Pat Kennedy - Your Washington, DC Real Estate Connection


The Top Things That Will Make It Really Hard For Your Agent to Sell Your House

Why do some houses sit around for ages while their neighbors fly off the shelf? 

The sellers often think their home lingers because it's something their agent is doing or not doing.  And sometimes they are right.  But more often than not, unsuccessful sellers have a terrific agent whose advice they totally ignore. 

  • They don't prepare the house for the market.  They argue that buyers will be able to use their imagination.  Buyers either won't notice the bathtub scum, the moldy leftovers in the fridge, or the clutter.  They'll see the potential.  Buyers have no imagination and they don't get potential unless they are potential renovators looking for a bargain. 
  • They smoke in their house.  If your house smells like an all night poker game, even buyers who smoke will probably pass on it.
  • They are annoyingly inflexible about letting in agents and buyers.  What?  You want to show my house in a half hour?  Sorry, but I'm covering my gray.  Go away!  If I can't show it, I can't sell it.  Sorry.  If you're a pill about showings, you are sending the buyer's agent a message that you'll probably be a pill throughout the transaction!  
  • When they do let people in, they "help" the buyers' agents do their jobs, following them around like they might steal the family silver.   They point out all of the home's features that the agent might otherwise miss. Even though the buyer broker may never have been in the house in her life, she doesn't need your help.  Really!
  • They tape little signs to the walls to point out all of the extra features they lovingly added to the house.  Most of them are totally obvious things and they sort of annoy the showing agents.  Many of the features they point out aren't even plusses to many of the buyers looking at the house.
  • The sellers stage their house with potpourri, scented candles, and those little "plug ins".  Buyers hate those things - the only smell is no smell at all
  • Their adorable doggy enthusiastically greets buyers with a wag of the tail and a sniff to your, well, you know.  Even if he's not a Realtor-eating dog, he needs to be gone.  Now, I love dogs (one in particular), but they no matter how cute and friendly the dog, he needs to be out of the house or somehow confined when the house is being shown.  
  • They price the house way above market, explaining to their agent, "Hey!  It just takes one!"  Actually, it doesn't work that way.  While price isn't the only factor, it's probably the most important one.

In real estate school, they explain that there are 4 basic elements in a marketing plan:  condition, access, price and marketing.  The seller controls everything but the marketing, and even the most ambitious market plan won't work without the other three puzzle pieces fitting into place.

And yes, even in a sellers' market, it's completely possible for your house to sit unsold. 


If you are planning a move to or from the Washington area, I can help.  I am licensed in DC, Maryland and Virginia.   Please email me at or call 202-549-5167. 

Search all listings in the DC Metro area.

Comment balloon 74 commentsPatricia Kennedy • April 16 2013 08:37PM


Pat:  What an excellent list.  The seller is in control of all of these things that can have anywhere from a minor to a major effect on whether, when and how much a home sells for.

One thing I noticed is that in several of the points... mention of the seller actually being IN the home when it was being shown.  To me, that is a major no-no.  I just about insist that my sellers NOT be home during showings.  If they have to pack up and go for a ride, they should do it.  Anything to get them out, and allow the buyers and their agent the time and the freedom to get the "feel" of the home.

Sometimes I sit my buyers down at the kitchen table and we chat about the home.  Occasionally that leads to us actually writing an offer right then and there at the kitchen table.  No buyer, at least none that I have met, will sit at the table and write an offer if the seller is in the home. 

Great post... "suggested."

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) about 7 years ago
Hi Pat, This is superb and should be put in a brochure and given to every Seller. I am suggesting this.
Posted by William Johnson, Retired Real Estate Professional (Retired) about 7 years ago

Yes, very frustrating points, and not only for the listing agent but also for the selling agent, who cannot show the home or has to deal with the sellers as they try to follow the buyers around the  house.

