Ask Adam: Why Isn’t My Home Selling?

by ARLnow.com February 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm 1,950 33 Comments

This periodic sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Question: I keep hearing how much the Arlington real estate market has recovered, but our house has been sitting on the market for several months and we still don’t have any offers. Any advice you can provide is appreciated.

We’ve already hit a seller’s market surge in 2013 and it is barely February.  Almost every offer I have written in the last two months has been against competing contracts.  Yet, certain homes sit there collecting days-on-market.  You really can’t blame the market anymore.  It’s time to look at the items you have control over.

Price — Zillow, tax assessed values and comparable sales (“comps”) do not determine market value.  Comps play a big role in determining appraisal value and are often used when trying to predict market value, but the open market is what determines market value.  In case it needs to be said… what you owe, paid or would like to make on your home, does not influence market value either.

If people are not coming to see your home then it is usually a good indication that you priced your home higher than what the market is willing to consider.  In Arlington you should expect at least one showing per day on average.  That number should be substantially higher for homes along the Orange Line.

Waiting is not going to help.  If you have over-priced your home, address the issue as early as possible.

Days-On-Market (DOM) — The higher your DOM, the lower the perceived value will be of your home.  Potential buyers begin to wonder what’s wrong with the home.  They wonder why everyone else has passed it by.  They also begin wondering how low they can get you to come down on price.  This is why it is important to put your best foot forward as early in the listing process as possible.

If the damage has already been done and you have already racked up a large number of DOM then you need to implement a new strategy.  Your strategy should take into consideration the feedback you have received from potential buyers and showing agents.  You may also want to interview other agents to gain a fresh perspective of how someone else would help you sell your home.

Another option is to take the home off the market for 90 days to reset your DOM in the MLS.  I can’t say I recommend this during the current market.

How it Shows — If your home is vacant and less than beautiful on its own, you may want to have it staged.  A good stager is synonymous with a miracle worker.  It will help divert attention away from every imperfection.  It also goes a long way towards helping the potential buyers envision how they would live there.

Even if the home is already furnished I always bring in a stager to give us advice on setting up the home to show its best in photos and in person.  The consultation fee is usually $150 – $350 and is something I think you should expect your agent to cover for you.  Email me if you would like recommendations.

I feel for sellers with kids and pets.  I know how hard it is to keep your home in “showing condition” and all I can say is continue to do your best.

Easy to Show — If at all possible, don’t be the seller who makes it difficult to show your home.  Requesting notice before showing an occupied home is expected, but limiting showings to odd hours or requiring an appointment with the listing agent to see the home is a major detractor.

Photos — Photos are often what creates a first impression (and maybe the only impression) for potential buyers of your home.  There is no reason not have have the maximum 30 photos posted for your listing in the MLS, even if you have a tiny 1-bedroom condo.  Unless you are listing a tear-down, you should seriously question any agent that has zero, one or only exterior photos posted of your home.  If you’ve been a home buyer before you know how quickly you skip past these listings.  Bad photos are better than no photos, but do yourself a favor and hire someone with a wide angle lense that knows how to take real estate photographs.

Marketing Reach –– It only takes one home buyer to sell a home and you don’t want to miss that person.  In fact, it usually takes more than one interested homebuyer for you to sell for full price or more so why not try to attract as many as possible?

This is the biggest downside to trying to sell a for-sale-by-owner.  At least list the home in the MLS using a flat fee service.

The next step is to make sure your listing is prominent on every website that a potential home buyer may possibly visit looking for homes.  Also, consider who your target audience is and try to find additional outlets that you can advertise your listing to them.

Best of luck with the sale of your home.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

  • UA

    Not sure if this was a real question or not but if it was put up a link to the listing and let all of the people on this site tell you what is wrong with it.

  • Scott

    Isn’t the answer 1000% of the time price? If it’s not selling your price is not market.

    • drax

      Well, yeah, you can always fix the problem by lowering the price, if that’s what you want to do.

  • Quoth the Raven

    It’s not always price. Location matters a lot – there are lots of houses which sit right on top of 66, and who wants that? Even if the house is brand new, why would you want to see and hear the highway all day long? And if your house is a dump, good luck – so many people watch HGTV these days – if you dont have granite and stainless, you’re in trouble.

    • UA

      I would buy a house right on top of 66 if the price was right. I wouldn’t live there but I am sure I could rent it.

    • CA

      If its not selling, it is always price. Sure, factors can influence the price, like location, orange line etc., but the market value is a reflection of these factors.

    • MM

      But that still comes down to price. Even if your house is right on top of 66, someone wants to get into Arlington enough to live there if the price is right. It does mean, though, that the market value of your house will be substantially less than the comps not right on 66.

      • drax

        There are things you can’t control, like location. There are things you can, like all the things Adam lists, including price. Price is not the only thing you can change. It’s the easiest one, but not the only one.

