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Why isn't my apartment selling—and should I get a new broker?

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My SoHo loft has been on the market for almost three months now. Initially, we had 15 showings the first week, but interest has dwindled since then, even though we're priced at or below comps in our neighborhood. (We also priced at the same PPSF of a recent sale in our building of an apartment that needs a full renovation, which ours does not.) Our broker is from a small firm and very available and diligent, but are we doing something wrong here? Would we be better off working with someone from a larger company?


It likely doesn't make a difference whether your broker is from a small firm or a larger one, say our experts, but there are plenty of factors that might be keeping your apartment from selling, and it's time to have a frank conversation about them with your broker.

"Having worked in a large corporate firm and now a boutique firm I can honestly say that my value to a seller has not increased or decreased because of the brokerage I decide to associate with," says Beth Gittleman, head of sales at Bohemia Realty. "If a property isn't selling there are review points that should be looked at which any broker at any firm can adhere to."

First and foremost, you'll want to take a second look at your pricing to make sure it's truly competitive. "Your agent looks to have used sound logic in their pricing, but it's possible this segment of the market has declined," says Miller Samuel appraiser Jonathan Miller. 

"It sounds like your apartment was priced appropriately, but be careful with recent comparables, as some sales were slightly higher even a year ago—I believe that spring 2014 was the peak of our current market," concurs Corcoran broker Deanna Kory. "So it's important to review the price-per-square-foot, and compare to current comparable listings in contract, and very recent closed sales within the past one to two months."

Also, since your apartment is a loft, you'll want to make sure that the layout is being represented (and priced) correctly. "Layouts vary greatly in lofts, and if yours is missing a bedroom relative to the apartment in your building that sold, that could be a very major factor in why that listing achieved a higher price per square foot," says Kory.

Staging is key as well. "Staging can be a significant reason that an apartment does not sell," says Kory. "Either the renovation is too 'taste specific,' and people don't want to re-renovate on a recent renovation, or, the décor is not appealing."

"I have had properties sell faster and higher with minimal effective staging," adds Gittleman. "Do you have light or view issues in your apartment and how do you combat that?" To this end, you may want to consider re-taking or rearranging your listing photos to make the place more visually appealing, she notes.

Some other details to take into account: If your agent has listed your place on as many platforms as possible; whether you're offering a wide variety of open house times (weeknights are smart in the summer, because people leave for vacation on the weekends, says Gittleman, and some buyers vastly prefer private showings); and if there's anything unappealing about the building (bed bugs, bad financials, your apartment is a walk-up on a higher floor) that you might need to address with buyers.

"There's a solution for every objection that can be brought up about your property, and these should be discussed prior to listing," Gittleman advises. 

To determine all of this, you'll need to have an honest, thorough talk with your broker to determine how effectively they're working on your sale, and if it makes sense to re-think your current sales technique, or start from scratch with a new agent. 

"Your broker should give you regular reporting on the listing activity, and should be ready to make adjustments to the sale so you can gain more interest," says Gittleman. "What feedback has the broker provided from buyers and other brokers? And what obstacle-solving techniques have they shared with you? Do they acknowledge the property isn't selling?"

Your broker should be very willing to sit down with you and discuss strategy, and if not, Gittleman recommends going over their head to the firm's sales manager.

As far as finding someone new to represent your sale, Kory notes, "If your agent has a good track record, switching has a limited upside." In part, this is because buyers these days are savvy enough that just because your apartment is re-listed with new photos and a new agent, doesn't mean they'll assume it's brand-new to the market.

"That being said, there is a reason that there are top salespeople and others who are good, but not great," she adds. If you don't feel that the agent is a good salesperson, and, more to the point, if they're reluctant to address any of the issues discussed above, "then definitely switch," Kory says.

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