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How Long Should I Leave My House on the Market?

6/23/10:  I get a lot of  “hits” on this article.  Since I wrote it 2 years ago I decided to update it and make sure the info is timely.  It really is the same situation as it was in 08.   It’s always about asking the right question.


This is another one of those tough, subjective questions that, if you ask 5 people, you may get 5 different answers. At the end of the day, it is also a misleading question because it’s not the “root” question. The root question is “Do you want to sell your house?”

If the answer to that question is “YES” then the answer to how long is simple – “AS LONG AS IT TAKES!”

If selling a home were a medical procedure it would be categorized as very invasive.   It’s not a  fun thing to do.

It doesn’t matter how clean and neat you are in your normal life, there is an entirely new level of neat that one must aspire to when putting the house up for showings.

This article is not about home staging, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it, other than in the context of how much effort needs to go into presentation. To do it right, your home must always be ready to show at a moment’s notice. This means that if you have kids, you have to pretend that they always put all their toys away in neat cubbyholes or toy chests when not playing with them. If you have dogs, you have to be prepared to cage them, put them outside or take them for a long walk. Let’s not even discuss cats – I am an animal lover and have had many cats in my life, but let’s face it, when trying to sell a house, they can be a detraction.

If you’ve staged properly, your house has less clutter. The problem is that piles of clutter often have some things mixed in that you use in everyday life so if you remove the clutter, your day to day life gets a little more complicated.

The point of all this, is that selling a house can be very emotionally wearing and stressful. Aside from the physical inconvenience there is the psychological stress that can come when no one makes an offer. Each time you hear about a showing, you and your spouse will talk about the couple for hours, wondering if they are “the ones”. When someone comes back to look a second time, your emotions soar to new heights as if you pulled 4 of the 6 numbers in the lottery and you’re waiting for the final two numbers to see if you won.

Then, when they don’t make an offer, your hopes are dashed. You call your Realtor in frustration and ask them why the buyers didn’t buy. The Realtor will try and get you feedback from the buyer’s Realtor. You’ll often hear things like “There’s not enough counter space” or “They wanted a yard they could have an inground pool.” No matter what the reason, you say to your Realtor “Well did you tell them that the ones with more counter space are 50K more? Do they really want to pay that much more just for more counters?”

Your Realtor really does understand the frustration. Eventually you’ll have the discussion with them that you need to lower the price in order to sell. You are so emotionally overwhelmed from months of dealing with the stress of showing the house with no results. Your listing agreement with your Realtor is up in a few days so, you pull your house off the market.

For a day or two you actually feel relieved. You don’t have to worry about rushing home to cage the dog when you get a call from a Realtor at 9:30 AM on your cell phone while you’re in your car, telling you that they want to show the house in an hour. You can actually breathe.

Then it surfaces – the reason you wanted to move in the first place – whatever that might be. You and your spouse have a serious discussion and decide that you do really need to sell. You admit that the price might be an issue so you say that you’ll put it on the market for a little less – but this time with a different Realtor. A fresh set of eyes might be just the ticket you think.

This scenario is becoming more and more common in today’s depreciating market. Prices are still falling a bit in most areas because there are so many, many homes on the market. If you want to sell, you have to price it competitively. The buyers who are looking know what your house is worth. So if you want to sell it, you have to provide those buyers something that THEY believe is a good value. Your own opinion of the value really doesn’t mean a thing.

So it’s not a question of how long to keep the house on the market. It’s a question of doing what you can to shorten the time from listing to sale. You do have control.


Rick Schwartz,   REALTOR

Homes for sale in Danbury, Bethel, Brookfield, Newtown, New Fairfield, New Milford, Ridgefield and Redding CT.

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