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Why Isn't My House Selling?

Martha Lott

Written by Reviewed by Jayne Dowle

19th Feb 2020 (Last updated on 17th May 2023) 15 minute read

Selling a home is often a challenge as not all properties will sell quickly. However, if viewings are rare and you’ve had few offers, or none at all - it can become a very stressful experience.

Take the time to go through your options before deciding your next steps. Some houses won’t sell easily and the length of time it takes will vary. On average, it takes around four to seven months to sell a property in the UK.

Compare My Move have created this guide to take you through some of the reasons why your home might not be selling and how you can overcome them. We’ll take you through each individual factor, ranging from the exterior’s kerb appeal to changing the asking price.

  1. 1. The Property is Lacking in Kerb Appeal
  2. 2. You Need to Declutter
  3. 3. The Photos Used Don’t Do the Property Justice
  4. 4. You Need to Rethink the Asking Price
  5. 5. You Need to Update the Online Marketing
  6. 6. You or Your Buyer May Be in a Long Property Chain
  7. 7. Your Property Could Be Difficult to Mortgage
  8. 8. You're Choosing the Wrong Buyers
  9. 9. The Property Survey Contained Bad Results
  10. 10. Think About What Buyers Look For in House Viewings
  11. Do You Need to Switch Estate Agents?
  12. Is it The Wrong Time to Sell?
  13. What Can You Do If Your Buyer Pulls Out of The Sale?
  14. My House Still Won’t Sell What Are My Options?
  15. How Long is Too Long When Selling a House?

1. The Property is Lacking in Kerb Appeal

A survey conducted by The HomeOwners Alliance and YouGov found that more than 68% of homeowners said kerb appeal was important and affected their choice of home. Clearly, a large majority of buyers think what your house looks like from the outside is important when house-hunting.

The first thing potential buyers will see at viewings and on the listing is the outside of the house. First impressions are important! If your house isn’t selling, you may need to think about its kerb appeal. The survey mentioned above found that the most important factors that boosted a property’s kerb appeal were:

  1. The condition of the windows
  2. The condition of the roof
  3. The state of the front garden (no weeds and neatly cut hedges)
  4. The maintenance of the front pathway/drive

Attending to the above can all increase the kerb appeal of your home and you don’t have to spend a fortune. Even simply cleaning your windows and removing your wheelie bin can begin to increase interest in your property and help it sell.

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2. You Need to Declutter

If your property isn't selling, simply giving it a quick clean can be a good first step. Before you start taking photos for your listing, you need to clean and declutter your property to help make for a good first impression. Every room should be well-lit and clear of any mess and clutter. Plump those cushions and open your curtains, every little bit helps when making your property look attractive.

You don’t necessarily need to give the property a deep clean just yet, but a quick tidy up will definitely make a world of difference. Don’t forget to put away children’s or pet toys, clean out the garden, remove rubbish and wipe down surfaces. If you don’t know where to start, you could try using the KonMari method which has been drastically increasing in popularity.

3. The Photos Used Don’t Do the Property Justice

The majority of buyers will begin their property search online, meaning the photos you add to your property’s listing will be their first line of sight. Online listings now make it easy to ignore and scroll past a property and so it must stand out from the rest. The photos must highlight the property’s strengths and appeal to the buyer’s requirements.

It can be difficult to look at your own home objectively and so it would be wise to ask a friend or family member to review the photos before they go online. If the general consensus is that they don’t add value, then you can ask your estate agent to upload new ones to help sell your home.

Some estate agents will use professional photographers whilst others take them themselves as they have experience with making properties look appealing. However, if you don’t think the photos are good, you can request to use a photographer of your choosing or switch estate agents. It’s your property and so you need to be happy with the listing that’s uploaded.

4. You Need to Rethink the Asking Price

The number one reason why 78% of house sellers fail to sell their homes is because the asking price is too high, a study by advice website Property Road shows.

Be patient and give your estate agent enough time to realistically sell the property. However, if there isn’t any interest, it might be time to consider altering your asking price. It can be difficult deciding what price to sell your house at, but sometimes it’s necessary to change it.

In 2019, Zoopla discovered that “homes priced in line with realistic market values” in both England and Wales would “sell 58 days faster than their overpriced equivalents”. Properties that were overpriced would often sell for £12,000 less than their original asking price. This shows the importance of getting the value right.

If your house has been on the market for a few months, research again the properties in your local area to gauge how much your house is worth and if your asking price is reasonable. If it seems likely you’ve priced it too high, then lowering the asking price could be an option. it will also reduce the likelihood of you being gazundered by a buyer.

Many buyers will often try to negotiate on the house price before agreeing to an offer, so even if there is interest, you could still end up lowering your price. It's worth looking at when the best time to sell your house in your area is.

