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What can I do if I can’t sell my house?

If you live in the UK and you’re having trouble selling your house, don’t worry, we’re here to help you.

Let’s start by looking at some of the reasons behind why you can’t sell your house.

Is it the price?

Is it the location?

Is it the appearance?

Is it your agent?

It’s time to look at each one in turn.

I think the price is stopping me from selling my house

Across the UK, every house has its own perceived value. However, the perceived value held by you as the seller is not necessarily going to be the same as a potential buyer’s perceived valuation. Naturally, you see the good points of your property. A potential buyer will be looking for the bad points.

The true value of a house depends on a great many factors.

That’s why you don’t pluck a figure out of the air and hope for the best; you seek the services of a professional. Chances are, if you’ve gone to an estate agent, they’ll have over-estimated the price. Whilst this may flatter you and impress the neighbours (who will inevitably look online to find your house and be nosey), the price will invariably be ‘OIRO’. No-one pays that figure. ‘Offers in region of’ always means ‘we expect less than’. It’s a game everyone plays.

Reducing the price to a more realistic figure (and making it ‘offers in excess of’ or ‘OIEO’) shows that’s your bottom figure and it’ll go up from that point.

Understanding pricing is to understand how to sell your house. Having the wrong price will negatively affect your sale from the very start. Too many homeowners settle on what their emotions say their home is worth (letting their heart rule their head), or set their price above the prevailing market rates.

What you must remember is that buyers are not fools. They will undertake their own research and they will of course have their own limits on spending. Despite what your local agent may tell you, pricing high does not encourage better offers. The only thing that does is setting a realistic price and competition.

Having your property valued by a regional expert who knows the prices from recent sales – as well as current market conditions and what you can realistically expect to achieve – is the only way to be certain that your price is correct.

If you’re convinced that your property price is at the perfect point to create interest, what could be affecting the perceived value of your house?

It could be the location.

The location of my house is stopping me from selling

Location is very important.

The thing with location is that prices can differ between homes in the same village, town or city. Even the same street. You could have a lower-priced house in a good street, or a higher-priced house in a poorer street. It comes back to perceived value and what the buyer wants from their next home.

If your house is overvalued for its location, it will naturally affect how long it is on the market, waiting for the person who thinks it’s perfect for them to come along and snap it up.

But if you’re sure it’s not the price and it’s not the location that’s holding up your sale, could it be the aesthetics that need attention?

I think the appearance of my house is preventing me from selling it

The small details really do matter. Jobs that you might think aren’t important could be costing you a lot of money. That’s because potential buyers that view your house will see the obvious stuff and wonder what hasn’t been done that they can’t see. It’ll deter buyers or make them submit a low offer. Spending a little bit of time and money on tidying up the problems will help your sale.

What’s more, it’ll open up your home to a whole new market because many people want to move into a house and live there straight away; especially if they have a young family.

However, poor quality repairs give the impression that you are trying to hide an underlying problem. The same applies to showy upgrades; anything expensive and unusual for your area or for your property stands out as ‘trying too hard’ and can make potential buyers suspicious.

You can sort these two problems by employing professionals to do repairs and avoiding any last-minute add-ons unless your estate agent believes that they will add value. If you’ve already extended your property, be prepared for buyers’ questions about the builders, planning permission, maintenance costs and any ongoing issues, as well as questions about subsidence repairs (see:

Keep in mind that whilst your house may be in good order, poor quality photos will deter potential buyers. Photographs to attract attention to your home should be taken by a professional with a camera; not a mobile phone.

Also, don’t have anything in the photos that will ‘age’ the image. For example, having Christmas decorations on show will be noticed if your house is still for sale in February, or even mid-January. Seeing that your house has been on the market for a while, viewers will either wonder what’s wrong with it for it to be on the market so long; or they’ll hit you with a low offer because they know you’re probably quite desperate to sell and move to your new place.

The location is good and the house is presentable, but it’s still not selling?

If this is you, you’re probably pulling out your hair and don’t know what to do next.

Fear not because there are solutions.

