Real Estate - Selling your House, make sure the price is right

Sell That House

Before you put your property on the market, make sure the price is right.

The Price is Right is not just a television show. That phrase has to be your mantra as you put your house up for sale in the current real estate market, two top realtors say. That means before you plant even one flower, repaint a single wall or declutter—all important actions—you first have to make sure your house is priced properly.

When you interview a real estate agent, the most important goal is to make sure the agent will use all the research tools available—the multiple listing service (MLS), property tax records and sophisticated real estate tracking software—to ensure an accurate price, says Perry Pilgrim, principal broker at Abbitt Realty. "Nothing is more important than price. Period," Pilgrim says.

"When prices are going up, buyers are not worried about price because they just want to get a home they like the best, and know that market appreciation will make up for it if they pay too much," says Greg Garrett of Greg Garrett Realty. "When prices are not going up, buyers are much more cautious to protect themselves on the front end and much more likely to buy a house they don't like as much that's a better deal. When there's an oversupply of houses as in the current market, sellers have to be more aggressive on pricing. The oversupply of houses is not going to go away for three to four years."

For example, when the real estate market was booming, 700 or more homes sold per month in the Peninsula market, Pilgrim says. Lately, sales have been heading toward 400 a month or fewer in that market. "But the point is, on the Peninsula, out of more than 3,000 properties for sale, there were 400 that sold last month," he says. "The ones that sold were priced properly."

Don't necessarily pick the realtor that comes back with the highest listing price for your home. "It's a classic in real estate," Pilgrim says. "Many agents buy listings. What good is it to have a listing that will never sell?"

You can't base your price on what you need to get for your home to make a down payment on your next home, Pilgrim says. "In real estate, the value of your house is determined by the price your neighbor's identical house sold for yesterday. We try to find several comparable homes near yours, similar to yours that sold recently."

Unfortunately, you do have to compete with short sales and foreclosures. If a short sale or foreclosure is priced at $499,000 and your house is comparable but priced at $600,000, the buyer will choose the less expensive home, Garrett says. Fair? Not necessarily. Reality? Yes.

Remember, you can't increase your asking price just because you had to replace a damaged roof or broken water heater. "Certain things are just maintenance," Pilgrim says. "To get full price, a house should have a roof. That's not an extra—that's just maintaining your property."

Even if your money is tight, you have to eliminate turnoffs, Garrett says. "If you have rotten wood, stains on your ceiling, chipped paint, smelly or stained carpet, gouged hardwood floors, chipped tile or chipped countertops—you have to remove the negatives."

Now that your home is priced correctly and you've repaired the major problems, you still need to spruce up. That first impression is key. Landscaping helps. Simple jobs such as edging the sidewalk and driveway and trimming the shrubbery make a difference, Pilgrim says. "The return on landscaping is at least 100 percent," Pilgrim says.

Next on your list: a freshly painted front door, Pilgrim says. Now it's time to declutter. "If you went into somebody's house and it was cluttered, your gut just clenches," Pilgrim says. You can't see past it." So rent a storage unit, clean out your cabinets and clean off your counters, and get your house in great showing condition. Painting, as always, is a cost effective way to get full value for your home. "You will get 100 percent return on paint," Garrett says.

Which is better for showing— a lived in home or one that's vacant? Agents differ and offer several caveats for each opinion.

As a buyers' agent, Pilgrim preferred to show vacant properties first because he didn't have to make an appointment, his buyers wouldn't be fooled either by beautiful furniture or cluttered rooms, and he could manage his time better. But other agents, such as his wife, who has an interior design background, believe well-staged homes show better.

If the home is uncluttered, decorated in a modern, up-to date-fashion and has some similarities to a model home, then a furnished house is best. If the house is old, outdated or cluttered, vacant is best, Garrett says.

Finally, should you wait until the traditional spring sales season to list your home? Not necessarily. "Thousands of houses will come on the market in the spring," Garrett says. "List now and beat them to the punch. If your house is pried well, if it's priced right—anytime of the year it's going to get showings."


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