom and gloomers. I agree that some areas are soooooooo overpriced and home prices for those areas have to go through an adjustment. But not all of the country needs a price adjustment but buyers are still waiting because of media hype.

  • kats_meow

    Some posters say: lower price, clean & unclutter, update kitchens & baths, put in hardwood floors, have super landscaping. You can do everything everyone suggests and can afford and still your house doesn't sell.

    I didn't do most of that. We did clean and unclutter. He didn't update things in a major way but we did paint and recarpet. We did one price reduction (from $399,900 to $389,900) and sold for $380,000. But, our house was not all that unique (we live in an area where median home price is about $150k).

    Unique houses are more difficult. We recently bought a house where the seller was difficult during the entire purchase period at least in part (I think) because we bought too quickly. She didn't really want to sell early (or at all really) and we offered about a week into the listing.

    This was a very unique property (had a guest house and extra garage) which many people wouldn't like. For us it was perfect. However, houses in this subdivision can often take as long as a year to sell. The right buyer has to come along. Another house in the same subdivision that we considered has been on the market for over a year.

    I think that you have a combination of a house that will appeal to a small subset of buyers and a significant negative (no waterview). The first one can probably be helped by time. The second one can be helped by price.

  • kcfilley

    I think it takes time. If you like your agent, and it sounds like you do, stick with him/her. Consider having an appraisal completed. Direct mail to all the agents who have sold your price range in the last year. Have a special tour just for those agents.

    Good luck.


  • aurific

    I think the size of the property might be an issue. 2.5 acres is a very large lawn. Many people don't want the upkeep.

    Can you subdivide, then sell a building lot and the house?

  • lala44

    We are a small (population 3000) seaside community in the Pacific Northwest. There are fewer waterfront homes than non waterfront.
    Just listed is a 1/2 acre tear down (1 bedroom, 1 bath, 800 sq. feet) for $318,000. They advertise that it can be subdivided into 3 parcels for home building.
    We cannot break up our property. Our house is zoned one house for every 2 to 4 acres. There are a few like this.
    Our house sits on about 1 acre with the back 1 1/2 acres being woods, stream, and pasture. This has been a draw for potential buyers. You can buld on that additional acreage like a studio or guest house, just not to resell separately.

  • kaleberg

    Lala, are you in WA or OR? If the former, are you in the Olympic Peninsula, south of the Olympic Peninsula, Anacortes, Whidby Island? Are you in one of the Seattle suburbs like Bainbridge Island?

  • lala44

    We are in Washington on the Puget Sound. We are north of Bainbridge Island on the North Kitsap Peninsula. We love it here, but need to downsize because of health reasons. We will stay in the area but would want a smaller lot and a home on all one level.

  • kaleberg

    Hmmm, now I am surprised that you haven't sold. Your price seems reasonable given your location and the size of your property. It's true that, at last, the Seattle area market has begun to cool, but that happened very recently. I would have expected your house to sell last August or Sept. It is possible that the 50K reduction came just as the market was turning, but I don't want to be a Job's comforter here. Still, given the health of the economy in this area as well as the difficulty of building anywhere near Seattle, I would think you can expect offers sometime this spring. Just don't be insulted if the initial offers come in below full price. Maintain your calm and counter. As for the potential buyers who can't make up their minds, be patient. There has been a recent sharp rise in inventory all over Western WA, and many buyers seem bewildered by the opportunity to pick and choose.

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