Get Rid of a House That Won’t Sell

What are your options when your house won’t sell? Estate agents will usually suggest reducing the asking price, but we would only suggest this as a last resort, as it risks “devaluing” a property.  Read our tips to help speed up your property sale.

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It can be one of the most frustrating experiences; to own a property that won’t sell. Initial enthusiasm from an estate agent can soon run into feelings of hopelessness when months down the line the property is still on the market, unsold. What can you do when your house won’t sell? This article is designed to help property owners identify the reasons why their house is not selling and explore options to help speed up the sale.
Updated by Mark Grantham on 6th March 2020

Check if your asking price is realistic

Unsurprisingly, the main reason properties fail to sell is because the asking price is too high. Estate agents sometimes suggest high asking prices to win instructions, and vendors often mistakenly believe the asking price is an accurate valuation, so are reluctant to accept offers for much less than the asking price. We always advise vendors to check out sold prices of similar properties in the area to determine a realistic value for their property. There can be a big difference between asking prices and actual sold prices. Rightmove and Zoopla list sold prices for properties in the UK, it can be worth a quick look before being swept away by an estate agents tantalising asking price.
One of the other main reasons why properties are overpriced is because the vendor will be in negative equity if they can’t clear a certain price; unfortunately in this situation there isn’t much that can be done to hurry along a sale, most vendors must wait it out until prices pick up.

If you’re tempted to approach a “quick sale company” beware of firms that claim to be able to purchase your property even if you’re in negative equity. It sounds too good to be true, and it is. Be especially careful if you’re asked to pay an upfront fee or requested to sign anything. Read more about selling to quickly for a good price.

Even correctly priced properties can fail to sell

If you’re asking price seems reasonable, what else could be to blame for not finding a buyer? The type of property, timings and local market conditions will have a significant impact on the saleability of property – so before reducing your asking price, it might just be that by waiting a bit longer your patience will pay off, eventually.
If you’re selling a unique or niche property the audience of buyers will be smaller, so it will usually take longer to find the right buyer. Higher value properties typically fall into this category, houses in rural locations or bespoke properties spend considerably longer on the market compared to a typical family home on a housing estate. By their nature, niche properties can be difficult to value because there are no direct comparable sales, so it can be worth appointing a specialist estate agent to gauge the likely sale price and target the right audience of buyers.

Shortage of buyers at certain times of the year

Sales can also be slow at certain times of the year – the summer holidays (from mid-July to early September) and Christmas/new year can be very slow. Some property owners take the view that putting a property on the market during these slow periods will harm the sale – getting things off to a bad start and that it’s better to begin advertising a property from fresh when the market is more active. It’s true that a property lingering on the market can get a reputation for being “unwanted”, but a good estate agent will breathe new life into old stock and find a buyer when the time is right.

Local market conditions – oversupply

Even when the broader economic environment is looking good and the national news reports strong property sales activity, if there’s an oversupply of properties for sale in your area then your chances of selling will be reduced. It might just be a sheer coincidence that there are too many other property owners with properties similar to yours wanting the sell at a particular time. Unless you’re prepared to stand out from the competition by accepting a lower asking price you will be better off waiting until the competition thins out a bit.

Estate agent not making any effort to sell your property?

Feedback during the first two months of marketing a property for sale will give a very good indication of the likelihood of a successful sale. A well-priced property in a strong market will attract a high level of interest and multiple offers, with a high likelihood of a successful sale. On the other hand, if there’s not much interest or if viewings are not converting to offers then who can blame the estate agent for putting their energy elsewhere. It’s important to listen to feedback from viewings and take on board your estate agents suggestions to keep them engaged in the sale.

Sales keep on falling through – how to find a reliable buyer

Accepting a decent offer for your property and seeing the “sold” sign fixed to the board outside your house is a good reason to celebrate, but don’t get too excited. It’s widely reported that one in three private treaty sales (i.e. sales through an estate agent) fall through. And given the risk of what can go wrong in the house sale process it’s surprising that as many as two out of three offers accepted make it to exchange of contracts.

A sale can fall through at any point until exchange of contracts. The buyer can change their mind for any reason, or no reason at all. Even after months of legal work and a satisfactory survey it’s not unheard of for a prospective buyer to get cold feet and walk away from the sale.

If you’ve experienced sales falling through multiple times then it’s likely to be due to a reason with the property, possibly something coming up on searches or in the survey. If this is the case it might be sensible to bring this to the attention of prospective buyers early on, before they make an offer.

What to do when a vacant property won’t to sell

No one wants to own a vacant property, especially one that won’t sell! Vacant properties are more likely to be broken into and vandalised compared to occupied properties, and as a result insurance premiums are higher. If your property is sitting empty for the longer term it’s advisable to make sure you carry out a drain down, turn off gas and electricity, notify neighbourhood watch and keep garden well maintained to give the appearance of an occupied property.

If you’re selling a derelict or abandoned property then it’s worth considering boarding up ground floor windows and doors. Derelict properties in and around city centres are particularly prone to squatting, so as an extra measure it can be worth exploring the services of a “live-in guardian” service.

Can’t sell your house because of difficult neighbours?

We’ve all heard about the neighbours from hell, playing loud music in the middle of the night or dumping mattresses in their front garden. This kind of anti-social behaviour has an impact on the saleability of a property and is often very difficult to solve. Even with the intervention of the Council and Environmental Health a discourteous neighbour can develop a reputation and make it impossible to sell a house for a fair price.

We’ve heard of cases where noisy neighbours have been offered incentives to keep the noise down until a property has successfully sold. This isn’t an acceptable thing to do because the buyer will most likely experience the same disruptive behaviour soon after the sale – imagine the response from the buyer when the neighbour tells how they were paid to stay quiet.

It’s worthwhile asking for legal advice in these situations, and bear in mind that any disputes with neighbours should be reported by the seller in the Property Information Questionnaire, unless the property is sold as seen.

Other options for selling property

If your property won’t sell, and assuming you’re not asking too high a price, what are your options?

Most people feel comfortable with selling through an estate agent, it’s a familiar route and the estate agent can offer advice and reassurance throughout the sale process. If a property won’t sell with one estate agent, homeowners usually appoint another agent, hoping things will improve. Whilst some agents are better at selling than others, it doesn’t make much difference if you are switching from one reputable and established agent to another – they will be carrying out the same type of marketing and targeting the same types of buyer.

Selling through an estate agent is by no means the only option. In fact, for some properties (and the owner’s circumstances) it can make a lot more sense to sell at public auction or direct to a property buying company.

A sale by auction is ideally suited to properties requiring modernisation or with development potential. For these types of properties, the sale price achieved is often far higher than an estate agent would hope to achieve, in fact there is a lucrative market where property investors purchase rundown properties through estate agents and sell on at auction. Solicitors dealing with inherited properties often recommend sale by auction as the preferred route because they know the property will benefit from an open and transparent sale, which gives the property the best chance of selling for a fair price.

It is estimated that around 1% of property sales in the UK are made to “property buying companies”, also referred to as quick house sale companies, homebuyer companies and cash buyer companies. These companies typically offer around 80% of market value, so they’re not suited to everyone but if you’re looking for a quick and hassle-free sale they can be a very good option. Not all of these companies are genuine cash buyers, many are in fact property brokers, as this guide to homebuyer companies explains.

Need more help? Call us on 0800 862 0206 or send us an enquiry online.

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Slow progress?

If you’re struggling to make progress with the sale of your property, what can you do? This article offers some tips on speeding up your property sale.

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