5 Overpricing Cures That Can Get Your Home Sold


By Tara-Nicholle Nelson

clip_image002Today’s home sellers have a hard row to hoe, as my Mom would say. Home values have dropped, the market is flooded with competition and even if a buyer does come along, a record high number of deals fall through. On top of that, they face the age-old conundrum of having two seemingly conflicting aims: they want to get their homes sold, fast, but also want – and need – to squeeze every single possible dollar out of it.

While it’s tempting to price your place on the high side and ‘test the market’ or ‘negotiate down,’ overpricing your home can actually deter buyers, cause your home to lag on the market and eventually even expose you to the risk of being perceived as desperate and receiving lowball offers.
Here are 5 ‘cures’ to the temptation to overprice your home, all of which can help you max out the chance that your home will sell.

1. Check the Comps! “Comps” is real estate lingo for comparable sales – the nearby, similar homes that have recently sold. You might think that your taste level, aesthetic style and home maintenance practices are vastly superior to those of your neighbors – and you might be right. But this will be the single largest purchase your home’s eventual buyer will ever make, and trust me – they will be doing the research. The small contingent of urgent and qualified buyers who are active on today’s market do not want to overpay for a home, and most will view your home as overpriced and not worth the hassle (or the haggle) if it is out of whack with the recent sales prices of similar homes.

Similarly, appraisers will use these numbers when figuring out your home’s value. Even if you do get an offer at a higher-than-justified price, if the buyer’s appraiser finds that your home is overvalued compared to other nearby recent sales, it can cause major delays in your buyer’s mortgage process – or derail it altogether.
Work with your agent to find and evaluate the recent sales in the area, and to ensure that your home’s list price makes sense vis-a-vis the comps.

2. Get inside the minds of the local home buyers. The vast majority of buyers – over 90 percent – start their house hunting online. And what most of them do is type in a price range, a range of bedrooms and bathrooms and a geographic area, then spend dozens of obsessive hours perusing hundreds of listings.
Given the flooded market and buyers’ busy lives, many will screen your home off their interest list in a New York minute if it seems overpriced from its online listing. If that one-inch picture and the number of beds, baths and square feet either (a) doesn’t make it into their search results because the price is so much higher than what most local buyers want to spend on a home with those criteria, or (b) seems underwhelming, for the price, compared to the other online listings of similar homes, prospective buyers will never even make it into your home, and all your stunning staging and crave-able curb appeal will never have the opportunity to work their magic.

Local agents have an inside track on what local buyers care about and what they will and will not spend. Talk to your agent about it, but don’t forget to actually listen to and consider what your agent has to say! If you don’t trust what an agent is telling you about where you should list your home, talk to several agents – if the consensus is a recommended list price range lower than what you had in mind, that’s a sign you should reconsider.

Also, search for similar homes to yours on Trulia, to see how it would stack up against similar listings online at the price range you have in mind. That’s where local prospective buyers will see it (and screen it in or out) first.

3. Visit competing Open Houses. Buyers do not shop for homes in a vacuum. They’re out there looking at dozens of homes – or more – to make sure they’re (a) getting the best deal possible, and (b) not missing ‘the one.’ So, while viewing a thumbnail image of your competition and seeing the list prices of other homes online is informative, it is even more useful to walk through the actual properties with which your home is competing, in living color.

Before you put your home on the market, take a few hours and visit nearby Open Houses. This exercise is the most vivid way to get a reality check about what you’re up against and what your home’s strengths and weaknesses are compared with the other homes buyers will see, which will go a long way in getting you to the right asking price. Even if you are unpleasantly surprised at how nice the neighboring homes are at low prices, taking this information in before you list your home is much less painful than waiting months for the market to give you this education (in the form of no or uber-low offers).

4. Get an inspection – in advance. Home buyers have long used the home inspection as a negotiating tool to get the seller to come down on the sale price mid-stream. Get ahead of the game by getting your own inspection(s) – talk with your agent about which ones are appropriate – and getting the skinny on your home’s condition before you list it. Keep in mind that you will likely need to provide any written professional inspections you obtain before listing your home to the buyer under your state’s real estate disclosure laws.

You might be able to repair some things at relatively low cost and include the recent improvements in your marketing. Alternatively, you can set and negotiate pricing based on any condition issues or needed repairs you want to pass down to the buyer. This empowers you to get to a final price that aligns with market conditions and the condition of your home without taking massive mid-escrow hits on pricing. It also empowers you to offer a discount for needed fixes up front, when the price break has the most power to help attract bargain-seeking buyers.

