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Should You Buy a House That Has Been on the Market for Several Months?

Sometimes a homeowner lists a house for sale and receives an offer within days. In other cases, a home goes unsold for months. That can happen for a variety of reasons that may or may not be related to characteristics of the house.

Why a Real Estate Listing May Go ‘Stale’
A house may go unsold because it has one or more serious problems, such as a leaky roof or a cracked foundation. Potential buyers may be unwilling to purchase a house that will need major repairs.

Location may play a role. Buyers may pass over a house that’s in an area with high crime rates, not in a good school district, located near a highway or a factory, or in a place that is undesirable for some other reason.

The house may be overpriced. Although real estate agents try to help their clients set listing prices that will attract buyers, some sellers have unrealistic expectations and insist on asking for higher amounts. Even if a seller later lowers the price, prospective buyers may assume that the price reduction means there is a problem with the house’s condition and it may continue to go unsold.

The owner may not be in a hurry to sell. Sometimes homeowners are thinking about selling but aren’t in any rush, so they list their house to test the waters. A homeowner may want a minimum amount that is non-negotiable and may be willing to wait as long as necessary to find a buyer willing to pay that sum.

It’s also possible that the seller lined up a buyer, but the deal fell through for some reason. If that’s the case, that means the seller had to start again from Square One.

Find Out Why the House Hasn’t Sold
If you come across a listing for a home that has most or all of the features you want, don’t automatically pass on it because of the number of days it has been on the market. Instead, get more information. Ask your real estate agent to find out why the house hasn’t sold and to inquire about the seller’s timetable and reason for listing the property.

You may learn that the house has lingered on the market for reasons that have nothing to do with its condition or location. You may find out that the seller is frustrated and eager to find a buyer as quickly as possible. If that’s the case, that can give you negotiating power and you may be able to buy the house at a bargain. 

Don’t Make a Hasty Decision
Even if the seller is willing to accept a low offer, be sure to have the house inspected, just as you would any other property. An inspector may discover a problem that will cause you to rethink your decision. If the house turns out to be in good condition, you will be able to proceed with confidence that you’re making a wise investment.