Restricted Showing Access Hurts Sales Effort
Recently I sat scratching my head wondering why some Austin real estate sellers make it difficult to show their homes. On this particular day, I was scheduled to pick up a Buyer at a hotel at 10:30 AM. We were going to be looking at homes from about 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM that day. At about 9:00 AM I started calling occupied properties to let the owners know the approximate time I’d be showing up with my buyer, based on the route I had mapped out.
To my amazement, 7 of the 12 listings had owners who imposed some sort of limitation or restriction on the showing process. These ranged from “can you call me right before you get here so I can put the dog out?”, to “can you come at a different time?”, to “you won’t be able to show the upstairs because we’re painting” and, my favorite, “today isn’t a good day, can you come tomorrow?” That owner was so obstinate I asked him “do you want to sell your home or not?! My buyer is only in town today” I ended up scratching that home off the list, as the seller seemed hostile to the idea of letting the home be shown.
Sellers, nothing beats unrestricted access to a beautiful and well-prepared home. Nothing beats a cordial and enthusiastic welcome to show your home when a buyer’s agent calls. Remember, many buyers are relocating to Austin from other states and don’t have the flexibility to work around your schedule. Causing your home to be scratched off the list because you don’t want to be inconvenienced will cost you money and more time on the market. Read further for the stats that prove it.
I decided to see if listings with restricted access take longer to sell. To do this I performed a set of MLS searches on Active Listings in Austin priced between $100,000 and $400,000. I left the higher priced homes out of the equation because at this time the price range over $400,000 is a buyer’s market, and homes below $400,000 are in a seller’s market. I didn’t want the slower selling higher priced homes to skew the average. I did the search in all MLS areas, and limited it to 3 bedroom 2 bath homes, the most common size for sale. I also limited the homes to Travis, Hays and Williamson counties. So I ended up with a sample size of about 1/4 of the total available homes in the Austin MLS.
Now, let’s look at the factors that affect access on a real estate listing. First and foremost, if an MLS Lockbox is not on the property, it can be a hassle to show. So for my first test, I searched for only those listings that have a lockbox on the property, and compared those results to listings that have no lockbox. The results …
Current Listings with lockbox: Average DOM = 78 Days, Median DOM = 63 Days
Current Listings without lockbox: Average DOM = 93 Days, Median DOM = 71 Days
So there you have it. Homes with no lockbox have been actively listed for 19% longer on average than homes with a lockbox. At least in this snapshot of the market, not having a lockbox adds to the selling time. Longer selling time also usually means a lower selling price as buyers feel bolder and more willing to make low offers on homes that have been listed for more than 90 days.
Let’s look at some other factors that restrict showing access to properties. Those are the “Occupancy” status, which can be either “Owner”, “Tenant”, or “Vacant”. There is also the showing instructions (“How to Show”) which, regardless of whether a lockbox is on the home or not, can require calling for an appointment before showing, most often because of a pet on the premises. Those choices can be “Go” (no call needed), “Call and Go”, “Appointment with Occupant”, “Appointment with Agent”, “Appointment with Office” and “Call Agent for Code” (usually a gated community or Alarm on the home).
For my listing survey, I combined “Go” and “Call and Go” as an unrestricted listing, and all of the “Appointment Required” listings as restricted access listings.
Now it gets interesting. It turns out that the occupancy status is as important as accessibility. Occupied properties seem to sell faster than vacant properties. Let’s look at the numbers …
Owner Occupied unrestricted showing = 71 Avg DOM, 60 Median DOM
Owner Occupied restricted showing = 78 Avg DOM, 69 Median DOM
Tenant Occupied unrestricted showing = 77 Avg DOM, 49 Median DOM
Tenant Occupied restricted showing = 123 Avg DOM, 79 Median DOM
Vacant unrestricted showing = 84 Avg DOM, 68 Median DOM
Vacant restricted showing = 95 Avg DOM, 69 Median DOM
Nothing sells faster than an Owner Occupied home. This is because the vast majority of owners are (usually) active partners in the selling process, and furnished homes show better than empty homes. The batch of owners I encountered on the one particular day outlined above is rare. Usually only 1 or 2 out of 10 will be fussy about the showing time on a “Call and Go” listing.
I have to admit I thought the Tenant occupied homes were going to come in 3rd place after Vacant homes. Tenants are often slobs who could care less if the home sells. Often they in fact don’t want the home to sell because they don’t want to move, and they resent having people troop through the home on short notice. You’ll never smell fresh baked cookies, hear soft music, and see all the lights on as you enter a tenant-occupied home for sale. They don’t prep the house and go for walks when the agent arrives, but instead lounge on the sofa watching TV while the home is shown. And they often provide brutally honest answers to buyer questions such as “are your electric bills high?” or “how are the neighbors?” And so it goes.
Yet, astonishingly, the average days on market for tenant occupied “Call and Go” listings is second only to owner occupied listings in the stats above. This appears to indicate that any occupant, even a tenant, is better than none when selling a home so long as the listing allows a ‘Call and Go’.
Restricted (appointment) showings are most often caused by a pet that needs to be removed or secured before the home can be shown. It therefore doesn’t surprise me that restricted showings with Tenants have the highest Average Days on Market at 123. In fact, when I added “pet on premises” to the search, the 123 Days increased to 129. No other combination of access or occupancy status beats that. I feel somewhat vindicated for being so stridently opposed to allowing pets in the rental homes we managed for 15 years in Austin. Having a pet in a rental home has no upside. Only bad things can happen. The increased days on market to sell is certainly a huge downside. Owners tend to be more responsible pet owners than renters, and that may explain why the gap is so much smaller on restricted access owner-occupied listings compared to tenant-occupied listings.
So, why do vacant homes take longer to sell? I’m scratching my head about this. I frankly love showing vacant homes. They’re the easiest to get in and out of, the buyer doesn’t feel rushed, and agents and buyers can feel free to linger and discuss what they like or don’t like about the home. Many homes show very well even while vacant. One would think the owner of a vacant home would have a higher motivation level to sell, and those homes would therefore sell quicker. But the results of my Active Listings survey show otherwise. This seems counter-intuitive to me, that it would be better to have a tenant (with no pet) in a home than to sell it clean and vacant. Of course this is just a snapshot of a sample size of Active Listings as of yesterday. Perhaps I’ll run the test again next month and see if the numbers remain the same.
In conclusion, among the many factors that determine whether a home will sell quickly or not, giving buyers and their agents the smoothest path to an easy showing is one that you as a seller have 100% control over. Maybe the dog can stay with a relative or friend. Maybe you can miss 15 minutes of that football game while you step out to let the home be shown. Maybe you can spend a few extra minutes loading the dishwasher and running the vacuum in the morning before you leave for work. Whatever you do, when a buyer has taken time to fly to Austin, stay in a hotel, and your home has been chosen from the many available as one she wants to see, don’t turn it into a hassle. Make it easy and you’ll have better luck selling.