In a high-inventory market like the one we've been enduring in Westport and Weston, not all houses that had "for sale" signs out front end up with new owners when the signs are taken down. Many of them simply fail to sell, and the listing agreement runs out.

In the business we call these properties "expireds." Since the beginning of 2011, there have been 65 expired listings in Westport, and 27 in Weston.

When a listing expires, commonly after six months on the market, it may be a difficult situation for everyone. Owners may feel the stress of not being able to move on -- or of owning the expired property in addition to the new home they just moved into. They may also feel dissatisfied with the listing agent whose efforts did not produce a sale.

Agents are frustrated too, and not only because they won't be paid a commission and probably will lose the listing to another agent. They may be frustrated because the owners rejected an offer that in hindsight the agent feels they should have accepted or because the owners were unwilling to adjust the price when the agent recommended it.

Listings usually expire for some combination of the following reasons:

1. Overpricing. A property that's priced too high will sit idle in even the hottest market. Buyers are more educated than ever, and they recognize a well-priced property when they see one. If you haven't had any offers, incorrect pricing is usually the reason. In general, the longer your house is on the market, the less you will get for it. If your home is for sale longer than usual, it may cause buyers to suspect that there's something wrong with it -- even if you eventually adjust the price.

2. Lack of stage presence. If your house doesn't show well, its appeal will be diminished no matter what else your agent does to promote it. Staging -- the process of optimizing the look and feel of your house, inside and out, so that it appeals to your target buyer -- is no longer an option. Without exception, a home that's staged will sell more quickly and for a higher price than an identical one that's not staged. And of course, mildew and cigarette odors are particular turn-offs, as are dark rooms, neglected landscaping, evidence of water in the basement, and other signs of deferred maintenance.

3. Poor internet presentation. Today's buyers expect as much information as possible about homes for sale, readily accessible to them night or day when they have the time to shop. They reject properties that don't provide such information. Although there are simple ways to enhance listings online to give buyers the information they want, many agents don't take the time or don't know how to do this. If this applies to your listing agent, your property was disadvantaged in the marketplace.

You also need to make your home accessible for showings, and you must offer a buyer-agent commission rate that is customary in your price range. Finally, your agent needs to solicit feedback after each and every showing and share this with you so that, together, you can fine-tune your marketing plan as necessary on a continuous basis. If these things were not done, it's no surprise that your listing expired.

If you're the owner of an expired property -- and you want to get it sold -- you need an honest assessment of how your previous attempts at selling your home stack up versus the preceding points. This is best done with the assistance of a real estate professional who has the perspective and confidence to tell you the truth about your situation -- an agent who can identify and prioritize the things that you will need to do differently so that you will succeed next time out of the gate.

Evi Coghlan is a licensed real estate agent with Coldwell Banker and a former marketing consultant who advised Fortune 100 companies. She may be reached by calling 203-247-6691, emailing her at, or logging on to her web sit,