What Are Some Reasons a Property is on the MLS for over 30 days?

42 Replies

For my first purchase, I will be house hacking in a multifamily property. The examples below just happen to be in PA where I have never lived. The questions apply to any property no matter the State. When I return to the US, I am happy to go anywhere only if there is a sports bar in sight!

While browsing the MLS, I notice that properties sit on the MLS over 45 days. Instantly, I think there is something wrong with them – termite damage, major plumbing issues, structural/foundation problems…etc. I've even seen photos with contractor's equipment lying around. It looks like they walked off - not very attractive. Perhaps financial issues with the investor?

However, there are some properties that are listed as “turn-key” or “newly renovated”, yet they sit on Redfin for over 100 days. (I take the property descriptions with a grain of salt.) My thinking is that this area really isn’t a renter’s market or that the house is too rural for a big interest.

What else can it be? 

#1 For example – https://www.redfin.com/PA/Pittsburgh/7413-Duquesne-Ave-15218/home/74519930 this one looks like college aged party-goers live here, but it states that the two current tenants wish to stay. (Personally, I would renovate the whole thing (lightly) and get new tenants who would pay a few hundred more). An unfinished basement would be a dream!
*if there are two renters, why can’t this sell?* Why are there no investors interested?

#2 https://www.redfin.com/PA/Somerset/363-W-Church-St-15501/home/139058626 This one looks really fresh, but it's appears to be rural. Maybe too rural for an investor? Why do you think this has been sitting on the MLS?

I know to consult a REA to get a more clear story, but at first glance, what can you tell a new investor to be like me? If you came across these properties on the MLS, would you investigate or pass them up?



Hi @Stephanie Ro - we have seen more listings lately, in the lower price points a lot of one house landlords are unloading property, but also more residential seller that had been on the sidelines last year - at least here in Milwaukee. So this is a very healthy development, we needed that. But even so, good deals will sell on the first weekend. We used to see 5-10 offers in spring, now its "only" 2 or 3. If a property sits longer than a week or two then there is something wrong with it and in the end it comes down to two things, price and condition. We see a lot more price reductions now on MLS - sellers have been over confident and pushing it too far.

In every market you have what I call seasoned buyers: they have been looking for a while maybe made an offer or two. They are local experts and have been watching every house in their price range and target neighborhood. If they pass up on a house for 30 days, you are right there is a reason. But that reason may also be an opportunity for you: if it's just price the answer is simple: make an offer! If it's poor marketing or terrible pictures, you won't know until you see it. It could be a diamond in the rough. Finally, condition can be cured with the right price, but stay away from houses with bad bones.

Next, no need to be in a "renters area"! 

When I bought my first duplex in 2008 I had the same notion and was worried if i buy a property in an area with no renters then I can't rent it. I have to chuckle when I think about that. Tenants are like tourists, they don't like to many of their own arround! Today we buy single family homes in the suburbs and rent them to families. Over 1/3 of the US population rents. So don't worry about that.

Most people shop for price, not for value. Price is what you pay, value is what you get. Read that again! Value is a lot harder to understand than price, that's easy. If you have two identical houses, one with newer roof, windows and siding and the other with original from 1920 then you are looking at a 40K difference in value. Typically they will list the house with original exterior 10k less than the one with the new. Look for properties where someone already had spent money one. Every upgrade that has been done in the last ten years is one that you don't have to pay for in the next ten years!

As an agent my advice to new investors is always to define your target tenants first, because that will define your target neighborhood and price range. Next you build your financial model, you basically run your numbers for a fantasy property. Check your numbers against the market until you have found a realistic business model. At that point you will know the size, rents, condition and price - you just dont' have an address, yet. Once you get to this point it becomes very easy to look on MLS, because you actually know what you are looking for.

To get started, at least here in Milwaukee, I would start with house hacking with a duplex. You can get into a deal with low mony down, you learn the all the basics, from the real estate transaction, to landlording, dealing with contractors. Look on YouTube for House Hacking Milwaukee. Total no brainer: it takes care of your single biggest monthly expense: housing. And frees up more money to save for the next deal. Hope this helps!

Thank you so much for sharing this! Have you found success renting 2 bed, 1 ba SFH or is 3 beds more desirable? Also where do you post house for rent for the suburb areas? Would love to connect as I'm in Milwaukee market too! Thanks!

@Stephanie Ro Right now in my market the price and the condition of the property are the two deciding factors.

If there’s a property that’s cheap but needs repairs it will still sell.

If there’s a Property that is renovated but overpriced it may sit.

Our investors want cheaper properties and to do the repairs themselves.

