real estate

Are you the reason your home won't sell?

Indeed, experts stress that the only way to proceed confidently with selling at a loss is to thoroughly research the housing market in your area.

Ask your agent to provide lots of recent prices on sales of comparable homes. In some states, agents can also provide very recent sales data by getting the prices of homes under contract, says John Huggins, president of Coldwell Banker Legacy Real Estate Group, in Bowling Green, Ky. Home sellers can also ask to tour other properties for sales to get an idea of how their home compares with other properties being offered at various price levels, he says.

Homeowners who owe more in mortgage than they can likely net in a sale have to investigate whether they'll have to add in their own cash to pay off the loan, or whether the mortgage lender will agree to accept a lower amount. In cases where owners have to pay out of pocket to sell, that outlay could alter the advantage of moving, says Neal.

3. If you hold out, could you avoid a loss?

Going against the natural inclination to avoid loss means that you've analyzed the cost of holding the property and are reasonably confident prices won't spring back up.

The National Association of Realtors forecasts home prices nationwide will end 2010 up just under 4 percent from the end of this year.

Moody's Economy.com predicts prices will stabilize in mid-2010, but there will be no appreciation. Economy.com's housing economist Celia Chen expects some middle and higher-end housing at risk for further decline next year, and thinks that some homeowners will not see prices return to what they paid for at least several years.

Real estate trends are local, adds Huggins. He advises looking at prices for similar homes in your area and gauging demand against inventories.

When he prepares spreadsheets for homeowners to examine the costs of holding versus moving, Suplee asks: "What rate of appreciation does the house need for a holding strategy to make sense?" Then, he asks for an honest determination of how plausible it would be to see that appreciation.

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