“The biggest mistake sellers make today is that they don’t price their homes correctly,” says Elizabeth Weintraub, a broker with Lyon’s Real Estate in downtown Sacramento. “If a house sits on the market, people start to wonder, ‘what’s wrong with that property. How come it’s not selling?’”
She says pricing is an art and a science, and also depends on the local market. In Sacramento, for example, home sellers are competing directly with foreclosures and short sales (when a seller owes more on a property than it is worth and the bank agrees to accept less than the amount of the mortgage).
“In the past, if there was a home that was sold as a foreclosure on your street, it was an isolated circumstance. Now, because of the high number of foreclosures and short sales, they are the comparable sales,” Weintraub says. “If your price is not competitive with these numbers, it might not get shown at all.”
Her pricing method: look at pending sales. These will become the comparable sales. Even though they don’t say the exact sale price, you can make an educated guess or find out from the listing agent.
Weintraub also says that if you put your house on the market and it doesn’t sell after 90 days, take it off the market and list it again at another time. “You don’t want it to become stale.”
Mary Ann Grabel of Greenwich Fine Properties in Greenwich, Connecticut, agrees. “It’s all about price,” Grabel says. “People who really want or need to sell are willing to take less than what they paid two or three years ago.”
Condition, Not Conditions
Tom Apligian, whose Re/Max office in Plano, Texas serves the Dallas suburbs, says that “while kitchens and bathrooms still sell houses, what used to work in the past doesn’t anymore.”
“Going back four or five years, we used to do a decorating allowance,” Apligian says, referring to the money that sellers would offer buyers to cover new carpet or other decorative items. Now, he says, this sends up a red flag that a house is run down.
“If you think a buyer wants to take your four or five thousand dollars to decorate a house that’s been neglected or needs updating, you’re wrong,” says Apligian.
“People are always working, and the last thing they want to do when they come home is pick up a paint brush,” he says.