@Stephanie Ro on that first one... that's a low-income area.  So rents are going to be low.  And an unfinished Pittsburgh basement is NOT a dream.  =)  And the landlord pays water, sewer and trash.  

Sometimes properties can sit because the seller is holding out for an unreasonable price.  Or, as you noted, there are issues, AND the seller is holding out for an unreasonable price.

Your profile says you're open to different locations in the US - is that still the case?  Or have you narrowed it down?

@Stephanie Ro There's already a lot of good advice here, but in my experience, it all comes down to one thing - PRICE.

The other factors mentioned here are all valid, but I promise you that if that properties here were listed at $10.00, it would sell as fast as it takes to write the P&S. If you list them at $1M, they would sit forever.

Somewhere in between those numbers is a price that will cause it to sell and in a seller's market (assuming that like the rest of the country, you're still in one), those properties have not found that number.

One other bit of conventional wisdom.  Homes that initially list too high will not sell until after a series of price cuts finally attracts a buyer - and that will be at a price that's lower than if it were priced correctly at the start.

The moral of the story is for Realtors and sellers to run comps - and not those garbage automated comps.  Do the work and take ALL of the factors that influence value into account.  Price it right the first time and you'll get the highest possible price.

@Nicholas L. Thank you for replying and being nice about things and not saying my logic is incredibly flawed like someone else. I think people need to be more kind in this BP space. Why is a dream in Pittsburgh not a dream?! For me, it would be my sports dungeon! Are you from there? 

I am thinking more and more that I should return home and just continue with my life. These lockdowns are giving me cabin fever. Anyway, I am up for anything, I do not have ties in the US. Do you have a recommended area for singles and sports fanatics? I just want a nice suburb and a big city for socializing. I am thinking GA/NC/IN/TN/OH/PA

@Charlie MacPherson Thank you very much for your response. I am taking in all the helpful insight I get from this BP forum. Run the numbers, run the numbers. I will have to be an expert at this, soon. I'd like to clean up a property and put in a few upgrades. I am getting excited to have a place when I return home to the US! So much to think about. 

While I have you here, I read on another post that it's best to kick out existing tenants b/c they are most likely the problem for the original owner. Do you agree? Does this pertain to Multifamily? I would if it involved a renovation. Thanks again!

@Stephanie Ro you're welcome, these are all good questions.  

Why is an unfinished basement in Pittsburgh not a dream?  Because they typically have low, low ceilings and water issues, so they just aren't going to be a place where you add a bedroom or a media room or more space like you might in other markets.  If you can get them dry, and have a W/D and a little storage space - that's a win.

I think the states you listed are all good options and good places to house hack.  I don't invest in Columbus and Indianapolis but from reading the forums those seem like large cities that are growing but still reasonably priced.  GA and NC are a lot warmer than OH and PA.  =)  Is that a consideration for you?

If I were you I'd RENT FIRST.  You can get your feet under you and study your market - I cannot imagine that this wouldn't help.  Renting in the short term is a great deal.  No closing costs!  When your lease is up... you move out.

@Nicholas L. Thanks for the reply! I didn't know that about PA. Why the heck would the builders not find a solution to this issue? You're right about renting and knowing my personality type, I would want to check out the place and have a job before purchasing. I dove right in when I went overseas and flew by the seat of my pants, but upon return, I want to be smart and strategic. These are thousand dollar moves and I don't want to make big mistakes that cost a lot. 

Warmth is a must. I am so tired of the cold. Melbourne housing is decrepit. There is no insulation in the homes and it's cold inside for at least 4 months- yes a warmer climate is a must. This is why Northern states are OUT. Wisconsin, North Dakota, Minnesota...etc., are beautiful, but snow for months are a no go. I would love a NICE college town where renters are a plenty. 

You have no photo or title or anything, but lots of interaction. Where are you based? Are you a REA with lots of investments? Thanks again for helping me out. 

There's not that many states in the USA that are warm all the time. (or cold all the time).

If you don't like cold, then the further south you go the warmer it will be for more of the year. Even here in middle Georgia we have to heat the house for about 4 months so it's not like the tropics.

You can literally go to any region of any state in the USA and rent out properties. Various parts will be at different price points and cash flow potentials so you need to decide what you're seeking.

As far as houses on the market for a long time, you've already received accurate advice. Sometimes bad marketing will turn off buyers to the point they're not interested in pursuing the property but in my experience it's ALWAYS the price. Any property will sell at some price point, even if it's a scrape. So if a property is sitting on the market a long time, it indicates that the property is either overpriced or the potential buyers perceive it to be overpriced due to not enough data, bad pics, etc. There is often opportunity in these overpriced properties if you're local and can gather your own data.