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5. You Need to Update the Online Marketing

If your home isn't selling and so has been on the market for a few months, the photographs might look unseasonal or tired. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask your agent to arrange a re-shoot. If your agent is reluctant or if you are selling your house online, you can use your own professional photographer.

It’s not only photographs that potential buyers will be viewing online. You have to make sure that your property is marketed correctly, highlighting the strengths and key features that will appeal to buyers. Whatever adds value to your property, make them aware of it.

There’s also the option of adding an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to provide the buyers with further information regarding the property’s energy efficiency rating. It’s a legal requirement to have an EPC when putting your property on the market, but by allowing buyers with easy access you could quickly build interest.

In 2019, Zoopla discovered that the terms ‘garage’, ‘garden’ and ‘parking’ were the most searched terms in property, creating a wish-list of what buyers were looking for in potential houses. ‘Bungalow’ was the fourth most popular, followed by ‘detached’ and ‘annex’. If these are features that are relevant to your property, then ensure you highlight them in your listing.

6. You or Your Buyer May Be in a Long Property Chain

One factor that could delay the selling process is the length of the property chains involved. If you or your buyer is in a long property chain, then this can affect the entire process as your transaction is reliant on the completion of others.

To help you appeal to buyers, you could find a way to become chain-free. If you reduce the length of your personal property chain, you’ll become instantly more appealing to buyers who want a quick transaction. If you buy a property and move in before you sell your current one, then that’s another link in the chain removed. If this isn’t possible, you could live with a friend or relative or even in rented accommodation until you find a new house.

7. Your Property Could Be Difficult to Mortgage

It’s possible that the type of property you’re trying to sell could make it more difficult for buyers to get a mortgage. For example, some mortgage lenders will be less willing to lend on studio flats, unusually constructed properties, flats above shops, eco-homes or properties with a short lease.

If you think this could be an issue, you should discuss the situation with your estate agent and ask if there are ways for you to solve the problem. Your estate agent may even come up with solutions. There may be a specialist mortgage provider which could be recommended to potential buyers. You might also find out the potential cost of extending a short lease. Ask your estate agent for an honest assessment of how many years this might be in your property’s particular case.

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8. You're Choosing the Wrong Buyers

If possible, you can ask your estate agent to ensure that buyers adhere to certain criteria before accepting an offer. This will help lessen the likelihood that the sale will fall through. A few things to consider are:

  • Do they have an agreement in principle?
  • What is the length of their property chain?
  • Are they a first-time buyer?
  • What is their expected timescale for the transaction?

9. The Property Survey Contained Bad Results

If a buyer has made an offer but decides to walk away from the sale after receiving the results of their property survey, it may be because the results highlighted issues with damp, subsidence or other defects that could cost them in the long run. Although the buyer will ultimately do what they believe is best for them, there are things you can do to try and convince them to continue with the transaction.

Property survey results often provide the opportunity to negotiate the asking price. If the buyer believes the repairs will be costly, you could offer to reduce the asking price by the cost of this work. Try to be open and honest with the buyer and, more importantly, be as flexible as you can with the price.

If you’re not in a hurry to sell, there is also the option of fixing the issues presented in the survey report. This will likely be a costly decision, but it will increase the likelihood of your property selling in the future.

For more information and our helpful tips, you can read our article on What to Do if You Get Bad Survey Results here.

10. Think About What Buyers Look For in House Viewings

One reason your house might not be selling is that it could be disappointing during the viewings. This issue will become obvious if you notice that your property is receiving a decent amount of viewings but no offers. If this is the case, then you may want to consider refreshing the property.

Think about what the buyer will be looking for. We have a useful House Viewing Checklist that you can compare to your property. Does it need a fresh coat of paint? Is there enough natural light? Are the rooms too personal to you? These are some of the questions you should be asking yourself. You could even ask your estate agent for their advice and opinions to help you improve its appeal.

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Do You Need to Switch Estate Agents?

Another factor to consider is if your estate agent is working hard enough. You should be receiving regular updates on the process and what buyers think of the home. Your estate agent should be experienced to be able to advertise it as an appealing investment. Take a look at how their marketing your home and if it’s good enough.

Before making a decision, it could be worth investigating first. Ask a trusted friend or relevant to request a viewing by posing as a prospective buyer. Ask them if your estate agent mentioned your property, how they tried to sell it and how they handled the viewing. If this test proves that there is a lack of effort provided, you could potentially look for other estate agents and their prices.

In 2017, it was discovered that 17% of sellers in the UK switched estate agents before completing a sale. The most common reasons for this were because they were either not getting enough viewings or they were not getting many offers. This shows that changing estate agents is a potential step to help you complete a sale. However, if you do decide to terminate your estate agent contract and switch agents, then you should first check the type of contract you've signed.

