Home selling: 4 reasons why you may not find a buyer

There may be a good reason why your home is not selling. Picture: RDNE Stock Project/Pexels

There may be a good reason why your home is not selling. Picture: RDNE Stock Project/Pexels

Published Oct 16, 2023


If you are about to put your home on the market or have already listed it and are struggling to find a buyer, there could be a good reason for this – or even more than one.

While there is not much that can make a home completely unsellable, agents say there are plenty of things that can make one incredibly difficult to sell.

And once listed, it can be tricky to address the issues that are working against the home’s sale.

Furthermore, when a home loses its new-to-market appeal, it also becomes increasingly difficult to sell.

If a property has been on the market for longer than three months, Adrian Goslett, regional director and chief executive of RE/MAX of Southern Africa says it might be time to take it off and re-evaluate your marketing strategy to ensure a timeous sale.

Before re-listing your home that has previously failed to sell, he says you should consider whether your sale was affected by one or more of the following:

1. Unrealistic price

Rather than leaving room on the table for negotiations, overpricing a home can deter potential buyers from even considering it. Many buyers conduct their house hunting within a budget and if a property is priced significantly above that budget, they are unlikely to stumble across it.

“What’s more, overpricing a home might mean that the home may not compare favourably to properties within the same price range, making it less appealing to potential buyers.”

Echoing this, Samuel Seeff, chairman of the Seeff Property Group, says the property markets in some areas are seeing 30 percent to 40 percent declines in sales volumes compared to the highs of 2021 and 2022, and since there is little competition among buyers, they are no longer willing to pay unrealistic asking prices. In most instances, offers are coming in below the asking prices.

About two-thirds of all properties now spend three months or longer on the market compared to just about one-third a year ago; the average purchase price is also under pressure and buyers are now spending less on homes.

“If your price is out of step, you will need to drop your price, especially if you are selling in some of the more challenging areas such as Gauteng,” he says.

2. Unflattering listing photos

The majority of buyers begin their house hunting process online, so having professional listing photos can significantly impact the appeal of your property listing. Goslett says buyers are more likely to remember and consider homes with “stunning photos” that can give your home a competitive edge.

“Professional photos can capture the property in its best light, making it more attractive to potential buyers right from the start. If you get the listing photos wrong, you can dramatically reduce the amount of buyers who will be willing to come and view the home in person.”

As cliché as it may sound, Mike Greeff, chief executive of Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate, says a picture really does speak a thousand words, and what those thousand words say about your property depends on the photographs you use.

“Making use of quality photos when selling a home often has a bigger impact on potential buyers than what some agents may think. With the rapid growth of online listings and the staying power of print adverts, a good photo has the ability to attract or dissuade any buyer or investor, depending on the finished product.”

He says good quality equipment should be your first port of call, and that you should generally avoid taking pictures with your smartphone.

“An agent taking pictures using their phone to send to another agent or for internal reference is completely acceptable but images that are intended for publication should be taken using a high resolution digital camera. If necessary they should be ‘cleaned’ using photo editing software to remove any information that may constitute a breach of the seller’s privacy and they should be shown to the client prior to being published.”

The composition of your photographs should follow some simple guidelines in order to maximise their efficacy:

  • Keep your pictures simple and try to pick angles that show off features that you want to promote
  • Use lower angles to emphasise height, such as ceilings, roof features or upper level windows
  • Use higher angles to give an overview of space and shape of the area in question
  • Avoid clutter in rooms and spaces. People want to buy your house not your laundry and exercise equipment
  • The use of colour and lighting can mean the difference between an average picture and the picture that gets an offer

3. Unappealing features or location

Homes can be trickier to sell if they are located in undesirable areas, such as alongside highways or near to high-crime areas. They can also be trickier to sell if the home is in need of repair or has unique features that will only appeal to a niche market.

In these cases, Goslett says you should either look at ways to improve your home’s appeal or work closely with a real estate agent who is able to market its true potential.

4. An unreliable real estate agent

Not all real estate agents are top performers and some might also not have the backing of a reliable and well-established brand. In addition, Goslett says a “big mistake” that many sellers make is also neglecting to sign a sole mandate.

“By signing a sole mandate, you make it one agent’s sole priority to sell the home within a stipulated period. Real estate agents often juggle multiple listings at a time, so they might not give your home the attention it deserves unless you incentivise them through a sole mandate.”

While Cobus Odendaal, chief executive of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Johannesburg and Randburg, understands why sellers would consider going the DIY route or choose the agent who gives them the highest valuation for their home, he warns that this could be detrimental to a successful home sale.

“It may be tempting to list your home independently to save on commission but there is a lot more to selling a home than placing an ad online. And unless you have more than a passing acquaintance with several fields, including finance and property law, a successful sale at the best possible price is unlikely.”

Thus, the most critical decision you make when selling your home is appointing a skilled and experienced agent that has the following attributes:

  • Pricing expertise
  • Effective marketing strategies
  • Extensive network and resources
  • Negotiation skills
  • Market insights
  • Ability to screen qualified buyers
  • Able to handle complex paperwork
  • Able to manage emotional transactions
  • Accessibility and availability
  • Offers post-inspection and closing support

Even after an offer is accepted, there are still many steps to navigate, including home inspections, appraisals, conditions to be met, and the closing process. Odendaal says a real estate agent continues to work on your behalf, coordinating these aspects to ensure a smooth and successful closing. Their expertise can help you address any post-inspection concerns while keeping the deal on track.

“At the end of the day, a good real estate agent is more than just a facilitator of transactions - they are skilled professionals who bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and resources to the table.”

Goslett says that, understanding all the above factors that can render a house difficult to sell is crucial for homeowners who want to conclude a timeous sale.

“By addressing these issues proactively and seeking professional guidance when needed, homeowners can increase their chances of selling their homes successfully in any real estate market.”

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