mortgage

5 tips: Selling a house in a buyer's market

4. Offer incentives.
After you have put your head on straight, spied on the competition and fixed up your house, it's time to figure out what goodies you will dangle before buyers and their agents.

Besides a low price, incentives for buyers include paying discount points to lower the mortgage rate, paying closing costs or providing flexibility about the move-in date.

Consider offering a premium to the buyer's agent. Add a half-point or a point to the commission, or give the agent a cruise or a big-screen TV. "It may not cause the deal to happen, but it can just attract a little more attention and make your deal stand out," Razzi says.

Don't mix up incentives to buyers and their agents. Buyers focus on price and the house's amenities, so buyers' incentives should address those issues. A Caribbean cruise is a distracting gimmick to a buyer but might be an attractive incentive to a broker, Razzi says.

5. Price realistically.
Finally, "Don't get greedy," says Pam O'Connor, president and CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, a national network of 700 regional and independent firms. "Just because it went up to some astronomical value and it went down from there, you have to be realistic that there has been moderation in the market."

It takes research, often conducted by a real estate agent, to come up with a realistic asking price, and discipline to abide by it.

It's important that you, as the seller, understand the dynamics of pricing enough to build a defensible argument. It's not enough just to throw out a figure," says Mario Villena, vice president of sales and marketing for HomeKeys, a Miami-based online real estate brokerage.

Using tools on sites such as HomeKeys, Zillow and Redfin, buyers can get an accurate idea of your house's market value. You and your agent can't bamboozle buyers because they have so much information about comparable house values.

In a seller's market, sellers typically ask for 10 percent to 20 percent more than they expect to get, Villena says. You don't have that luxury in a buyer's market, and Villena suggests asking for just 3 percent to 5 percent more than you realistically expect to get. Setting an aggressive asking price attracts more prospective buyers to your door, discourages lowball offers and saves negotiating time. "You'll know fairly quickly whether they're willing to meet you or not," Villena says.

In a market where prices are falling, asking prices must fall, too, "which is a whole new concept for sellers right now," Saatchi says. For example, if the Smiths sold their house early this year for $700,000, you might have to ask just $695,000.

An agent has to have tact to break the news, Saatchi says: "When we tell our clients this, they think we are the devil."

Disclosure: Bankrate.com is a content partner with Zillow.com.

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-- Updated: July 5, 2007

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