When a Seller Asks: “How long will it take my house to sell?”

The question, “How long will it take my house to sell?” is what I call a piece of string question – it’s exactly the same sort of question that asking “how long is a piece of string?” is – there’s no way to answer it realistically. “How high is up?” is another example of a question that can’t really be answered with any certainty. Yet I doubt if any property has ever been listed with a real estate agent where the owner hasn’t asked, “how long will it take to sell this?” It’s the nature of the beast. The seller has come to what for him is a big decision; now that he’s decided to sell the property he’s got dollar signs in his eyes and visions of getting rid of the property in question. I strongly suspect most sellers realize you won’t have the answer to the question – not any exact way. Sellers understand this intuitively even if they have very little experience in the real estate market.

What is the seller really asking?

You can use the question to find out what’s really going on in the seller’s mind. Part of this depends on where in the listing process you are. If you just started interviewing the potential seller about his property and businesses are to sell, he may ask” how long will it take to sell?” is sort of the test. He’s hoping you will say something like, “oh by the end of next week,” but even if you did he wouldn’t believe you. The seller hopes for an honest guesstimate on your part about how long the sales process is likely to be. So, when you’re ready, give him your best answer. You might first, however, respond with a question to him. This might be a good place to talk about how pricing affects the pace of the sale. If you determine he wants out in a hurry for whatever reason you can point out that the lower he’s willing to price property the more likely it is to sell quickly. On the other hand you may have the seller who has a wholly unrealistic view of the high value of this property. It’s up to you to give him the facts about what the house is probably worth and what the effect will be if he prices it much above perceive market value. If the price is totally unrealistic you may want to pass on the listing altogether. Consider carefully if listing a severely overpriced property that you any good or not.

You want your answer to be honest

You want to be careful answering a question like when will the property sell by answering with a range of possibilities. It makes better sense to say something like, “homes in this area typically sell within three weeks of listing.” You’re leaving yourself some wiggle room and you’re not promising anything you can deliver. Clients don’t always hear this kind of answer clearly so you probably want to say at several ways. In other words don’t let the client focus on the three weeks so much as the idea that properties in the neighborhood do sell fairly rapidly.

If there’s a problem pointed out

If the property you’re considering listing has a problem you know will slow the sale, say so. It’s far better to suggest the fact the house doesn’t have have a view may slow the sale than to focus on view homes nearby that sold almost overnight. If the home is dim and poorly lighted and doesn’t show well, tell the owner the truth. You can then help them decide if it makes sense to lower the price, fixe some of the problems or some combination. Sure, you may lose a listing occasionally with this kind of open and honest approach. Chances are, however ill make up the income with sellers who appreciate your honest approach. How do you answer, “how long will it take this property to sell?” Let us know in comments.
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