@Stephanie Ro a lot of the housing stock in the city of Pittsburgh is from the 1920s and 1930s, and so it just stays that way.

Also, I don't know anything about the weather in Melbourne, but most areas in OH and PA have cold winters that are similar to (but not quite as cold as) WI, ND, MN.  There are some slightly warmer cities, like, say, Philadelphia or Cincinnati, but even they still have cold winters.  If you want warm, you would really need to look in NV, AZ, TX, FL.  I think this is a really great thing for you to think about because you are going to have to narrow your market(s) down some way, and weather is a perfectly legitimate reason. 

No photo and no bio - yep, just haven't gotten around to it yet.  I had a photo of an actor up as my profile pic but BP caught it and took it down, which was pretty impressive.  I live north of Pittsburgh and have 4 units so far, I'm looking to invest more in Pittsburgh and also starting to look over some OOS markets.  I'm very happy to help.

Hey there @Stephanie Ro So I am assuming you recognize that there is a lot of opportunity to invest in real estate in the US market and seeking a place where the pandemic is more tolerable and you can enjoy sports. So yes, RE investing is obviously a hot topic here and the US, compared to many other countries, is not placing many restrictions on citizens. However, I would suggest really researching in depth what locations suit your preferences. I am a full time investor working in a variety of areas and live in PA, outside of Philadelphia. We have very harsh winters. And very avid and serious sports fans. And we have a great and busy investment market. Southern markets offer what you may find to be better weather and there are endless opportunities. Each market is VERY different and requires that you wither develop in depth knowledge in that market or that you work with a team that provides you with a solution. Investing in a market without truly knowing the risks, benefits, numbers etc - is not investing, it is gambling. You can learn quite a bit today online. But you need to make sure you are paying attention to the right information. Why would a property sit on the MLS for a long time? Many reasons. Today, it is rare for something worthwhile/priced right to sit long -- however, it would be wrong to assume anything. I own a property that today is worth $260k easy and I got it off the MLS 3 years ago for $60k after it sat on the MLS for one year at $100k ... Will you be able to do that as a first time investor from the other side of the world? Very unlikely. But get focused geographically and get with the right people and you could do good things. There are people out there that can help you figure it all out -- having moved back to the US myself after spending most of my life in another country, I know what it is like to buy in a market that I never visited (I started investing before moving back). I did well doing that, but I bought different class properties while overseas than I am able to buy and succeed with today living in the US. Locals will always have an advantage over the remote investor. But remote is possible and profitable when done right. Good luck!!

@Stephanie Ro

So based off of pictures there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with either one of those properties. One is a little dated while the other seems to have been updated recently. Honestly one of my strategies is to go for properties sitting on the MLS for 90 days (+). When they sit for a while the seller is usually willing to accept a lower off which may have gotten the property sold had it been listed there from the start. Not everyone is real estate is looking for the same thing you are. Some people want turn key others want cheap others want occupied while

Most want them empty. So don’t worry that a property has been sitting for a while just run your numbers snd if it works for you then make your offer. I would def get a home inspection to make sure there isn’t any major issues. I wouldn’t worry so much about that though to prevent you from offering. That’s why contingencies are in place to protect you from that. I would worry more if a property went under contract then went back active 10 days later. That’s the inspection period time frame. If the property is Unser contract for 30 days then maybe it’s financing on the buyer side was there problem. All in all just don’t walk away because a property is sitting. It’s usually because it’s listed to high in most cases. I can’t speak for anaywhere except NJ and Arizona but I know PA Philadelphia has lower taxes and good night life. NJ taxes are kinda high but can still find hood investments but bad tenant laws. I’m

In AZ right now and it seems like a great place and also is landlord friendly.

Wish you the best!!

Some reasons include but usually are a combination of 2+

1. Overpriced

2. Poorly marketed so not enough traffic to the listing (i.e no photos, curb offers only)

3. Large issues (i.e foundation, electrical, plumbing)

4. Stubborn seller not wanting to budge on price or remedies

5. Bad listing agent (i.e won't pick up the phone, difficult to deal with)

6. Egregious zoning issue which prevents financing from most buyers

I'd say the biggest reason a property sits for a while is due to it being overpriced. Demand for the location is obviously a big factor too. But money can fix any sort of appearance or structural problem..as long as it is bought at the right price.  Don't be afraid to make offers based on what you think it's worth.  Sometimes those properties sitting on the market for a long time are where the best deals are found. 

