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The changing market


The real estate "boom" is over, experts say. With change comes both risk and opportunity.

5 tips for selling a home in a buyer's market

Home sellers take note: Buyers are gaining more leverage.

In many real estate markets during the last three years, sellers have wielded more power than buyers. That's still the case, but now buyers are choosier, homes are staying on the market longer, and prices aren't rising as quickly as they once did.

"It's a seller's market transitioning to a buyer's market," says David Lereah, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. Sellers are reluctant to drop their asking prices, but a lot of them might have to "because the buyers now have a little more control, a little more power."

5 tips for selling
Here are tips for the homeowner who is selling in a market where buyers are gaining clout:
5 tips for selling in a shifting market
1. Prepare, mentally, for what's to come.
2. Get ready for picky buyers.
3. Educate yourself about the market.
4. Hire an inspector.
5. Consider paying the buyer's discount points.

Prepare yourself mentally
Accept that the market will set the sale terms. Don't take it personally if you don't get the price you expected.

"The big thing is you've got to accept what the market is, and make the most of it," says Jeff Lyons, general manager of "It doesn't have anything to do with you personally; it has to do with the market."

He advises sellers not to expect an extension of the supersonic price appreciation that some markets saw in the last couple of years. As Lyons puts it, you're just going to feel frustrated if you think, "last year, everyone's house was worth 20 percent more than the year before, so why isn't my house worth 20 percent more this year?"

Lyons adds: "You're going to want to prepare to be flexible."

Luckily, you can be flexible on things besides price. The move-in date, for example. "If it helps you sell more quickly by moving out earlier than you want, that's a good thing," Lyons says. "You never know what people might want to do to make it convenient for them. If the buyer wants something that isn't hard for you to give, that's something in your favor."

Maybe the buyer wants to store furniture in your garage before moving in or wants to make the purchase contingent on selling his or her own house. If you have flexibility, you have an edge.

Get ready for picky buyers
Every real estate agent will tell you to improve the home's curb appeal. It's even more important when buyers feel that they can afford to be picky.

In a transition from a seller's to a buyer's market, buyers "become much more sensitive to things like dated light fixtures," says David Kerr, agent for ZipRealty's office in Oakland, Calif. "When you walk in and the house has that 1970s amber light fixture, they'll say, 'This house looks old,' and walk out. It's easy and inexpensive to replace that light over the dining room table."

Kerr isn't talking only about lights. Stained carpets, scuffed hardwood floors, dripping sinks, torn window screens -- most of us live with flaws in our homes that we intend to fix eventually. When you put your home on the market, that day has arrived.

"You really need to look at making repairs that are profitable in terms of selling the house," Kerr says. He gives this example of choosing your priorities: If your hot tub isn't quite functioning properly and the bathroom has old, stained cabinets with ornate pulls on the doors, fix up the bathroom first. "They want to see that pedestal sink," Kerr says. If the choice is between replacing the refrigerator and refacing ugly kitchen cabinets, spruce up the cabinets.

-- Posted: March 1, 2006
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