7 Common Reasons Your Home May Not Be Selling

Thursday Jul 27th, 2023


It’s a hard truth in real estate: sometimes the selling process can take longer than anticipated, even when a REALTOR® has seemingly determined the perfect price for your place. This might naturally leave you wondering…what’s going on here? The reality is, there are many factors that could be impacting your home’s sale, and some of them are fairly common across the board. 

We reached out to some REALTORS® for the most common reasons they’ve seen homes not sell, hopefully giving you some insight into the process.

1. Market conditions in your area

It’s easy to get swept up in the stories of people selling their home in 24 hours—who doesn’t want that? But the reality is, market conditions both in your area and across the country can affect how long it takes for your home to sell.

Sometimes when a home is sitting, it has nothing to do with the home itself but rather the market conditions and what’s important for sellers is to have the conversation upfront about what realistic expectations are. Ask what the anticipated timeline is, what level of traffic to expect and what contingencies to plan for. Ask your REALTOR® to provide you with homes comparable to yours that are active but have sold so you can note the days on market and mentally prepare for the road ahead.

It’s about the different kinds of markets. For example, in a buyer’s market, there are many homes to choose from and buyers have the choice. In a seller’s market, the reverse is true. There are very few homes for sale and therefore the sellers hold the cards. Generally speaking, homes are substantially harder to sell during buyer’s markets, so as a seller you [and your REALTOR®] need to be responsive to these changes.



2. A lack of staging or curb appeal

Your REALTOR® will more than likely recommend staging your home to make it more appealing to potential buyers. “a well-prepared home is the quickest to sell.”

The most important area to first focus on is curb appeal. If a buyer is approaching the home and immediately noting concerns or its rundown appearance, that’s a bad start. You’re already giving the impression there’s been a lack of care for the home. First impressions really do matter.

Perceived cost can be a deterrent for sellers when it comes to staging their home, but Queen says it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to do it right.

Oftentimes, our clients work with their existing furniture as much of it was already purchased to suit the home. I do believe having a third party—whether it be a REALTOR® versed in staging or a professional stager—advise on staging is paramount. We often overlook our living spaces and the impact the items within them have on others.”

A good staging will: 

  • present a blank canvas for your potential buyer, so they can envision themselves within the home.
  • eliminate distractions and/or clutter that might take away from the features of the home.
  • minimize areas of the home that may be less desirable.
  • make the home feel spacious and functional; and
  • identify and address potential problem areas for buyers prior to any showings.


3. Location, location, location

In the same way market conditions can affect your home’s ability to sell, so does the location. If you’re selling in an area that really only appeals to a specific type of buyer, you may find the property taking a bit longer to sell due to a smaller group of potential buyers.

For example, for someone who is very busy or has small children or a combination of both of those factors, they’ll want to be in a location that’s less noisy. This way the kids can sleep, and the busy adults can get quality sleep as well.

There’s a ceiling price for every neighbourhood. We need to be careful not to over-improve and assume a buyer will be willing to pay for stone countertops and luxury appliances when the norm for the neighbourhood is a laminate countertop with mid-range appliances. Always consult with your REALTOR® before taking on any renovations, as they’ll be able to advise on what buyers are expecting to see when they tour homes in the neighbourhood, and what renovations are worthwhile. You never want to be the nicest house on the street. If you do over-improve for the area, view that investment as the cost for personal enjoyment and at least try to get some enjoyment out of it before selling!


4. You haven’t addressed some major issues

Home maintenance is crucial during homeownership, because when it comes time to sell, a poorly maintained home can have a very small pool of buyers, says Sweet.

That smaller number of buyers will make it substantially harder to sell. When a property has not been well taken care of or has been neglected and is obviously in very poor condition, a buyer will assume there are major expenses that will be coming. For a buyer to move forward with a purchase, desire must be high, and fear has to be low. Usually with a home like this, fear is often high, and desire is low.

Any problems you’re choosing not to address because you know you’re moving could end up being the reason your home doesn’t sell as fast as you’d like. Deferring maintenance can indicate to a buyer the home hasn’t been well cared for in the past, making them hesitant to put in an offer—what other proverbial skeletons could be hiding in the closet?

