To get an idea of what's going on now, you want recent comps. But you may also want to look at comparables from the last six months. "You will see trends," says Patricia Fitzgerald, broker/owner of Coastal Properties in Jupiter, Fla. "You also need to look at what is in the market" in that area, she says. Are properties moving? Are prices holding steady or are sellers dropping prices?
Pricing is strategy. And much of it comes down to just how motivated you are to sell -- or how quickly you have to leave.
If you have to pad the price, it's "an art, not an exact science," Tyson says. "Five to 10 percent is one thing. Fifteen to 20 percent and you have a problem."
Two more points to consider:
- Modern technology. Agents and buyers are often using computers to search for properties. If you want to sell yours for around $400,000, consider listing it at $399,999, rather than $400,500. That way, a computer search of anything between $350,000 and $400,000 will include your listing.
- Commissions aren't add-ons. Don't add the real estate commission to the value of the home to come up with your asking price, says Tyson. If you use an agent, the fee comes out of your share of the profits. Otherwise, "you're going to get penalized for overpricing your house," he says. Instead: try negotiating your commission with the agent. When the recent seller's market was in full swing it was easy to get agents to list your property for as low as 4 percent (split with a co-broker). They knew the property would sell in days or weeks and their marketing costs would be low. Now it's reversed. Agents are commonly looking at four to six months to sell a property and so their marketing expenses are now running higher than normal. This makes them hesitant to offer any discounts.
Beware of hidden financing costs. Not all financing is the same from a seller's point of view. With some types of financing, like FHA and VA home loans, the seller pays the points on the loan, says Summers. Understand the different types and what will be required of you as a seller, because that could affect how much you net in a sale.
8. Understand your price. While you don't want to undervalue your house, many sellers today won't make as much as neighbors who sold last year, says Summers. If you have your heart set on a certain amount, and find out that houses aren't selling for that, you may "have to change your mind and sit on the house," she says.
9. Get rid of the junk. "This year it's more important because buyers are going to be more fussy," says Summers. "Buyers are going to come in with an attitude." Throw things out, ship them early or rent a storage locker. But clear out that clutter. Buyers look for space and light. To show it off, you need to be able to tour a group comfortably through the house, as well as actually walk into those "walk-in" closets.
10. Stay on top of the market. "You must be aware of market changes," says Summers, which is one reason she recommends using an agent. Stay on top of what is happening with mortgages and finance rates, keep looking at comps and, "see trends before they happen," she says. "The real estate market is still in a time of correction. You have to be so careful with both buying and selling."