Top reasons condo buyers aren't biting

Home Sale Hindsight

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 24, 2010

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Home Sale Hindsight

Tara-Nicholle Nelson
Inman News

Q: Why is it that Realtors want to list my condo for a lot less than I want to list it for? I tried listing it on Craigslist and the local shoppers' guide myself, but there aren't any lookers. Seventeen of the 69 units in my complex are for sale. I just wonder what's happening. Should I "give it away" or just be patient? The unit looks great, is in a great summer location, and just no buyers. Any suggestions? --L., North San Diego County, Calif.

A: In many ways, you've answered your own initial question of why brokers and agents are encouraging you to list your home at a lower sale price than you'd like.

Real estate professionals have a vested interest in listing your home at a price that renders it more likely to actually sell; they will be investing their own time and money into marketing the place and, in most cases, won't get a cent unless and until the place sells. So, they have a huge incentive to list it at a price they know will lure buyers in.

You, on the other hand, may have a dozen reasons you want or need to get a higher price than that. The difference is, agents know that listing it high will not get you that price and, in fact, may even mark your unit out as listed by an unreasonable and unrealistic seller.

On today's market, qualified buyers with an urgent want or need to buy -- especially vacation or second-home-type properties -- are very few and far between. On the other hand, as you've pointed out, supply is abundant -- roughly 25 percent of the units in your complex are on the market, and that doesn't even take into account similar units in similar nearby complexes.

Competition among sellers is steep, and I'd hazard a guess that there are a fair number of low-priced foreclosures and short sales in that mix. Accordingly, your market sounds like a strong buyer's market; to be competitive and have any chance of selling, the list price on your place needs to seem like a bargain to the buyers who are considering properties like yours.

You've already tested the market at your price, and acknowledge having not even had any bites from buyers; you can't change the complex or the location, and it sounds like even the condition of your home is already in great shape. The only variable left that you can control is also the one that is the most important to buyers: price.

A low price on a great unit in a "regular" equity sale is attractive to buyers these days. Agents know this, and that's why you're hearing such low list-price recommendations.

There are also a couple of other condo-specific items that may be at play here.

First off, many complexes right now are struggling with high rates of owner delinquency on homeowners association (HOA) dues. This affects owners who seek to sell their units because most mortgage loan programs of the type that prospective buyers would be using to buy your unit refuse to lend in complexes where 15 percent or more of the units are behind on their HOA dues.

Secondly, in vacation-home-heavy complexes and complexes where many units have been foreclosed, the owner-occupancy rate can plummet. This is similarly prohibitive to buyers seeking mortgage financing; banks tend not to offer mortgages on units in complexes where fewer than 75 percent of the units are owner-occupied.

This creates a situation in which units can essentially be purchased only with cash; the number of all-cash buyers is so low (and, as a result, their bargaining power is so high) that it is not at all strange for units in complexes facing either or both of these issues to see their values dive as much as 50 percent.

Should you wait or not? Only you can make that decision. First off, determine whether you can afford to hold onto the unit. Second, research whether your unit is facing the HOA dues or owner-occupancy-rate issues described above, by reviewing your HOA board meeting minutes or speaking with someone at your HOA management company.

Third, find out how long units are staying on the market on average (call their listing agents), when the last unit(s) were sold and for how much.

This information should color your decision whether to sell right now. If you can hold on, it sounds like it might not be a bad idea. If not and it's sitting empty, consider trying to rent it out -- there are a number of management companies in your area that specialize in vacation rentals.

However, if it is economically burdensome to continue owning, work with a listing agent who has a track record of recently closing sales in your complex or area and then follow his or her advice, especially when it comes to setting the price as aggressively low as necessary to get your place sold.

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