To avoid the impression of your home being a money pit, be sure to assemble documentation demonstrating how the home has been cared for through the years. Perhaps your furnace is older? That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you can demonstrate it has been regularly cared for every year for the past 20 years. However, if it’s making a weird ticking sound… I’d seriously consider replacing it. The same goes for other items a buyer might consider a maintenance type item such as the hot water tank, shingles, windows, etc.

But if you’re thinking these renovations will end up increasing the overall price of your home, this isn’t usually the case.

Most of these projects unfortunately won’t provide any return for doing them but having them done will give potential buyers peace of mind knowing they shouldn’t have too many unexpected surprises in the coming years and eliminate most of their objections. As an alternative, sellers can offer closing credits to buyers to address areas of concern. However, buyers do tend to respond more favourably to homes in which these items have been addressed.


5. It’s not the right season

It’s definitely not impossible to sell your home in the winter, but it may be part of the reason your home is sitting on the market longer than you’d hoped. 

Not as many people want to move in the winter, so the buyer pool is smaller as a result. If you’re listing in December, what I’ve often found is the month itself can be slow. However, the first two weeks in January are often quite busy. There’s a lack of inventory following the holidays, and those buyers that still need something are now on the prowl and ready to pounce. I’ve noticed listings that have been sitting will sell through in this period. Moral of the story: don’t take your house off the market because it’s the holiday season!


6. Your home is unique—maybe too unique. 

The uniqueness of your home might be why you bought it in the first place, but it could also be why you haven’t seen much action on it since the listing went up. Maybe it’s a converted century building with unconventional rooms, maybe it’s a personalized layout you drew up yourself but isn’t exactly standard for most homes, or maybe the yard has unusual features. Whatever the case may be, Queen says when it comes to finding a buyer for your unique home, “it’s often a subsection of a subsection of a subsection of the buyer pool.”

When you have a reduced buyer pool, you have to keep in mind things will simply take longer, but just know that your buyer is out there, and they’ll come eventually. Be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint.

That being said, she admits it can take longer and be a frustrating process for sellers, so patience is key.

They aren’t necessarily a challenge to sell, but it can be incredibly frustrating for a seller if they’re watching the market and noticing neighbouring properties selling while theirs sits. This is one of those times where I’d advise to not monitor the comparable sales too closely. Sellers will want to do whatever they can to limit getting discouraged.

Some sellers may not care why their home isn’t selling, they only care about fixing the problem. Queen admits there can be listing fatigue for homes when they’ve just been on the market for too long and the listing goes stale.

We often see a listing that has been on the market for longer than average, and as a result buyers start to believe there is something wrong with it. It can be a good idea to take the home off the market for a period of time—your REALTOR® will know what the right amount of time is for your market—then relist with updated pictures and roll the listing out as brand new again. It seems silly, but it works!


7. There’s a strong odour

You’ve lived in your home so long, you may not notice the odorous build-up from pets, smoking, or cooking—but potential buyers will. 

People aren’t able to look past smells. Think about it this way: when a buyer goes to look at homes, they’re typically going to look at everything that’s available within a certain price range and area, as well as some features. They’ll be seeing anywhere from three to eight properties in one day. If one smells, it can be a major turn off and completely prevent the sale.

Bringing in a professional cleaning crew to give your home a deep clean before selling can help eliminate these odours and set you up for success. 

Ultimately, the best way to handle any issue when it comes to selling your home is communication between you and your REALTOR®. 

I’ve had sellers who wanted to know every time I had a call and I’ve had sellers that moved out of the property and told me to only call them once an offer comes in. Speak openly with your REALTOR® about what your ideal frequency of communication would be, what method of communication you are most comfortable with, and if there are parts of the process you would rather not receive communication about (ie. negative feedback).

If you’re thinking of selling your home, get in touch with a REALTOR® to understand what buyers are looking for, and what a realistic timeline might be for your property. Their expertise will be invaluable as you navigate the market, helping to reduce your stress and make sure you find a deal that works for everyone. 

By Meagan Kelly

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