Keep in mind that there are procedures in place to help you make a complaint against your estate agent, if the situation becomes necessary to do so. However, it's recommended that you discuss the situation directly with the agent before doing so.

Is it The Wrong Time to Sell?

Something as simple as the time of year could greatly impact how quickly you sell your house. It’s always been the case that sellers avoid November and December because of Christmas, bad weather and dark nights. However, now many estate agents are saying the Christmas holidays is becoming one of the busiest times for house-hunting as buyers have a chance to look online and undertake viewings. Fewer people will be willing to during the cold, dark winter months.

In a previous article, we discovered the best time of year to move house as a buyer. This is something even sellers should pay attention to as it’s good to know when your potential buyers will be house-hunting and wanting to complete. Our data discovered that Summer is the most popular time to move house. Taking this into account, Spring would be the optimal time to put your house up for sale as buyers will be looking to move only a few months later.

This research is backed up with data from The Advisory who suggests that Spring is the best season to sell a house. They also agree that the winter months of January and December are the worst months to sell and should be avoided if possible. If you’re looking to sell quickly, your best chance will be to create a listing sometime between March and June.

What Can You Do If Your Buyer Pulls Out of The Sale?

It can be very disappointing and frustrating when a buyer pulls out of a sale. However, it doesn’t mean that your house will never sell, even if it sometimes feels that way. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the chances of this happening in the future.

Some buyers will have no choice but to pull out of a sale due to their mortgage application being declined. However, it’s important to highlight that there are other lenders who may be willing to make them an offer. If you’re flexible and able to wait for them to receive a new mortgage offer, you could discuss next steps. If you’re unsure, speak to your estate agent or financial adviser.

If the buyer is waiting to sell their own property before purchasing yours, this could greatly delay the transaction. The longer the property chain, the higher risk of delays and a party pulling out of the sale. However, if you’re not necessarily looking for a quick sale, it is possible to wait for them to complete their own transaction before continuing yours.

However, if the buyer simply walked away because they changed their mind, then the only option left is to be open and honest with them. Ask them what affected their decision and see if there are any issues you would be willing to fix. Whether it’s having to renegotiate the price or fix certain repairs, simply offering could make a world of difference.

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My House Still Won’t Sell What Are My Options?

Before you rush into any decisions, it would be wise to focus on the above factors mentioned in this guide and to research more house selling tips before worrying about the sale. However, if your house still isn’t selling even after all these factors are addressed, then there are a few other options to consider.

1. Switching estate agents

This has already been mentioned above, however, it’s important to find the right agent for you. This may include switching agents more than once. But if you shop around and compare different estate agents, you should find the perfect fit for you.

2. Considering a multi-agent agreement

There’s the option of using multiple estate agents to sell the property. But you should research how helpful this may actually be for you specifically before deciding.

3. Renting out your property instead

If you’re finding it difficult to sell your property, there is the option of renting it out. This decision shouldn’t be taken lightly and you would have to begin researching the responsibilities of being a landlord. However, it is an option if you’re impatient or can’t afford to keep your house for much longer without it selling. You may have to pay Capital Gains Tax when you finally come to sell it.

4. Postponing the sale

If it’s not essential that you sell the property now, you could simply postpone selling it. If the market is bad or there’s no interest, you could wait until a better opportunity arises. This is especially helpful if you’re still house-hunting yourself.

5. A short sale

Also called a ‘quick sale’ or can’t afford to keep ‘fast sale’. Some companies buy homes for cash and will give you a sum of money for your home, usually about 75% of its value on the open market. There are some disreputable companies out there, so research, read verified customer reviews and choose carefully.

6. Auction

If you really do need to sell, you could put your home up for auction. There are two ways to do this; traditional sale-room (when buyers bid in person, or via a live internet link) or ‘modern method of auction’, which is conducted online by an estate agent or specialist online auction company. One example of a common type of auction used is the process of sealed bidding.

How Long is Too Long When Selling a House?

Ideally, you’d want to sell your house quickly, however, it doesn’t always work that way. The excitement can make time feel slower and so it’s important to have an average timeline in mind so that you don’t rush the sale or pull out too early. On average, it takes around 4-7 months to sell a house in the UK. This will vary depending on your personal circumstances and the property market in your local area. But it’s a good average to start with.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having guest authored for many property websites, Martha now researches and writes articles for everything moving house related, from remortgages to conveyancing costs.

Jayne Dowle

Reviewed by Jayne Dowle

Freelance Property Journalist & Copywriter,

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning freelance property journalist with over 30 years of experience.