Posted by Susanna Haynie, Colorado Springs Realtor GRI CNE MCNE ePro MRP (CO-RE Group, LLC -Real estate sales and services) about 7 years ago

Pat, When the seller becomes the guide I just have to step in and say I can take over from there. The scented candles and perfumes get me too.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent (Platinum Properties) about 7 years ago

Thanks for this post.  I think that every seller should see this post.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) about 7 years ago

Pat, Great list of potential deal killers!  We've either walked into one of these homes for sale, or had them for sale ourselves.  Either way, no fun.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 about 7 years ago

Pat, you nailed it.  Now if we could only convince our clients to believe us when we, oh so gently, bring these subjects up.

Posted by Joy Baker, So NH RE & Short Sale Specialist (RE/MAX Insight) about 7 years ago

It has never bothered my when a seller was around as if we had questions we could get the answer but I would never let them take over

Posted by Charles Stallions Real Estate Services, Buyers Agent 800-309-3414 Pace and Gulf Breeze,Fl. (Charles Stallions Real Estate Services Inc) about 7 years ago

Karen Anne, like you, I insist that my buyers be out of the house when it's being shown.  But when I 'm showing, it's not unusual for the seller to be lurking.  Makes me nuts!

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (Redfin) about 7 years ago

Pat, I think you meant "my sellers"... and Joyce, I can take care of any questions the buyers may have.  But, I want the sellers GONE.  I am not there to only "show" their home... I am there to show it, and sell it.  And sometimes, as I said, selling (writing the offer) can happen at the kitchen table of the seller's home... while I was "showing" it.

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) about 7 years ago

Thanks Pat, great tips for keeping a home, I generally encounter these issues when touring homes with renters in them.

Posted by Bob Crane, Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671 (Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities) about 7 years ago

So true Pat. I have had buyers say they feel freaked out when the seller won't leave the house while they are viewing it and hate unusual hours. Yes if you have a small child and one or two hours a day for nap time but do you really want to cooperate and sell?

Thanks, good job

Posted by Noah Seidenberg, Chicagoland and Suburbs (800) 858-7917 (Coldwell Banker) about 7 years ago
Pat- These are types of things that will make is almost impossible to sell a home, especially at a decent price. Thanks for your help this week. We did DC at a dead run for 8 hours.
Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) about 7 years ago

Pat: All of those things are detrimental to selling the home. And the sellers there? Makes it very uncomfortable for the potential buyers.

Posted by Hella Mitschke Rothwell, Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker ((831) 626-4000) about 7 years ago

Pat,  this is a great list for Sellers.  I love the comment "If I can't show it, I can't sell it." 

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) about 7 years ago

Pat - How about the seller who is there watching TV and sort of grunts at you when you come in? I've seen that, and also been in one where a group of children sat and stared at us. In both cases we made a fast exit.

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) about 7 years ago

Hi Pat -- great checklist for sellers.   How about the sellers who think they are disappearing only to be "stalking" the house from the back yard or across the street waiting for you and the buyers to leave -- "we seeeeee you!" and makes everyone just a bit uncomfortable so we're probably going to rush through your house.   

Posted by Michael Jacobs, Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393 about 7 years ago

This is a great list, Pat. Have a great week!

Posted by Mike Warren (Real Estate) about 7 years ago

This is terrific Pat.  While a trashed house will sell, not for as much as it could if your tips were followed.  Again, sound advice!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Excellent advice for home sellers. It is so easy to lose the interest of prospects before they even get to the contract stage.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) about 7 years ago

Great list, Patricia.  I wish that more sellers will read your post.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) about 7 years ago

Amen, Pat.  There is very little to add to that great list of reasons a house sits or doesn't sell.  I see a lot of sellers who are just plain tired when the time comes to sell.  They assume the buyer will take over all of the deferred maintenance and repairs.  I sold one last year that my sellers made the house look like it had never been lived in, and it sold in 12 hours.  Buck up sellers, and become a part of the solution. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) about 7 years ago

Yes, that just about covers it, all in one place, great post!

Posted by Vanessa Saunders, From Manhattan to the Catskills of New York (Global Property Systems Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Nailed it!  Way to tell them Patricia! :)

Posted by Cassandra Boyes, HSR Certified Home Stager, Staging Barrington-Lake Geneva, (Orchestrated Designs) about 7 years ago

It's really too bad that sellers sabotage the sale of their homes usually due to stubborness. 

Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (Keller Williams Realty) about 7 years ago

I went shopping once in a market and came across product that had dust on the outside of the package. This tells me the place is filthy, the product has been there a while and quality is in doubt...Selling a home for hundred of thousands of dollars with any defect raises doubts

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) about 7 years ago

Hi pat, Good post, you stole my thunder i was just about to do a "Seller" post with most of these gripes. Well done!

Posted by Helen and Larry Prier- Re-Max Gateway - Residential Real Estate, Anacortes & surrounding Skagit & Island Counties (RE-MAX Gateway- Residential Real Estate Sales) about 7 years ago

Hey, thank you for all of your comments! 

As both listing agents or buyer brokers, we run into these types of sellers.  Often they really just want to be helpful, oblivious to the real impact of their efforts!  Other times, I think they really are pills who are making some poor colleague crazy. 

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (Redfin) about 7 years ago

Pat, I like your Top 10 reasons .... Sellers need to really get that there is only so much an agent can do. Selling a home is a team effort and it requires full cooperation from those that occupy the home.  Absent that ... all the marketing in the world won't get the job done.

Posted by Kathleen Daniels, San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist (KD Realty - 408.972.1822) about 7 years ago

So true.  All wonderfully presented. I just had an open house where every room had a scented candle . . .  to blow out.

Posted by Brad MacKenzie, Turning Houses into Homes on the South Shore (Brad MacKenzie) about 7 years ago
Yes, those items can make marketing a house become a serious nightmare for all. Very good information for all Sellers.
Posted by Paula McDonald, Ph.D., Granbury, TX 936-203-0279 (Beam & Branch Realty) about 7 years ago

I have a listing like that it is the price, we have had offers at market but the seller still thinks it will take just one.

Posted by Linda Coffey, Your Haymarket & Gainesville Area Expert (Long & Foster) about 7 years ago

This is a great list Patricia. I love the 4 basic elements of a marketing plan:  condition, access, price and marketing. 

Posted by Ridhi Raheja, FHA, 203k, VA, Jumbo, PreApproval, Jumbo Home Loan (Movement Mortgage (Illinois)) about 7 years ago

Patricia, good points that will definitely keep the house on the market for a very long time.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA about 7 years ago

Reading the first few, I had a flashback to my mother trying to sell her house.  She was difficult about showings, followed folks around and talked incessantly about how much she loved the place.   Oh...and she smoked all the time so the place needed to be fumigated.  Thankfully, when she moved into her next home, we were able to overcome the obstacles she had put in our way...herself being one of them.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) about 7 years ago

If buyes are paying the price, and in a lot of markets they are now that inventory is in short supply, they want to see the home to near perfection as possible.  What you laid out is not perfection to today's buyers.

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) about 7 years ago

All good tips, sellers need to understand that they have to make their home comfortable to buyers. 

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) about 7 years ago

Hi Pat - great list of ways sellers sabotage their own sales.  Especially now with the market shifting so quickly, this blog is a must-read for all sellers!

Posted by Wayne and Jean Marie Zuhl, The Last Names You'll Ever Need in Real Estate (Samsel & Associates) about 7 years ago
Instant reblog with this prelude...I love no nonsense posts. This one from Patricia Kennedy brings up many touchy topics. Contain the well loved pooch. No smell is the best Smell. A pill is a pill. No signs please. No help please. Overpriced means you blew the biggest thing. Not the only one, just the biggest one.
Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge about 7 years ago

Hi Pat ~ great tips for serious sellers in today's market!  I hope you'll consider including this post in the "Stage It Forward" Group too because your advice is spot-on and needs to be repeated :-)

Posted by Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging, "Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes" (Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR) about 7 years ago

Patricia, sometimes, some sellers make it difficult impossible to sell the home and blame it on agents - wish we could help them. (After all, it's all about motivation.....and listening to their expert agent. Unfortunately, the consumer thinks he/she is smarter than the agent, many times, leading to this situation.)

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) about 7 years ago

Lots of good points. Here usually the price is the issue. If the seller isn't flexible probably won't sell.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max By The Sea) about 7 years ago

EXCELLENT!!!  I would like to add:  They don't allow photos to be taken.  Idiots!

