Real Estate Outlook

When the selling gets rough, realists win

A buyer’s market, where excess supply and foreclosures drive prices down, means readjusting your expectations. “Getting the best price” now means getting a better price compared to the next sale, not the previous one, even if your selling price is lower than it would have been had you sold your house last year.

Emotions play a big role—we regret not selling sooner and envy those that did; we hunger for a better price; we believe that we somehow earned the prices that similar homes sold for in the past and feel anchored to them. When you become captive to your emotions and set an unrealistic asking price, you become the biggest obstacle to the sale of your own home. Setting a realistic price will allow the property agents to confidently tell potential buyers that your property is the best buy for the money. Scope out the competition by going to open houses, and pay special attention to new homes for sale. Establish a dollar-per- square-foot range for your type of property and neighborhood.

A poorly presented property is one more roadblock to a sale. Solicit, and listen to, honest feedback about what can be done to cost-efficiently show your home at its best, perhaps by hiring a staging company. Get an appraisal from a firm that works with local lenders. The appraisal will help you view the property the way a lender will. Offer the property at 2 to 3 percent less than the appraised value to reassure the buyer that they are getting a good deal. Invest in a home inspection ($300-$400) and do everything it calls for. Presenting a completed to-do list can ease the buyer’s mind and shorten the escrow (opportunity to back out) period.

Offer a free home warranty (about $500). It’s not that expensive, and it will help you compete with some new homes. Be prepared to negotiate; you may need to give just a little more. If you have done your homework and you’re sure the home is priced to sell, be patient.

When you get an offer, remember, an accepted offer doesn’t mean you’ve sold your house! It’s sold when all contingencies are removed and you get the check from escrow, not before. Beware of offers that are contingent on the sale of the buyer’s house, even if the buyer claims that their home is in escrow. Consider asking for a significant (5 to 10 percent of purchase price) nonrefundable deposit once the buyer agrees that their offer contingencies on your home are removed.

Beware of “lowball buyers” who may make multiple offers, loaded with contingencies, in an effort to bring desperate sellers to the surface. When an offer is accepted, don’t stick a “pending sale” sign in the ground. Continue to market your house for backup offers, in case the deal falls through. In this world where the only constant is change, you can sell your home in any market condition. In a buyer’s real estate market, the successful seller is the one who gets “real” the quickest.