10 Tips To Help Sell Your Home Fast In A Down Market

A couple of years ago we were in the middle of selling our house right at top of the real estate bubble.  Homes were routinely going for asking price, and some houses were even getting multiple offers above asking price. At the time the thinking was that the market would continue going up, and it was better to buy now than in a couple of years when prices had skyrocketed. Looking back, that thinking seems a bit foolish now, but at the time it seemed reasonable.   We ended up selling our townhouse for the asking price, and we made a nice profit.  The problem is, we also ended up buying a house for more than it was worth.  Hindsight is 20/20, right?

Now that the market has been dropping for a while things are extremely tough for homesellers.   Because of the rash of low or no down payment mortgages that happened a few years ago, a lot of homeowners are finding themselves underwater in their mortgages, they owe more than the house is now worth.

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The real estate Web site Zillow.com reported that 21.8% of all U.S. homes, representing more than 20 million residences, were in a “negative equity” or “underwater” position after prices dropped more than 14% nationally in the year ended March 31.

With so many homeowners being underwater, a huge number of them are just deciding to walk away from their homes, and the mortgages.  The result?  A ton of foreclosures.   According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors, there were 2 million properties in foreclosure in 2008.  That number could climb to almost  2.5 million this year. With such a huge number of foreclosure properties available, and due to the tough economic times, getting your house to sell is harder than ever.  Here are a few tips to help you sell a bit faster.

Tips To Sell Your Home In A Down Market

Sell House Fast

To make sure your home sells in a down market, there are a few things that you can do.

  1. You have to be willing to price it right:  If you’re going to sell your home in a down market, you may have to be willing to make some concessions on price.   In many areas foreclosures have depressed the prices quite a bit.  While you may not be able to cut your price to the level of some of those bank owned homes, you can still do your research as to what comparable homes are selling for, and undercut their prices.  You may not get as much action as the foreclosures, but you will at least get more action than other sellers who aren’t as flexible on price.  Try not to get emotionally stuck on a certain price.  Research prices on sites like Zillow.com where you can see what other homes are selling for, or have an agent give you a comparative analysis.
  2. Make sure the home has curb appeal:  Even if you can’t compete on price with foreclosures, you can do your best to make sure that the your house at least looks better on the outside than the foreclosure down the block.   Get the home power washed, paint the trim and the doors, put on new exterior lights and/or knockers, and give your plants some sprucing up.   All the hard work should pay off by at least getting that buyer through the door.  (When we sold, this was key for us because there were similar units at the same or lower price. Our unit was just in better shape, had been repainted, etc.)
  3. Clear the home of clutter:  When you’re living in the home, it may be ok to have stacks of papers on the coffee table, and tons of personal photos on the walls.   But when you’re selling a home you want the potential buyers to picture themselves living in the house.  Remove personal photos from the walls, and replace them with neutral framed art.  Take everything off the countertops in the kitchen to make it  seem like there is more counter space.  Remove any unnecessary furniture and put it into storage.  If you can remove clothing from the closets and put it into self storage you make the closets feel bigger.  Reduce all the extra clutter throughout the house to make it feel bigger, more spacious and buyer friendly!
  4. Fix big problems:  If your house has a big problem that will turn a lot of buyers off, fix it!  Shag carpeting in the living room? Consider changing it out with fresh new carpeting.  Non-working water softener?  Pay to have it fixed, or get a new one. ( We actually did this).   Big hole in the wall?  Get some drywall and patch it up.  Ugly peeling linoleum in the kitchen? Put in new flooring.  Anything that can cause instant dislike for your house should be fixed, as long as it isn’t too expensive.
  5. Fix smaller problem areas around the house:  Go throughout the house and take notes of all  the small things that need fixing that may be a turnoff to a potential buyer.  Take the time to go around and fix those things one by one.  If you noticed them, the buyer will too! When we sold our house we ended up repainting some trim on the outside of the house, repainting several rooms that had scratches and marks on the wall, and removed some rubber marks on the kitchen linoleum.    It only took us one or two days of hard work, but in the end the house looked much better, and was more inviting to a buyer.
  6. Consider staging the house:  When we sold we actually staged the house to make the rooms feel more spacious, give it a less cluttered look and a make people feel more at home.  In the living room we removed several larger pieces of furniture, and replaced them with smaller more luxurious pieces from our parent’s houses – in a different layout.   We took our personal photos down and put up framed art pieces.  We removed all the magnets and photos from the fridge, and put up nice valances on the windows.  Watch a lot of HGTV and try to emulate what the experts do to stage a house!
  7. Offer bonuses to agents or buyers: consider offering a bonus to the first agent to bring in a full price offer, or offer to pay closing costs for a buyer (this might be especially attractive for first time buyers).  I’ve even heard of buyers offering to pay a years worth of homeowner’s association fees. Be creative.
  8. Use the power of the web and your personal networks to market your house:  Don’t rely on the listing that your agent has put online to sell your house. Use other online venues to help sell your house.  Put an ad on craigslist, use sites like zillow.com or trulia.com, get your own url with the house’s address (4000wooodland.com), promote the house through social media like facebook and twitter, and send out a copy of your listing to people on your email list.  Sometimes word of mouth is one of the best ways to market a house.
  9. Get a good agent to help you sell:  Get a good agent to help sell your house, not a friend of a friend – or your aunt Agnes who just got her real estate license. Your house is one of your biggest assets, and this is no time to do someone else a favor.   Call a local real estate office and ask for their top salesperson.  Interview a few agents and ask them to tell you what their marketing plan is for your home.   Use someone who understands the power of the internet, the importance of good wide angle interior photos, and an overall marketing strategy for  your house.
  10. When the house is showing, keep the house clean and don’t be there!:  When you are having an open house, or the house is having a showing, make sure that you aren’t there. There’s nothing more annoying than having the home’s owners in a house when you’re trying to look at it.  Also, make sure to keep the house spic and span to make sure that it shows well.  Finally consider baking cookies before a showing, or lighting one of those cinnamon roll candles. It will give the house a pleasant aroma, and people will feel at home.

