Properties should have a 'sell-by-date'

by Alistair Helm in

It would be very unlikely for you to find a property with a ‘sell by date’ or a ‘use by date’. Hopefully properties should last a lifetime or more. However when it comes to selling properties you could argue that there could be or maybe should be an effective ‘sell by date’.

A property placed on the market to sell is effectively on-the-market for what would be anticipated to be a relatively short period of time. This time period should be sufficient to undertake a marketing campaign, attract prospective buyers and facilitate a sale. A period of perhaps between 3 and 5 weeks. Right?

If that was the case, the number of properties on the market at any one time should be no more than represented by a couple of months worth of sales. Based on current rate of sale that would be around 15,000 properties. Yet at this moment in time there are over 43,000 properties on the market with over 500 having been added since New Years Day.

Run down house iStock_000003123748XSmall.jpg

Lurking amongst these 43,000 property listings are quite a few that are collecting a lot of dust and not really being actively viewed.

It may come as somewhat of a surprise that just under 1 in 5 of the properties currently on the market today have been listed for more than a year.

As the chart below shows the make up of the 43,497 properties on the market today is quite interesting. Amazingly over 200 of them were listed before the property crash actually began to take effect in 2008.

Over 1,400 have been on the market for more than 1,000 days. These are clearly the forgotten properties – or so you might have thought.

It is important to note that a listings for a property for sale gets loaded on to the websites of and Trade Me with a unique listing date which relates to the property, the listings number and agent, if that property is not withdrawn it will stay on the site indefinitely until the listing agent withdraws it - so effectively all these properties are "for sale"! If the property is withdrawn and listed by a new agent it will become a new listing.

So what to make of these listing stuck on the market on the market for what seems like an eternity?

As is often stated properties are not commodities that are placed on supermarket shelves, neither are they used cars which can be easily classified (there are many options for a 5 year old Toyota Corolla). Properties are unique. The pool of likely buyers for a property (who can afford it!) is never very large and the intersection of these prospective buyers and their desire to move at that time is in some ways a game of chance.

You might list a property for sale only to discover (or never discover) that the buyer who most wanted to buy just moved last week!

The point is the marketing of a property is a game of chance – the key is to make an impression to capture the greatest and widest interest and audience. If this campaign over a 4 week period fails to capture interest then the best advice in my mind is to withdraw from the market for a month or so and then try again. This approach gives you the most effective way of created ‘new’ interest each time.

To be seen to be ‘on-the-market’ for a year or more would seem to me to be seen as not really that interested in selling. Surely you don’t want to be down at the bottom of page 2,321 on the website when people only ever look at the first couple of pages!