Home seller pitfalls to avoid

Do your home's features justify your asking price?

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 19, 2012

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Do your home's features justify your asking price?

Dian Hymer
Inman News®

Six years after the market peaked in 2006 and prices started to decline, many sellers are still in denial about the current market value of their homes. It's difficult for most sellers to accept the reality of today's home-sale market, whether they bought at or near the peak and will lose money selling today, or bought decades ago but are still stuck at 2006 prices.

An Oakland, Calif., homeowner recently remarked that she was aware that home prices had dropped quite a bit over the last five years. But she felt that her home hadn't lost any value.

It's hard for homeowners to divorce themselves emotionally from a home they've enjoyed. But this is what sellers need to do so that they can make rational decisions about a list price that will actually result in a sale.

This decision should be based on listings that have sold in your area that could be considered somewhat comparable to your home. Some sellers go to open houses to evaluate the competition. If you're still emotionally wrapped up in your home, the exercise can be futile. You return home feeling that the other homes aren't as good as yours.

Put yourself in the buyers' shoes. This is easier for sellers who are also buying in this market. They know what it's like to want to make sure they're getting a good deal. Your house needs to be listed at a price that is enticing to buyers because it represents a good value. In most areas, buyers are buying in a market knowing that prices may continue to decline before the market fully recovers.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Be wary of real estate agents who tell you that your home will sell for a higher-than-supportable price just to get the listing. Then they work on you over time until you reduce the price to market value. Realtors refer to this as buying a listing.

It's hard to resist the temptation of trying for a higher price than the comparable sales indicate. However, you won't be happy if your home is on the market for months with no activity, and each time you drop the price it feels like too little too late. You can end up selling for less later if home prices in your area are still declining.

Refinance appraisals are notoriously inaccurate in terms of market value -- either too high or too low. An appraiser is attempting to gauge what price a buyer would pay when there isn't a ratified contract that states what a buyer will pay. A high refinance appraisal can leave the seller with a false expectation.

Listing your home based on what you want or need to net from the sale won't motivate buyers to pay more. Buyers pay market value. They're won't overpay in today's market.

Find out what buyers are looking for in your area and see how your home matches up to their expectations. Generally, today's buyers are looking for a home that is well-located, in good condition and is priced right for the market.

If your home needs a lot of work compared to the competition, you'll either need to have work done before selling, or discount your price accordingly.

Walk-to locations are highly desirable in some areas. If your home doesn't offer this amenity, you may have to make a price accommodation.

Homes with level-in access from the street are usually at a premium. If they're difficult to find in your area, you may be able to adjust your price upwards in comparison to similar homes that sold recently but had lots of steps.

THE CLOSING: For best results, be realistic about the current market value of your home and what preparation it needs in order to sell successfully in today's market.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years' experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide."

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