Depending on your situation, you could try to postpone your house sale and then re-list it in a few months. However, this isn’t an option that’s available to everyone because it could mean that you miss out on buying the house you want because yours has not sold.

Choosing this route means being careful when choosing a price at the time of relisting. Opting for a figure that’s too high will mean that your house will stagnate on the market once again. Instead of delaying the inevitable and reducing the price in the future, you may decide to reduce the price sooner.

You could also consider one of these five alternatives:

  1. Open house day
    It could be that you can’t afford to reduce the price and think that there are some standout features that potential buyers are overlooking. If that’s the case, you could hold an ‘open house’ day. This one day event will create excitement and competition between buyers and could result in a bidding war; great news for you! Listing just below market value will get viewers through the door and then they’ll push the price above the listed figure; but only if you get enough people through the front door.
  2. Auctions
    The digital property auction is a preferred option for many sellers. Almost any property can (and usually does) sell at an auction. Auctions encourage competitive bidding, frequently pushing the price beyond what you wanted (especially if your property’s desirable). And you’re not obliged to accept any bid below your reserve price.Modern auctions are handled online and have flexible deadlines, meaning anyone can bid and have enough time to sort out finance before the exchange and completion deadlines.

Property auctions typically come in three forms:

Traditional auctions

The most secure and quickest way to sell is the traditional auction. Before the auction, your agent or solicitor provides a legal pack that includes everything a buyer needs to exchange contracts. The buyers do their due diligence in the run-up to the auction, then they’ll bid and contracts are exchanged when the gavel falls.

The buyer is legally bound to buy your property from that moment and usually has 28 days to complete.

Flexible auctions

The modern version of the traditional auction takes a step back from the well-known ‘going, going, gone’ approach. Contracts aren’t exchanged when the gavel falls. Instead, the winning buyer pays a non-refundable deposit (often called a ‘holding fee’, ‘reservation fee’ or similar) to secure the sale. They get a fixed period (usually 28 days) to exchange contracts and then a second period to complete. Sellers don’t need a legal pack as the buyer has time to do due diligence in the first period.

Although it’s often called a ‘modern’ option, flexible auctions have been around for a long time and have grown in popularity because they work well online. Bidders can be anywhere in the world and the auction is usually held over a period of time (such as 14-21 days) instead of having to be in an auction room on a specific day.

Buyer-friendly auctions

Traditional and modern auctions both put the fee burden on the buyer. Sellers pay nothing because the auction fees and reservation costs all come out of the buyer’s pot. As a model, this can limit the number of interested buyers; especially first-time buyers who discover there are additional payments to make.

Similar to the flexible auction, buyer-friendly auctions go a step further by being extra-flexible on completion times and moving the fees to the seller. While that may sound like it won’t work in your best interest, the flexible deadlines mean most buyers can participate. The ‘zero fee’ for buyers means there’s a greater number of interested people and that will push up your sale price.

Here’s a table to explain the three auction types:

  Traditional Auction Flexible Auction Buyer-Friendly Auction
Bidding method In-person bidding at a pre-determined time and place. Online bidding for a defined period, typically 14-21 days. Online bidding for a defined period, typically 14-21 days.
Completion Buyer exchanges when the gavel falls. Buyer reserves the property when the gavel falls. Buyer reserves the property when the gavel falls.
Exchange Buyer completes in a defined period (usually 28 days). Buyer gets one period to exchange contracts and another to complete (usually 28+28 days, but flexible). Buyer gets one period to exchange contracts and another to complete (usually 28+28 days, but flexible).
Fees Buyer pays auction fees. Buyer pays auction fees and a non-refundable reservation deposit (in addition to final price). Seller pays fees. Buyer pays a non-refundable reservation deposit (which is part of the final price).
Security of sale Totally secure: buyer is legally bound to complete from the second they win. Very secure: buyer is legally bound to exchange and complete, or they lose their reservation deposit. Very secure: buyer is legally bound to exchange and complete, or they lose their reservation deposit.
Legal packs Seller requires legal pack. No legal pack required. No legal pack required.
Speed of sale Very fast: sell in 28 days (assuming reserve price is met). Fast: sell in 56 days (assuming no issues). Fast: sell in 56 days (assuming no issues).
  1. Fast cash sale

A way to get a quick (and guaranteed) sale is to use a cash buying company. There are lots out there all claiming different qualities, so do your research and read online reviews to make sure you know all about the company with which you’ll be dealing.

