The market, over the last two years, has been so hot (after being so cold) that a good many home-sellers and Realtors got to thinking that price does not matter much nowadays when dozens of anxious buyers are waiting in line with a bid in their hands, hoping to get a house. Well, wake up. Price matters.
Typically, one of the most agonizing questions both sellers and their agents dread the most (aside from the commission issue…) is indeed “What price should we put on the listing to produce the fastest sale at the best price?” Today, this question is very relevant, perhaps more than ever. Depending on the local market, the uniqueness of the property and its price range, you may explore different approaches to maximize your chances.
The choices have always been and will always be the same:
- Overprice: deliberately or by ignorance
- Underprice: deliberately or by ignorance
- Price at what we perceive to be “market value”
Remember that there is no magic recipe that works every time. Again, you need to take the pulse of the market at that very moment and understand that what works at the low-end rarely works at the high-end. Just supply & demand common sense. Let’s look at the three options and briefly analyze the pros & cons of each one.
- Overpricing: Hard to define what is an overpriced listing. As far as I am concerned, an overpriced listing is one that does not sell! In other words, , a property is not “overpriced” if a buyer buys it, even if we thought it was when we put the For Sale sign on the front lawn. The supply & demand dance can do strange things in a good market. Want an example? Look at what happened in the Silicon Valley over the last 30 months or so: very little inventory, huge pent up demand, cheap mortgage money, reassuring economic news , more stable job market, wave of rich IPO’s, etc. Results: in the mid range of the market, between $1M & $2M, selling prices have jumped, on average, well over 10% per year. Now, before you get too carried away, let’s use a little wisdom that only experience gives us. In the real estate business, the past is not necessarily a good guide to predict the future. It is not because prices have jumped yesterday that we can count on the same thing tomorrow. What we can say, looking backwards, is that if a house in that region has been on the market more than a month and did not sell yet, chances are it is indeed overpriced. Overpricing, in any market, is a dangerous idea. In my book, it is a terrible idea. If the market is slow, it makes no sense. If the market is hot but the house does not move quickly, it will soon grow old and collect dust as Realtors will always prefer showing new listings rather than those which have been aging on the shelves. Your choice.
- Underpricing: Talk about dangerous games!… You must have a strong heart to deal with that option. It can work to the sellers’ advantage. It can hurt just as well. In the hot market we have been enjoying for a while in the Silicon Valley and many other markets throughout the US, underpricing is getting to be as popular (and risky) a sport as bungee jumping. The idea is to tease anxious buyers with a price 5 to 10% lower than what we perceive to be the market price and manufacture a bidding war which may result in multiple offers and an ultimate sales price well over the asking (and presumably over what we the house would normally sell for…). Some agents make a good living advising their clients to take a chance. They may even win more listings using such gimmick with some degree of success. That, of course, is a bit deceptive since it is a strategy that can backfire. Keep in mind that underpricing does not guarantee a higher price. It could go the other way. Do I like this option? No. I just don’t like to play games. Your choice.
- Pricing at “market”: If you, as a home seller or as an agent, think you know at what price a buyer and a seller are likely to come to terms in any market, because you have a bunch of reliable comps (recent local sales of similar properties, active listings…) I suggest you use that option rather than play with a grenade. You may put a tiny cushion on top of the price to allow for possible negotiation. If the price is too high, you will soon know and you will cut some right away. If the price is too low, well, you will benefit from a buyers’ frenzy. If the price is right, you will obtain a quick & easy sale. A win-win. I like that. We all sleep better when we do business that way. Your choice.