      • Quoth the Raven

        I suppose so, but if you build a new home, and it’s right on top of 66, you’re going to have a hard time making the profit you would make if the same home were located elsewhere. It’s easy to say you can just “lower the price” but if you need a certain price, and you can’t get it, the house will remain vacant. Case in point – pretty new house on N Ohio, right on 66. It’s freaking huge (and ugly) and they can’t sell it. I doubt that lowering the price is a viable option for the owners.

        • drax

          Well, yes, you won’t make the same profit for a house of lesser value.

          • Quoth the Raven

            That’s not my point. It’s not about the size of the profit – it’s about whether you’re going to get any profit at all. If the house cost X to build, and you want to sell it for X+Y, but you can’t, you’re in trouble. Selling it for X-Y isn’t an option. I don’t know how large the margins typically are for home construction, but there is a reason these houses are on the market for so long without a price reduction.

  • Clarendon

    Some house styles are not popular with most but some love them. Like I don’t like split levels, so if you have a style that is not popular you may have to wait to find the matching buyer.

    • Hee-Haw

      whoever thought split levels were a good idea?

      • nom de guerre

        Frank Lloyd Wright is credited as the inventor of the split level.


        • Hee-Haw

          good for him. When I was looking for a house, split levels were eliminated immediately.

        • snarl

          i always thought mike brady invented the split level……

          • Tabby_TwoTone

            Remember BiBi Gallini? She tried to make him invent the powder puff factory!

      • split leveller

        I had always thought I’d hate it, but I lived in one for a long time and loved it.

  • Alexandra

    Excellent article. Thanks Adam!

  • JamesE

    Most new home buyers want everything perfect and move in ready, they would rather spend $25k more than spend a weekend painting.

    • drax

      Or even spend less than $25k to hire someone else to paint.

    • Sunshine

      I agree. As a person who has bought and sold many homes over the years, I actually prefer a place that needs a little work if I can get a price that takes that into consideration. I like getting my hands dirty. It’s very satisfying.

      • drax

        And you get to pick your own style.

        How many homes are sold after someone puts in new stuff – usually cheap because they’re selling – and then the new owner rips it right back out? Makes no sense. A house that needs work is a house you can make your own.

    • William Stoughton

      Amen, turquoise walls, nasty old wall to wall carpet and HW floors in need of refinishing probably cost the previous owners of my house $50K (we spent about 15K to make it cosmetically nice). Of course when you bought a Clarendon house in 1994 and are therefore sitting on $600K+ of equity I suppose that $50K doesn’t seem like a big deal vs “gone.”

      • jan

        It is a big deal if you want to downsize to an apartment in Arlington

  • John Fontain


    I’d like to hear your perspective, as an agent, on pocket listings. Do you ever handle them? If so, do you like them? How easy is it to find buyers for them? How are buyers typically found for them? Do you have a sense about whether other agents generally like them? How often do you come across them? What are the pluses and minuses for the agents involved and for the seller?


  • Tabby_TwoTone

    “Another option is to take the home off the market for 90 days to reset your DOM in the MLS. I can’t say I recommend this during the current market.”

    Why do you say that, Adam?

  • TuesdaysChild

    What about the impact of school districts on how quickly a house sells? Certainly part of the location aspect of a house, noted above. Does the potential for change in the school districts cause any uncertainty in the market?

  • Arlington Cat

    Because on average houses in Arlington are smaller than most of the houses in the DC area, certain types of houses in Arlington sell quicker if they are empty. Also, smaller Arlington houses are price competitive now with larger Fairfax or Loudoun county houses. For $550,000 you can get 1500 sq feet in Arlington, or 2500 sqft in Fairfax, or 3400 sqft in Loudoun. So people with a child, or couples planning on having children, may skip the 2 bdr’s in Arlington all together.

    Like I said before, build in a credit for new windows if your windows are more than 10 years old.

  • R. Griffon

    Spot-on analysis on all points. Kudos, Adam.

    Short answer: It isn’t worth what you think it’s worth.

    And even worse, it’s now worth even less due to the stigma of sitting on the market too long. If you really want to know why it isn’t worth your asking price, your best bet for an objective, market-based answer is to have your agent speak with buyer’s agents who have seen the property (just as Adam suggested). They are professionals and they see tons of these things every day – they’ll be frank with one another.

    Would love to see the listing and give you a guess as to what’s wrong, but would prefer to protect the seller’s privacy. Maybe we could get a list of the top 5 ARL listings by DOM and go through each one?

    • John Fontain

      The record holder right now is 1200 N. Nash #1136. Asking price is $1.19 m and DOM is 1748. The next few are in the mid 900 DOM range and all are condo units in south arlington.

  • Ballstonian

    When I was looking for a house, I actually found staged places rather creepy. They may not be empty, but they made me feel like I was in a catalogue, not a home. Fake books, or books that clearly no one would ever have in their home, just made me giggle. Has there ever been anything beyond anecdotes saying they work?

  • Mac

    Usually it’s price and for Arlington it’s always about price.


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