Selling your house in a down market isn’t an easy task, but you can still do some hard work along the way and make your chances that much better.  In the end your house will show better, and you’ll be able to sell your house that much quicker.

Do you have your own tips for things that can make a home sell faster?  Were there things that you did when selling your house that made it more attractive to buyers?  Let us know about it in the comments!

Last Edited: 28th November 2012

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    • says

      I agree that price is pretty important. That’s why it’s number 1 on the list. We’ve noticed homes in our neighborhood that people are trying to sell that are priced the same as when they bought two years ago, even when there are several identical foreclosure homes in the neighborhood selling for 40-50,000 less. If you want to sell quick being realistic about the price is extremely important.

  1. says

    We have a similar co-op as ours competing with us. It was actually on the market longer and priced lower. It’s still on the market and ours is in contract for a higher price than the competing co-op.

    What got it done? We cleared out all the clutter and personal items we could. We re-painted, replaced blinds, cleaned like madmen, showed the place whenever we could…everything on your list and more.

    It was a lot of work but not a lot of expense for the return. We happen to know the other person selling and she just doesn’t “get” what she needs to do to sell. Price is important but sometimes you have to do more.

    One comment we kept receiving over and over was how clean the place was.

    Also, I took my own pictures with a DSLR to put on the multiple listing site. Our agent was going to come by with a tiny point and shoot and just slap whatever she got up there. It’s all about appearances!

    And I love that you mention not being in the house during a showing. We started doing that towards the end and we noticed that people stayed longer to look around. I think people are generally uncomfortable poking around when the owners are standing there.

    FFBs last blog post..Car Allowance Rebate System – Cash For Clunkers

  2. says

    I have had great success giving Real Estate Agents a Scentsy (wickless candles) Plug-In Warmer with a wax scented bar to use at open homes. The feedback has been positive and they said it enhances the home feeling. We have bakery scents such as cinnamon bun or cookies. I also have real estate agents who buy the plug-ins as closing gifts. They are a great price point ($23.00 shipping and tax for plug-in and bar) and people love receiving this gift. If you are interested in receiving a free Plug-In and bar just let me know at brown.rebecca.21@gmail.com.

  3. Elisabeth Gardner says

    I have read many different sites on the internet to get tips that a house get selling faster. I really tryed them all and nothing really works. I have an very good real estate agent, a house that is priced right, clean, 7 years old, and there are no repairs at all needed. It has four beautiful fenced and cross-fenced acres and a huge side building in the same sidebuild like the house.
    This is a perfect horse or animal property and the house has 3 bedrooms and 2 .5 baths. On top is a separate big room that can be used as an office with separate entree heat and aircondition. For 2 years now is this house on the market and we dropped the prise already over $100.000 and still not one offer. I’m ready to give up… Even my agent has no idea why it is not selling.
    So where is the way to sell? Maybe nobody want to live in south east Arizona.
    Maybe someone has an idea what I can do more? to look it up here is the MLS number: 137046

  4. says

    I surely understand how the sellers feel when they set up what they think to be a fair price for their house and when people don’t want to buy it. It’s harder and harder to achieve credits and that’s why a lot of people decide to wait and the real estate businesses are blocked.