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) about 7 years ago

Well stated! I'm re-blogging. I had a seller (just put them in Pending) that had 3 large dogs that they would tether outside for showings. Had an agent call to show, I thought she was going to cry, because there were dogs on the property.  Joy

Posted by Joy Carter & Jeff Booker Brother and Sister Team, Trust Your Family's Move To Our Expertise! (Keller Williams Parkland/Coral Springs Realty-GreatFloridaHomes Team) about 7 years ago

Eventually they come around if they're really motivated to get out of there.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) about 7 years ago

Patricia-I just picked up a new listing where the owners said they fired the last agent because he said it only takes on good buyer to step up, and now after I've brought them 3 offers they tell me it only takes one. LOL. What's a broker to do?

Posted by Adrian Willanger, Profit from my two decades of experience (206 909-7536 about 7 years ago

Great facts about why a home doesn't sell.  I HATE the stupid placards all over the house telling 'features'.  That's the reason I do a feature sheet that the buyers get when they enter.  I also don't consider your 'new' storm door a top selling feature (is that a guy thing?).

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) about 7 years ago
Access or very difficult showing boundaries are frustrating to buyers and to agents. These homes usually have less photos than the norm as well, leaving buyers to wonder what is wrong with the house. I had a showing on a home yesterday where I have gently offered to contact a professional cleaning company with no success. The written feedback from the agent started with, "the house was not very clean, but we had scheduled the showing on short notice". Meaning the wishful thinking of the buyers agent was that it was dirty because they didn't have time to prepare for the showing. I appreciate the benefit of the doubt...but guess what? My seller asked me to send the list of cleaning people. :)
Posted by Karen Feltman, Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group) about 7 years ago

Good list.  Prep counts for sure and adds value.  In the end price is the biggest factor.

Posted by Frank Castaldini, Realtor - Homes for Sale in San Francisco (Compass) about 7 years ago

thanks for the post very useful information

Posted by Ron Aguilar, Mortgage & Real Estate Advisor since 1995 (Continental Mortgage) about 7 years ago

Very nice post. I do a "Selling Your Home" class connected to a local school district's  recreation and adult education series and would like to use this as one of my handouts.  Would you have any objections to me doing so?

Posted by Bill Morrow, Bill Morrow, Associate Broker (Keller Williams of Central PA) about 7 years ago

Excellent post. I too really like the four basic elements of a marketing plan.

Posted by Debra Hight, Debra Hight (Coldwell Banker United, Realtors) about 7 years ago


Well written post and oh so ripe for a great re-blog!

Posted by Debbie Cook, Silver Spring and Takoma Park Maryland Real Estate (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc) about 7 years ago

OMG - I could not agree with you more! The stuff I see nearly on a daily basis would make your hair stand on end.

The sellers you mention seem to be the ones who also think their house is the nicest one in the neighborhood and want to price at the very top end of the market.

I LOVE dogs too - that doesn't mean my potential buyers do. Kennel (or ideally remove) pets for showings....period.

Last week I showed a house that was owned by the listing of the instructions I got when I set up the showing appointment was "don't let the cat out"....??? HUH???? You'd think she'd know better.

PS Smokers who "only smoke in the garage" don't get it either.

PPS As Debbie above wrote, well written post and so ripe for a reblog! =)

Posted by Edith Schreiber, Dallas Area Real Estate (Luxury Homes, Move Up Buyers, 1st Time Homebuyers, New Construction) about 7 years ago

Hi Patricia, great post and great list.  We will turn them into some positives and send out to our just listed.

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) about 7 years ago

Great post!  Well worth a Re-Blog so others can see it.  Often it is easy for the seller to blame "us" while they in turn are not being flexible.

Posted by Julie Brown, Broker-Associate, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (Steffes Group, Inc.) about 7 years ago

Great blog! I am going to reblog it... maybe a few Charlotte area sellers will get the "hint!"

