Couldn't Sell Your Home Last Season? Here's How to Relist It So It'll Move

If a home lingers on the market too long, it begins to acquire, well, a reputation. Deserved or not, the home may be perceived by buyers as flawed or overpriced. So in the interest of avoiding a bad rep -- or becoming the real estate equivalent of the last kid picked for kickball at recess -- some sellers pull their listing from the market and take some time to reassess and, eventually, relist.

Of course, it's not as easy as pulling the home one day and relisting the next. Even if you take a home off the market and start over with a new agent, it won't necessarily appear as a new listing. Your local multiple listing service has rules that determine what qualifies as new.

In Chicago, for example, you'll need to have your home off the market for as long as six months before it can count as new. In Jacksonville, FL, you only have to wait 45 days. Since the rules vary from city to city, make sure to check with a local broker about how long your home must be off the market before it can be "new" again.

In the Washington, DC, metro area, your home has to be off the market for at least 90 days to reset the "days on market" ticker to zero, says Sue Goodhart with McEnearney Associates in Alexandria, VA. She added that it's not a total reset, because the property record will still indicate the home's previous exposure to the market.

Property sales and listing history are easy for any prospective buyer to find, says Rhonda Duffy, broker/owner of Duffy Realty of Atlanta. While a lingering listing might be giving your home a bad rep, she thinks marketing plays an important role in getting your home sold.

"Getting a new MLS number is much less important than what I call 'juicing' a listing with something new that will grab the attention of buyers," Duffy said.

The first thing an agent can do is analyze why your home didn't sell and then address that issue, Goodhart says.

"Sometimes it's the price, but often it's the way the home shows in person or online, or a lack of targeted marketing," she said. "Sometimes it's as simple as realizing that the photos were taken on a cloudy day and it makes the rooms look too dark."

Photos more crucial than price

Goodhart relisted an affordable condo that had been on the market for 157 days but should have sold much faster. She says they cleaned it and took new photos, and it sold in four days.

"You want to have a freshened listing re-sent with new photos and new lighting to entice buyers," Duffy said.

"It's especially important to send seasonally appropriate photos," she added. "If it's spring, you don't want to start off with a photo that shows fall leaves or piles of snow, because that's an instant tipoff that the home has been sitting on the market."

It's also important to take new photos if the home has been staged or updated in any way. At the same time, Duffy stressed that only attractive photos should be displayed with the listing. Some agents upload dozens of photos just to meet a quota rather than showcase only the most enticing photos of a home, she said.

Price changes that work

A small price change may serve to trigger an email alert to buyers who have set up a home search based on their price range. For example, if your home is priced at $255,000, you're not reaching buyers who've set their search for homes priced between $225,000 and $250,000. Reducing the price to $249,900 will draw new attention to the property without a deep price cut.

"The key is that even if you juice the listing with a price change, you also need to change the photos so that buyers stop and look at it and wonder if they've seen the property before," Duffy said.

Staging and timing crucial to sale

One of Goodhart's relistings was reduced from $864,900 to $859,900, but she believes staging the home was more important than the price change. She replaced antique furniture with with Pottery Barn-style furniture that would appeal to older millennials.

New photos showcased the new look, and the home sold in six days.

"Shopping online makes a huge difference," Goodhart said. "Buyers today are looking at 15 to 20 properties every night, so your photos have to be perfect to make your home stand out."

Whether it's staging, photos, or a new agent, avoiding the dreaded rep of a lingering listing is something every seller must consider.

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