Cash buyers work with motivated sellers to push through a fast sale. Their promotional tools are speed and simplicity. Their job is to buy properties that are either difficult to sell or whose owners need cash in their bank account very quickly.

To achieve these super-fast sales, you as a seller will have to take a hit on your price. Cash buyers typically offer around 70% to 80% of the current market rate. If you’re considering a cash buyer, you must be aware of two critical points.

There’s little regulation in this industry so it’s a haven for scammers, pirates, cowboys and other ne’er-do-well individuals. Anyone can set up a business and say they’re a cash buyer. However, that doesn’t mean they have cash or that they’re competent. It’s up to you to do your due diligence and check where their money comes from, what experience they have, the price they offer and everything else.

Secondly, cash buyers are a business and like any business, their aim is to make a profit. Some cash buyers are sniffing around for what they call ‘the three D’s’; these being divorce, death and debt. These three situations generate the most emotion, making sellers more desperate and weaker in negotiations.

A reputable cash buyer can be a life saver in a tough situation and, as long as you have done your due diligence to fully understand the company with which you’re dealing, a cash buyer can produce astounding results for you if you cannot sell your house.

  1. Part exchange

Part exchange isn’t a new idea, even in the property sector. In fact, builders have been doing it for years. They take your old house as part-payment on a new build, reducing the price and giving you a guaranteed sale so you’re not stuck in a chain.

The advantages of this option of selling your house are numerous.

You’ll have a guaranteed buyer, so there’s no fear that your sale is going to fall through. And with no chain, there’s no delay. If your dream-home purchase gets delayed, you can often stay where you are until it’s sorted. If the absolute worst happens and your purchase should somehow fall through, you keep your current property so there’s no worry about being homeless (although this isn’t the outcome you want if you’re trying to sell). Also, because you know exactly how much you’ll be getting for your house, you can act like a cash buyer and push for discounts or tight deadlines on your new home.

  1. Assisted sale

An assisted sale is specifically designed for homeowners who want to sell but whose property needs work and refurbishment. It’s especially good for people with second properties, or if you’re moving into rented accommodation.

With an assisted sale, you sell your property to a company for a fixed, guaranteed amount. When the deal has been done, you keep ownership on paper and the company markets the property for sale (using a Power of Attorney).

The difference here is that the company pays the running costs for the property until it sells to a new owner, without it affecting your agreed sale price. They will pay legal and estate agency costs, maintenance and service charges, ground rent, utility bills, insurance and council tax; even your mortgage payments. An assisted sale is just like selling your house in the traditional way but it’s quicker and simpler, and it relieves you of the ongoing burden much faster than even the fastest cash sale. This could be a great benefit to you if you are having trouble selling your house.

Test or change your agent
Thing is, your house may not be the reason why your house is not selling.

Even with major websites like Rightmove, the sale of your house will often depend upon the proactivity of your estate agent.

There’s something that you can do to find out just how efficient they are and if your agent really is working for you. Ask a friend to call your agent and describe a property similar to yours to find out if yours is mentioned. It’s a simple but effective plan.

If you’re having doubts about the ability of your agent, search for online reviews from real customers like you to find out if others have been in your position.

Changing your agent will depend upon the contract you’ve signed. It is possible to have multiple agents, but this normally affects the agent’s fee. Best thing to do is to check your contract and then consider your options.

Any questions?

We hope this article has helped you to consider alternative options that are available to you if you can’t sell your house. There are things you can do to get a sale; you aren’t limited to only using an estate agent.

If you have any questions about selling your property, whether it’s a semi-detached, detached or terraced house, or a flat, contact us and we’ll be happy to have a chat with you.