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Realty) about 7 years ago

Pat,  Great points in your post.  Homeowners don't realize that their property is now a marketable sales item and not their personal home.  Met a woman yesterday at a networking meeting and her townhouse has sat for 2 months on the market.  She gave me a link to give my impression of her pics.  She had a double strike the moment the buyer stepped in the door...very tall stairs (can't do anything about that) and then the room to the left was mint green with an alphabet border. She described it as a playroom but it was filled with a couch, coffee table desk and recliner.  CONFUSING!  I encouraged her to paint and choose a purpose for the room.  She I really have to paint?  To top it off she was blaming the Realtor for it sitting as you said above.

Posted by Susan Kirk, Home Staging in MD, VA, DC, ASP (Refreshing Innovations) about 7 years ago

Pat- these are all excellent points.  A pet peeve of mine are what you said about the plug-ins, candles, etc.  Buyers are onto this.  Some will be allergic to it, some will have to walk outside because it's too much, and some might wonder what you're trying to cover up. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) about 7 years ago

Dear Patricia,

Excellent points. These are all good ways to leave money on the table, which is only a problem, if you would like to net more for your home. It does not take that much for most people to show off their home well and prepare themselves for the move in the process.

Posted by Dörte Engel, ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland (RE/MAX Leading Edge) about 7 years ago

Great thank you for this!

Posted by Jynnette Lewis (Rodeo Realty Inc.) about 7 years ago


An excellent read. I see homes being sabotaged all the time by the owners. They may not realize that what they are doing, or not doing, is causing buyers and agents to lose interest, or not even bother coming to see the home at all. Not listening to the advice of a knowledgeable agent who knows what is going on in this market can be the kiss of death...and no sale.


Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California) about 7 years ago

All good stuff, yet most sellers refuse to heed the advice of their Realtor and worst yet, most Realtors will allow the sellers to dictate the terms and conditions just to get a listing.

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) about 7 years ago

Bravo on the post. Unfortunately,I'm sure we have all had clients that make these same mistakes. All of these "recommendations" don't apply to them for some reason. 

Posted by Gary Burleson, Myrtle Beach Homes, Condos, Foreclosures, Investment Propery (Beach Water Realty - about 7 years ago

Just takes one - UGH!  Possibly my least favorite words to hear from a sellers mouth.

Posted by Jeanne Dufort, Madison and Lake Oconee GA (Coldwell Banker Lake Country) about 7 years ago

OMG!  The little notes drive me INSANE!  I've seen agents do that more than sellers, but it happens by both parties.  One agent had "Stone Fireplace" posted on the Stone Fireplace and "Granite Counter Tops" posted on the Granite Counters.  

I saw a seller who put notes on EVERY ITEM in the house with a price.  No exaggeration, EVERY ITEM.  They wanted $650 for the couch they paid $1,000 for 15 years ago and had the original receipt.  It was crazy!   Now you got me going again!  :)

Posted by Bryan Tobiason (Keller Williams Partners, Inc.) about 7 years ago

Hi Patricia, just came over from Maureen's and your blog says it all.  I love the one about the seller being a pill about showings - there are so many sellers that make it difficult for an Agent to show the house and then wonder why there is no offer-DUH!!!!

Posted by Joanna Cohlan, Designing, Decorating & Staging Westchester Homes (Fresh Eyes For Your Home) about 7 years ago

Nailed it!

Posted by Brian Dodds, Sale or Sail? We do both! (Coldwell Banker Willis Smith - Oriental, NC) about 7 years ago

Great post.  Not showing the house is a really frustrating one.  YOu know make an appoint 24 hours in advance.  Seller will be home, no lock box.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Patricia - All excellent points... thanks.  I do have one question however.  What real estate school did you attend where they taught you a marketing plan?  Most schools only teach you how to pass the state licensing exam!  LOL

Posted by Brad Baylor (ERA Coup Agency) about 7 years ago

This is good advice. I tell this to all my Sellers, usually with modest acceptance. My last listing did everything I asked and it sold in 3 days.

Posted by Wayne B. Pruner, Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI (Oregon First) about 7 years ago

Patricia Kennedy this should be in every sellers package, a great share thanks....

Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) over 4 years ago

David, thanks!  Wow - this is one of my oldies!

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (Redfin) over 4 years ago

Hi, Patricia.  
I this as a reblog on Anna Hatridge 's blog.  Great stuff!

Posted by Carol Williams, Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager (Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals.) over 4 years ago