The Reason Homes Might Not Sell

It’s easy to come up with a short list of classic seller mistakes that hamper sales: poor property preparation, no pictures, overpricing, sellers that insist on giving guided tours, distinct odors, ill mannered dogs … and so on.

There is, however, one mistake that stands head and shoulders above the rest. And ironically, I’m seeing this issue actually grow in frequency to the point where it’s seriously hampering our ability to sell homes to our buyers.

It’s access. If we can’t get in, we can’t show the house. If we can’t show the house, we can’t sell it. We frequently end up showing less than 6 because we can’t get access to homes on the list. There are two primary reasons:

1. Appointment Only

I understand that in some parts of the country, “Appointment Only” is the only way to access properties. In those locales, sellers and buyer agents are well trained and make it work. In contrast, here in the San Francisco Bay the majority of homes have always had lockboxes and showing instructions have been some variation of, “Call, leave a message, GO, leave a card.”

Once in a while a seller really needs to limit access to their home to specific times. Valid reasons include illness, latch-key kid’s home by themselves, swing-shift workers sleeping during the day and so on. I do not include dogs, renters or new plasma TVs in this list.

Of all of the listings we’ve done, we’ve only had one “By Appointment Only” – and it was an uncooperative tenant. We work hard to help our sellers understand that buyers need access when it works for THEM, not the seller. With proper instruction, sellers can be educated to understand that access is critical and will subsequently cooperate.

2. No Lockbox

Just a few short years ago, we seldom, if ever, encountered homes without a lockbox. Recently, however, that has changed. We’ve seen a marked increase in properties without lockboxes. And, making a bad situation even worse, no contact information for the sellers. And to add injury to insult: Realtors who don’t answer their phones or respond to emails or texts.

No contact = no showing. No showing = no sale.

As an example, as of this article, Hayward, CA has 281 single family homes on the market. 97 of these do not have a lockbox – a whopping 34.52%. One third of the homes actively on the market. Of the 281 homes, 57 are REOs (20.28%), 109 are “normal” sales (38.79%) and 115 are short sales (40.93%).

100% of the REOs have a lockbox. Of the normal sales, 77% have lockboxes. Out of 115 short sales, however, an astonishing 60.87% DO NOT have a lockbox. And the majority of these also have no contact information for the seller, making it exceedingly difficult to get access.

The very sellers that, by necessity, need to make access the easiest are, in fact, making it almost impossible.

Since short sales represent such a high percentage of the market and typically have the lowest prices, these are the homes buyers are clamoring to see, and can’t, in so many cases. Not only does this hamper sales, it also frustrates buyers (who cannot comprehend the lack of access) and, quite frankly, makes Realtors look like idiots.

In contrast, even though a significant percentage of our listings are short sales, we’ve only had one with no lockbox – ever – it had a Section 8 renter who absolutely refused to cooperate. This was a very specific case, and we now know what to do next time.

Without question the growing lack of access to homes is changing the very fabric of this market.

5 Ways to Improve Home Accessibility

1.  Overcome Seller Objections

Over the years, many of our sellers have told us they don’t want a lockbox. While we understand they may have any number of reasons for this, we carefully explain why lockboxes are critical to obtaining top dollar, great terms and a successful sale. Once we explain the reasons why an electronic lockbox is necessary and the protections it provides (i.e.: electronic monitoring) they’ve ALL agreed to have one.

2. Allow Buyers Access When Buyers Are Available

I frequently call to make an appointment and, if I can actually get hold of the seller, I hear things such as, “We have an open house tomorrow,” or “I’m won’t be home when you are asking to come by,” or “Gee, 1:00 is not good for me – can you make it at 6:30?”

I graciously explain that my buyers are available from 1:00 to 3:00 that day only, and, quite frankly, if we can’t get in then, we won’t be getting in at all. Time is at a premium and buyers have precious little of it. If we can’t get into any specific home, buyers normally won’t come back. They often feel that if a seller is too unreasonable to let them in when they’re available, they’ll probably be unreasonable in other areas as well.

3. Make Them Feel Safe

Some sellers don’t like the idea that anyone can open the lockbox at anytime and access their home. In reality, if you are using a system such as SUPRA lockboxes, then only licensed Realtors with an electronic key can access the home. Our MLS monitors reports of stolen items and, from the information I’ve seen, chances are greater for robbery when OFF the MLS than on it. Electronic key boxes provide an audit trail of who entered the home and when. We provide our sellers with clear written instructions for allowing access to their home and tell them who NOT to let in and why. In reality, sellers are at the greatest risk during Open Houses, and we provide written instructions for our sellers to train them to prepare for these as well.

Renters often object to showing their home when the owner decides to sell – after all, if they cooperate, they’ll be out of their digs. They often express “fear of theft” as their reason for not providing complete, unfettered access. First of all, if your listing is a short sale, then, quite frankly, renters should be gone. If it’s a normal sale, I suggest you cut a deal with the renters by lowering their rent in exchange for their cooperation. Also offer to pay for their renter’s insurance policy if they don’t have one.

4. Map out Showing Hours if necessary

Occasionally a seller can allow access only during limited hours. Those working swing shifts are a prime example. We understand this and, once we’ve carefully mapped out hours that work, we ensure that the stated hours for showing are clearly written in the confidential comments section on the MLS. Since we also know that many agents DO NOT carefully read the confidential comments, we also program the electronic lock box to allow access only during the agreed upon hours AND we put a sign on the front door. During the available hours, buyers and their agents have full access.

5. Handle the Pets

Pets don’t have to be a problem.  I’ve sold homes with dogs, cats, iguanas, snakes and a host of other animals. Critters can be in crates, a specific bedroom with a “Do Not Open Door” sign … with a padlock on it if you feel it’s necessary. The garage and back yard also work. Buyers get it and they appreciate the access.

At the end of the day, it’s all about training.

Trained properly, sellers can provide full access and … get the best possible price and terms. In fact, the more access a seller provides, the more likely their home is to sell in a shorter period of time. And once their house is in escrow, they can settle down to a normal schedule with as few interruptions as possible.

About the author

By: Carl Medford

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