Things have slowed down a bit across the country. No, the market isn't bad, it's just that homes are now taking longer to sell and values are not skyrocketing like before. People still need places to live and homes still get sold and purchased. Only now, in order to avoid being that seller whose house took forever to sell, you have to be careful to take just the right steps before and during the sale. And what are those steps?: Here are the most essential...
Price properly. Remember this: "People purchase properly priced properties pronto." And overpriced homes can languish on the market for months. Now, there are two ways to come up with the sales price. One is to use a gut feeling and the other is to use available market data. The gut feeling method consists of finding out what the neighbor's home sold for last year, deciding that yours is much better, and then choosing the price that sounds good. This approach is quick, but buyers have a bad habit of not trusting the seller's gut feeling. The market data approach is a little more involved. It consists of comparing your home to similar properties that sold recently, properties that are currently for sale, and also takes into consideration the current market trends. This approach tends to produce a more accurate estimate of the home's value, and, as already mentioned, accurately priced homes just sell faster. By the way, real estate agents usually offer this analysis for free to their clients, so no, you won't have to do all the work yourself.
Carefully prepare your home for sale. We all live in homes that have some imperfections, and over time we become so used to those imperfections that we don't even notice them any more. But buyers look at homes with a critical eye and often concentrate on what's wrong with each home rather than what's right with it. Before placing your property on the market, get a second opinion about what improvements and reparis should be made. A trusted Realtor is a good source to turn to. Some sellers even hire a property inspector to check the home's vital systems. It's not a bad idea - the inspector is impartial and the buyer will want an inspection anyway. You might as well fix what needs to be fixed before the buyer makes it an issue and tries to use it to lower the price.
Use a first-rate agent. The market slowing down means there are fewer buyers looking for homes. First-rate agents know where to find them. It's what we do for a living. Realtors talk to buyers daily, invest a lot of money in marketing (have you seen my VideoHomestories solution?) and also network with each other. A good agent will have a thorough knowledge of your market and have a proven marketing plan to sell your home. This all means a faster sale and fewer headaches for you, the seller. And where do you find such an agent? Hmm, let me see... I think you already know one... ;-)
Keep an open mind. In order to have a fast sale, it's sometimes necessary to sweeten the deal for the buyer. This doesn't have to mean significantly lowering your price; for most buyers the down payment is a much bigger concern. It makes sense - the down payment has to be paid in cash upfront, whereas increasing or decreasing the price by a few thousand dollars means just a few dollars difference in the monthly payment. So, rather than lowering your price, consider offering a "seller contribution." In other words, rather than coming down in price by, say $10,000, offer instead $5,000 towards the buyer's closing costs. This obviously saves you some cash, and it benefits the buyer more than a price decrease. There are also non-monetary concessions that you can offer to the buyer. For example, being flexible about the possession date or agreeing to make the sale contingent upon the buyers selling their home first. This could be a big deal for them, and no big deal for you. Doing the buyer a favor means a happier buyer, which could mean a faster sale for you and more money in your pocket.
There is, naturally, more that you can do to ensure a successful transaction in today's market - a short article in a weblog just can't cover it all. The good thing is that more advice is available by phone or email, directly from your favorite Realtor. I'm always available to talk to you, hear your questions and concerns, and offer professional advice. Just call. :-)