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Real Property: Selling In A Buyer's Down Market


When the market in your area is a buyer's market:

First, accept the fact that you are not going to receive the same amount for your house that you would receive in boom times when there is a seller's market in your area.

Do what you can reasonably do to fix up the house if it is need of substantial repairs.

The next single best step you can take is to set the asking price at a level which is likely to produce a sale. According to survey of Consumer Reports readers, homes sell most quickly if they are put on the market at a price that's just a bit lower than those of similar homes in the area.

Setting a lower price helps:

  • Get the attention of real estate brokers
  • Ensure that as many potential buyers as possible will look at your house.

Consumer Reports also suggests that you think in round numbers. Buyers who search on line specify a price range, beginning and ending with round numbers.

Offer incentives to both buyers and their brokers and include them in your ads. For example, consider the following ideas:

  • Help with closing costs such as the appraisal fee, or points to reduce cost of the mortgage.
  • Offer seller financing.
  • Help the person with the "Pay down": an offer by many lenders to reduce the interest rate for an upfront payment.
  • Offer a bonus incentive to brokers.
  • Offer a home warranty which covers the heating, cooling and plumbing systems and certain appliances. Your broker can recommend a company which provides this type of warranty or you can find a provider at offsite link.
  • Be flexible about the deposit to bind a deal.

Include a description of all incentives in your ads and in the contract of sale.

If you receive an offer below your asking price, but within a reasonable range, consider accepting it. As the old adage says, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." You don't want the buyer to have an excuse to look elsewhere.

With respect to buyer-requested contingencies, such as making an offer contingent on receiving financing and/or selling a current home: do what you can to minimize the effect. For example, you can do the following:

  • If a buyer insists on a contingency of selling a current home:
    • Request a pre-approval letter from a well-established lender (and call the lender to verify the content).
    • Request financial information from the potential buyer similar to the information a lender would request.
    • Ask for an earnest money deposit of a meaningful amount of money.
  • If a buyer insists on a contingency of selling a current home:
    • Do research about the buyer's home. For instance, what will it be priced at? What are current comps in the area? Are homes selling in that area today?
    • Include a provision in the sale agreement which provides that if you receive another offer, the buyer has 24 hours to remove the contingency or receive the deposit back and end the contract.

If all else fails:

  • Consider having an auction. Auctions can bring a quick sale. While auctions in a down market usually result in a drastically reduced price, an auction could actually bid up the price.
  • If you have missed or are about to miss mortgage payments, consider a short sale. A short sale is selling a house for less than the amount of the outstanding mortgage - with the lender's permission. It may be difficult getting a bank to agree, but it is worth the effort. A short sale is better for your credit rating than a mortgage foreclosure. (And credit is important to anyone with a life changing condition.)

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