Does Your House Suck? Here's How to Sell It Anyway


Read any list of recommendations about how to sell your home and you'll get the same advice about how to bring out the best in your property to get top dollar. But let's face it. A lot of homes have more than just cosmetic issues you can fix with a little spackle, paint, and cleaning. Some homes just, well, suck. (See also: How to Sell Your House in 24 Hours)

Maybe your home's perched on a really busy road, or has major structural issues, or a wet basement. Sure, you could fix those things, but with real problem homes, making major repairs can, in itself, be a real financial risk. What to do? Here are some tips on how to get your home sold — despite its flaws.

Assess the Situation

Has your house been on the market for a while? Before you freak out and assume that your home is a total dud, get educated about what's really happening. How hot is the market in your area? How quickly are other, similar homes selling?

You can collect this data yourself, but a real estate agent can also be really helpful here. If that "For Sale" sign is still on the lawn after 30 days but the average days on market for a home is 60 days, it might not be time to worry just yet. Also keep in mind that if your home is less desirable than others in your neighborhood, it'll probably take more than the average time to sell.

Find the Positives

There's nothing more annoying than a real estate listing that makes a dumpy little house sound like the Taj Mahal. After all, you want your house to meet or exceed buyers' expectations, not gobsmack them with a house that's much uglier and less desirable than the listing suggests.

What you can do, however, is figure out what type of person your house might be right for, and try to get that person's attention.

Maybe your home is in a good location for a rental property. If that's the case, find out how much the property might rent for, whether a second or third suite could be added and for how much. Rather than trying to convince potential buyers that your house will meet their needs, figure out whose needs it would best meet and highlight those attributes. You may get fewer showings, but you'll be more likely to attract the right kind of buyers.

Keep It Clean and Tidy

The last time I shopped for a home, I visited a potential option that was so filthy I threw out my socks as soon as I got home. That house may have had potential. It may have been a good value. It may have been only a very thorough cleaning away from being a decent place to live. But I didn't care; I was ready to leave the minute I walked in the door.

A good scrubbing won't fix an ugly home, but it's still important because a home that's too dirty will scare a lot of potential buyers away. No matter the condition of your home, you want people to be able to view it comfortably and assess it without distractions. Bad smells, big messes, and general grossness can be very distracting. Plus, it's a pretty easy fix. (See also: 17 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Inspection Success)

Find Out What It's Missing

Maybe you think your home has some big flaws, but buyers will often focus on the little things. Maybe they're concerned about a broken front step or some mildew around the bathtub. Or maybe they simply can't stand the color of paint you've used. Whatever it is that causes potential buyers to walk away from your home without making an offer, you won't know unless you ask.

After a buyer has viewed your home, ask your realtor to contact them or their agent to find out how they felt about the property. Or, if you're selling your own home, have potential buyers fill out a quick comment card. Sometimes what stops buyers cold is simple. Fix it, and you could be on your way to selling your home.

Get Out

It doesn't matter if you have a newborn baby, a full-time job, and the stomach flu — one of the key things you can do to help sell your home is to make it available to anyone who wants to see it. If someone calls and asks to set up an appointment, get out and let them in. Yes, it's annoying. Yes, it's inconvenient. Yes, it'll probably amount to nothing many times over.

This trick all boils down to simple math: The more people who view your home, the more likely you are to find the one who will be interested in buying it.


When you list your home for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), or even through many for-sale-by-owner systems, your home's listing will include its "days on market." This refers to the number of days your home has been for sale. And, as that number grows, it can spell trouble in terms of bringing in more showings. If your home's been on the market well beyond the average time that it takes other homes in your neighborhood to sell, it might be time to take it off the market for a while. That way, you can allow the people who are already in the market and have already considered your home and passed it up to move on, and to offer your home as a brand-new piece of merchandise to a whole new group of people.

Drop the Price

Okay, now for the fail-proof option no one likes to hear: If your home won't sell, consider dropping the sale price.

In the real estate market, it's the buyers who determine a home's true value. After all, buyers now have access to all the data and listings they want. If your house — based on its amenities, its location, and its current condition — costs more than other properties that are similar or better, no one's going to bite. If it's possible for buyers to get more for their money, they probably know about it. So, in all but the most depressed and over-saturated real estate markets (think Detroit), just about anything will sell if it's listed at the right price.

Maybe your home needs a lot of work. Dropping the price can make putting that sweat equity in more worthwhile for the right buyer. Of course, dropping the price on your home isn't always an option that sellers can afford. But you should know that sometimes, it's the only option that'll work. After all, if your home really does suck, what makes you think someone else will pay top dollar for it?

Have you sold a difficult to sell property? How'd you do it?

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