How To Sell In A Homebuyer's Market

A real estate marketing pro shares her tips for selling in tougher conditions.

By Marilyn Lewis

Has it been a while since you sold a house? Things have changed in the last six months.

Angela Stamoulos, an education manager for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, trains agents to educate sellers about the changed market.

The trick these days, she says, is to distinguish your property from the large number of similar homes in the same price bracket. "These wallflowers are the big problem right now, from the point of view of sellers and real estate agents," she says.

Stamoulos' tips:

  1. Don't let your property languish while new, competitive inventory is building up. Price it right initially to give buyers a sense they are getting a value for their money and to avoid numerous, incremental price reductions that reek of desperation.
  1. If you get a lot of activity -- visits and second showings -- don't respond instantly to an offer. Tell buyers you'll allow a couple of days to give adequate time for multiple house hunters to view your home. Even in this difficult market, Stamoulos says, well-priced properties are bid up over the asking price.
  1. Educate yourself about your local market. Ask agents for these statistics, including comparisons from last year:
  • Inventory. The number of homes currently on the market.
  • Days on the market. The length of time properties are staying on the market.
  • Average sale price. This is helpful information, but it can be skewed by, for example, numerous high-end properties sold. The average price in your market may still be $350,000, just as it was last year, but today $350,000 may buy a lot more house.
  • Median price. This is the price at which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.
  • List-to-sell ratios. This ratio, expressing the list price of homes over the selling price, will reveal drops in prices. Ratios are given for periods of time -- say, a month or a quarter -- showing the effect of price reductions on time on the market.
  1. Find the agent who can expose your property to the most buyers:
  • Ask whether the company is part of a larger company or network. How many agents does the company employ to promote your property to buyers? The more the better.
  • Use Alexa Internet to compare agencies' Web-site traffic. Be sure to compare local -- not national -- Web sites when checking local offices of national companies.
  • Learn about the agency's overall marketing strategy. Do they use newspaper ads? E-mail? Their Web site? What's their marketing plan for your property?
  • To screen agents, interview several, asking each for their market data and their interpretation of local trends.