5. When in doubt, go low. An overpriced home, in most cases, will cause a lot more problems in your real estate journey than an underpriced one. Think about it: an overpriced home just sits on the market with little or no buyer interest until the seller cuts the price. And many interested buyers just sit, waiting for that price cut, seeing it as a cue to make an even lower offer.

Now, consider the opposite end of the pricing spectrum: you start with a lower price than you want, but one that is supported by the comps in your market – or even goes a tad bit lower than recent homes have sold for. Lots of buyers are attracted to your house, in part because it looks like a great value for the price. You end up with multiple offers, which gives you the upper hand in negotiating a higher price.

The moral: if you aren’t sure about what price to place on your home, go a little bit lower than the recent comps sold for. Insiders know from experience that you’ll sell your home faster this way – and at a better price than if you overprice it out of the gate.

These steps can help you get out of your own way, get a bird’s eye view on the market and see your home as buyers will see it. And that’s a reality check that can make the difference between selling your home and not.


Why home prices are (and aren’t) stabilizing


Here’s a look at price trends and how they differ between distressed and nondistressed homes.

By Nick Timiraos of The Wall Street Journal

Home prices are falling again, but some analysts see a silver lining because the prices of homes that aren’t selling out of foreclosure have been holding steady.

CoreLogic reported that home prices in October declined by 1.3% from September and by 3.9% from a year before. A separate index released in early December by LPS Applied Analytics showed that home prices in September had dropped by 1.2% from August

"Many housing statistics are basically moving sideways," said Mark Fleming, chief economist at CoreLogic.

Still, the CoreLogic index shows an important emerging trend in which home prices — excluding distressed sales — are stabilizing.

What’s the difference between distressed sales and nondistressed sales?
Unlike traditional owners, banks are often faster to cut prices in order to unload properties quickly — or what are called "distressed" sales. The upshot: The more homes being sold by lenders in any given month, the faster prices tend to fall.

This was clear throughout the initial years of the housing bust. Prices declined most sharply in 2008 as banks dumped foreclosed properties at fire-sale prices. Owner-occupants are less likely to list their homes for sale in winter, too, which means that each winter prices drop because distressed sales account for a growing share of sales.

Are prices of distressed homes falling at the same rate as nondistressed homes?
That’s been the case up until recently. While home prices overall were down 3.9% from one year ago, prices excluding distressed sales were down just 0.5%. In September, total prices were down 3.8% from one year ago, but nondistressed prices were down 2.1%.

This shows that while price declines are resuming, they are not yet falling from one year ago for nondistressed homes. In fact, during the first nine months of 2011, prices of nondistressed homes remained relatively stable, with year-over-year declines between 2% and 3%.

Analysts at Barclays Capital, in a report published in early December, called this "the most important trend in the housing industry right now."

Why would any stabilization of nondistressed prices matter?
If it’s true that prices of nondistressed homes are stabilizing, even as distressed homes continue to fall in price, it would mean that a distressed home is "increasingly being seen as a poor substitute for a nondistressed home," writes Stephen Kim, a Barclays housing analyst. He says it’s possible that the "bifurcation between distressed and nondistressed homes will only widen with the passage of time."

Won’t the overhang of foreclosures put pressure on nondistressed prices anyway?
That’s all too possible. More than 2 million loans are in some stage of foreclosure, and it may be too early to argue that those won’t in some way affect the sale prices of nondistressed homes. For one, homes that sell out of foreclosure at significantly lower prices could be used by appraisers as "comparable" sales, which may make banks less willing to lend at an agreed sale price for a nondistressed home.

In certain markets where many homes are selling out of foreclosure, it’s hard to simply set aside distressed homes. "You can’t deny the fact that if half of homes that sold in San Diego in a given year were distressed, that is the trend," said Kyle Lundstedt, managing director at LPS.

What could happen if this trend holds up, with distressed prices falling and nondistressed prices staying flat?
It could stabilize something else: homebuyer confidence. "There is nothing that strikes fear in a homeowner’s heart than to hear that his home value has declined," Kim writes. "But if it was home-price trends that got us into this funk, it stands to reason that a recovery in sentiment will be similarly ushered in once price declines have abated — which is precisely what the CoreLogic price data shows us."