To answer your question about 7413 Duquesne 15218, there are typically 3 reasons why a property sits.  
1.) Location
2.) Price
3.) Condition

In this case we know the location is similar to other triplexes that have recently sold and there don't appear to be any geographic issues.  The zoning concern has been addressed and is not likely an issue.  The price, appears to be lower than similar recent sales.  That leaves condition.

This property has been under contract twice and came back on the market likely due to the inspection. There is a 339 page (yes, that's the correct number of pages) inspection report available for it along with a structural engineer's report.  Some of the issues have likely been addressed, but its also likely there are items that might be classified as delayed maintenance left to be done.  If the actual value fixed up is likely in the $250-$275k range, and its not selling for $200k, then the needed repairs have been judged by potential buyers to be above $50k-$75k.

While this property may be a worth investigating for a local buyer, I think it would be a mistake as a remote buyer to consider purchasing a property that needs extensive repair work unless you already have a local crew in place that can handle the work.

Hi Stephanie!
You are being rational, and longer time on the market is something we all wonder about. The simple answer is the most frustrating answer- which is that there can be a lot of reasons why something is on the market for a longer time. It often does NOT mean something is "wrong". It can be that the price is above market, something is not cosmetically appealing, roof needs work, needs other work, or 1,000 other things. I LOVE when something is going on with a property that most buyers cannot get past- as long as the income property still cash flows nicely, especially when it's something you can improve upon to improve income and/or home value. This is lower hanging fruit.
Many of these longer times on market are opportunities waiting to be discovered.

Also, fair warning (and this happens, often)- it may feel like something is conspiring against you when you decide to proceed on a property that has been on the market for 2-4 months, and then as you submit an offer, another buyer has their offer accepted and it goes "pending".

Normally speaking, there's nothing unusual about a house being on the MLS more than 30 days. It's only in the ridiculously hot market we were in that these seems strange. And the market does seem to be cooling a little so I don't think this tells much more than that the list price is not a screaming deal.

@Stephanie Ro there is only reason a property isn't selling as fast as other nearby properties, which is price is too high. Every property will sell at some price, the lower the price, the faster it will sell.

The property on Duquesne is under contract as of today. It was also under contract two times before, so people were interested! Once at $225K and once at $215K. My guess is that inspection is revealing major flaws. 

The property on Church has been listed 6 months and they have had only one price drop. That doesn't appear like a motivated seller. They could just be fishing for a high price.

You can call the agent and ask them why the properties have been sitting so long. You may or may not get the truth, but you may be surprised at how honest some realtor are. 

Bottom line, they are overpriced. Even properties with major flaws will sell if the price is right. As a new investor, be very careful of properties that have fallen out of contract multiple times or sat on the market six months. There is something wrong.

@Stephanie Ro if there are renters, you can request the current rent roll - they cannot lie and provide a rent roll if there aren’t any tenants. My thought is there are tenants AND they are problematic tenants (don’t pay on time, skipped payments, refuse to move out, etc) - we’ve seen quite a bit of this especially before the renter moratorium ended in September


Many sellers don't really want to sell their property

Many properties for sale e.g. turnkey properties are companies trying to sell people the idea that they will be better off going 'turnkey' and people don't want to and are not taking the bait.

Many properties for sale are scams because there are thousands of real estate brokers who advertise properties that are not really for sale so they can draw in clients and try to sell them something else. I with the real estate boards would start pounding on these people.  There was a triplex with a for sale sign on it for about 10 years and it was next to a busy freeway on-ramp. I called the broker and he quoted a price three times what it was worth. I am positive he was paying the property owner a lot of money to put up his for sale sign.

Many properties are over-priced.

Many multi-unit properties are over-priced in regards to their income to expense ratio.

Last thing! I never ever purchased a property listed on MLS nor any other website because sellers ask for the highest retail price they can get. No sane seller is going to list his (or her) house for less than what they think they can get. The best way to find properties is to go directly to real estate offices and ask what they have for sale. Then, ask if they have any pocket listings, or for something they have they they are going to put on MLS in the future. Never be loyal to one broker. Go to every broker you can. Don't call them on the phone. You will do much better and get better treatment when in their office.

@John Teachout Thank you for the reply. You're right, who am I kidding regarding warmer weather? It's because I am cold Melbourne and their homes are horribly build. No insulation and no heat in homes except in an electric heater in the living room. Most have a column oil heater. I just want to be comfortable in my own home! I don't want to return to Las Vegas. When I was in Colorado, it was so nice to have sun even after a blizzard. 

A common theme in this thread is what you are saying regarding price. Someone else said that people advertise the highest price b/c they know people will haggle and negotiate. Knowing the area is key. It is a bit risky to buy without living in the state, but I will have to rely on nice people like you and a good REA! Thanks again!