STALE

Avoid hiring an agent that has a history of letting their listings go stale, sitting on the market longer than 120 days (including closing). The longer a home sits on the market without getting an offer - or without an offer being accepted - while other similar homes sell more quickly, the more stale the listing becomes.

The more stale the listing, the fewer home buyers and agents will show an interest in the home; the thinking being that there’s a reason the home didn’t sell, that it’s overpriced, or that there’s something wrong with the home. Thus the longer a home’s time on the market, the less likely it is that new agents and buyers will come to see the home or that buyers and agents that already saw the home will make an offer; its saleability suffers.

In a seller's market - when there are more buyers than sellers - many agents will begin talking to the homeowner about lowering the price after just two weeks without an offer. Typical time on the market without going stale will be longer when in a balanced market, and longer still during a buyer's market, and always longer for luxury homes, because luxury homes have far fewer buyers.

The best way to benchmark if your home listing is going stale is to compare your home’s time on the market to how long other homes like yours are taking to sell.

If your home is taking too long to sell - going stale - you may need to declutter, stage the home, repaint, repair, remodel, take the home off the market for a while and try again, lower the price, hire a different agent; and, any or all of the above.

Even if you believe that there were some things the agent did, or didn’t do - that the agent is the reason that your home listing has gone stale - getting a new agent by itself will probably not change the fact that your home’s listing has gone stale, not in the minds of agents and buyers.

The best way to deal with this “stale” situation is to avoid it in the first place by choosing the right agent for your home to begin with. Look for agents that sold between four and 12 homes - during the last 12 months - most of which were the same home type as yours, many of which were in the same price range as yours, and at least some of which were in your neighborhood. Of these, prioritize agents that sell all of their listings in no less than 44 and no more than 120 days; compare these agents' Sale-to-List ratios before you choose. Then look into the agent’s availability to make sure the agent you want isn’t too busy simultaneously selling too many other listings, and last but not least get an appraisal; though there are no guarantees, if you do all of the above, you should be fine (unless your market changes).

There are many reasons why a home could go stale, and that complicated topic is beyond the scope of this explanation. Two things are certain though. First, if your home has gone stale there is something or a combination of somethings wrong; and second, you need to deal with it decisively - ASAP- if you want to sell your home.

So then - you might ask - if a lot of listing agents will want the homeowner to lower the price after just 14 days on the market without an accepted offer, why does Listfriendly use 120 days on the market before calling a listing stale? The reason is that your home should sell very close to its appraised price within 120 days, unless there really is something wrong with your home’s desirability, or your agent is a complete zero, or both.

Notice that, we didn’t say that your home should sell close to its appraised price right away; the fact is, even great agents don’t always get everything right from the getgo, and not all factors are within the agent's control. The market can change. Or three of your neighbors may decide to list their homes at the same time as you. And there can be many other reasons that your home doesn’t fly off the shelf, even in a buyer's market. One difference between a good agent and a poor agent is that the right choice of agent will avoid most of those issues that can be avoided, and also figure out how to pivot to make the needed adjustments to get your home sold before 90 days are up, when it really will start going stale; while a poor choice of agent may not.

POOR MARKET EXPOSURE

Especially in a seller's market, many agents sell homes in fewer than 44 days. This can be either because the agent didn’t give the home at least two weeks of market exposure, because closing took less than 30 days, or some of both. Closing can take significantly less than 30 days when the offer is “as is” with no contingencies - like home inspections or appraisal - and is for all cash, with no financing; financing alone can take as long as 40 days, with 18 to 20 days being typical.

To sell a home very quickly in a seller's market, an agent may set an unreasonably short offer due date, rushing buyers to make offers, and/or create hype around a home, by for instance, advertising an absurdly low asking price; the idea being to increase traffic and create a bidding war.

Incidentally setting an extremely low asking price artificially inflates the listing agent’s sale-to-list ratio, falsely increasing the agent’s desirability because these agents’ listings sell for a huge premium over the asking price at their much higher actual market value.

In many instances when a home sells very quickly, the market has not been given enough time or information to establish the home’s true arm's length market price. In order to establish its true price, the maximum number of potential buyers should have the opportunity to learn about the home, visit the home - perhaps several times - and reflect before making an offer. The buyer whose offer is accepted should be given an unrushed opportunity to verify that the assumptions upon which they based their offer were more or less correct, by getting home inspections and an appraisal for instance.

It’s not just more ethical to sell a home in a way that gives it enough market exposure and doesn’t rush closing, it is also more practical, and often in the best interests of both the seller and the buyer.

When a home sells super quickly, it may have sold for less than the seller could have gotten. This frequently happens when the seller chooses a lower - all cash, as is, no contingency - offer, over a higher offer contingent on an inspection, a loan, and an appraisal, from a buyer who needs financing.

Incidentally, a seller armed with an appraisal - done just before putting their home on the market- will know when they review offers, which is the highest offer they can confidently accept; anecdotally the offer from the buyer that needs financing will usually be higher than an all cash offer.

Alternatively, when a home sells super quickly, it may have sold for far more than its true value or just more than that buyer should have paid, leading to buyers remorse. Buyers often regret making high-dollar purchases, like real estate; cognitive post-decision dissonance sets in when buyers are heavily invested in the consequences of difficult decisions like big-dollar purchases. Buyers remorse can be caused by factors like: the buyer felt they could have waited, the home was purchased in an ethically unsound way, the home was purchased on borrowed money, the buyer is criticized by others for purchasing the home, and/or the buyer later questions the value of the purchased home.

Cash buyers will often apply for a cash-out refinance loan after an all-cash sale; what happens when the bank appraises their new home for less than they just paid? What happens when it's far less: buyer remorse; then, sometimes, litigation? We live in a litigious society. Why risk it?

Everyone benefits when you choose an agent who gives the homes they sell a reasonable amount of market exposure and an unhurried closing, without letting their home listings go stale. We recommend those agents who sell homes in an average of between 50 and 80 days, with few if any outlier homes; outliers being those homes that see in less than 44 days or more than 120 days, closing included.