  5. says


    I couldn’t agree more with your first tip. They say when it’s not about the price, it’s about the price. Here in Cincinnati we’ve seen inventory starting to move (although it might take another 2-3 years) this is good news for sellers looking to sell their house fast.

    Most sellers looking to sell on the open market just don’t have a clue about these 10 important items they must do. In this market a seller has no choice, they must do everything they can to stand out from all the other houses just like there’s. Thanks for the good input!

    Mitch Painter

    • says

      Not pricing their home right is one of the biggest mistakes people make. They think their home is worth more than it truly is, and they build their memories they’ve made into the home price. Unfortunately most people aren’t willing to pay for that.

  6. Kim Anderson says

    We have had our house on the market for approximately six weeks. We have had four showings. Each showings feedback was, the house is nice but needs upgrading in the kitchen and two bathrooms. We decided to reduce the price becuase of the upgrade that is needed in those rooms. What else should we do?

  7. says

    When using any online listing, make sure the listing has the most complete and updated information. Also quality plus a large quantity of images will improve the amount of attention you will receive.

    Staging a home does give you the best chances when I come to selling your home, and yes it takes time and work, but if it is done right the faster you will sell your house. I give my clients action planned guides full of simple tools to help them out. Buyers search with theirs over all needs & wants first then narrow down by photo then lastly property information.

    Knowing that it is important to give them a complete look in and out of your home. One thing that helps buyers to understand photographs is a floor plan that has dimensions. Most properties do not include this and that makes buyers guess.

    Take out the guess work and your listing views will improve greatly.

  8. mik dog says

    We had an offer within four days of listing. We made an offer on our new place. The a**wipe buyers backed out ten days later, so we missed our big pop. Just goes to show some people are losers. Minor repairs on the house at best and nothing of repair significance. No problem dger to repair anything. Thanks a**clowns.

  9. Cheryl says

    I bought my house as a single mom about 30 years ago and it was fine for me and my oldest son, sump pump in the basement and the low ceilings upstairs and all. I remarried and we raised thre boys in the house and loved it, but now time to sell and it seems like everybody wants a new house that is perfect. Any suggestions on how to make a house like mine attractive to a buyer?

    • Lauren says

      I’m a newlywed and my husband and I are looking to sell our lovely, large 4-year-old home in order to move closer to work and church. My husband bought this home as a foreclosure several years ago, so we doubt we’ll be able to afford anything comparable now as the housing market in our area is slowly on the rise. We’ve been touring a lot of homes that sound like yours. I have a pretty fix-it-up type family, so I can usually see a lot more potential in these houses than my husband can. However, here are a few things that help older homes get higher scores from us:
      Especially in older houses, use light paint colors; it makes a huge difference in the rooms feeling airy and clean. If your house has drop ceilings, evaluate how much effort it would be to raise them (this wasn’t difficult, but made a HUGE improvement when my parents moved into my grandparent’s home). Both my husband and I are highly allergic to things like mold, mildew, cigarette smoke and pets, so not only is that a massive negative to us on houses that have these issues, but it also hurries our tour along, since we physically can’t stay in the building long enough to evaluate its positives. Since older houses often don’t have large windows, make sure you use plenty of lamps to help the rooms feel bright. We get frustrated when we walk through an older home with insufficient lighting because we feel like the owners are hoping the darkness will hide faults…whether that’s the case or not! Hopefully something here will help you out! Good luck with your house.

  10. zachary Taylor says

    I am selling my 2 bedroom coop in Yonkers, NY. My wife and i remodeled the bath seven years ago. We had to move due to family issues . the agents i had over told me to clean the place up. i plastered and sanded the walls and painted took old window treatments down disgusting . i pulled up the old sheet vinyl and had the floors sanded. i listed it at 144,900. it was not showing. My agent said to drop price so i did $2,000 . I had a few showing after that one said he did not like the bedroom off the kitchen.My wife does not want to drop price anymore. some say it was to small other said oh i have a dog which they are not allowed. any suggestions?

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