Despite the emerging nationwide real estate recovery, many condominium apartments continue to languish unsold. Older condos and those in outer-tier suburbs can be especially hard to sell, says Mary McCall, president of the Council of Residential Specialists (www.crs.com).
"People definitely want to buy condos. But with all the foreclosures and short sales of the past, it can still be very hard to get a mortgage to buy a condo in some areas," says McCall, a veteran real estate broker.
"Since the bubble burst on real estate, condo prices have become affordable in a lot of areas. But in many cases, you must still have stellar credit or a big down payment to buy a condo, unless you can make an all-cash offer. The trouble is most buyers don't have those financial advantages," McCall says.
Helping to balance out the problem of slow-selling condos is a lively interest in condo buying among investors seeking to own bargain-priced units they can convert into rental properties.
Another bright spot for condo sales involves condos in pedestrian-friendly city neighborhoods and town centers.
Here are a few pointers for would-be condo sellers and their listing agents:
-- Make sure your unit is priced right from the outset.
Is the condo you're planning to sell located in an area with much new construction? If so, you'll need to take this reality into account when setting your price.
"If you try to push your price in an over-built area, your unit will just sit there," says Mark Nash, a real estate broker and author of "1001 Tips for Buying & Selling a Home."
Owners seeking to sell in a complex with many look-alike condos should make doubly sure their listing agent does a conscientious review of other properties that have sold during the prior six months. These are called "comparables," or "comps," and they should give sellers a reasonable idea of the price their unit will command.
-- Ask for a "broker's open" for agents throughout your area.
Of course, not all condos are tough to sell. Every region has neighborhoods that are consistently popular, says Dorcas Helfant, former president of the National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org).
"There are always niche condo markets with special cachet and almost no turnover," Helfant says. She says these include complexes in popular metropolitan centers, along with those that feature extraordinary views or beach access.
But even if your condo is located in a building where demand is steady, you'll want to ensure that it comes to the attention of serious buyers. That way you increase your odds of getting a strong bid or even multiple offers.
To compete with rival units in your complex, Helfant recommends you ask your listing agent to stage one or more "brokers' opens" at your condo. These are open houses to which real estate agents throughout your general area are invited. They typically feature food, entertainment or both.
"If your condo looks great and gets exposed to many agents, they'll spread the word and bring their clients by," Nash says.
As he notes, brokers' opens can be especially valuable to sellers in condo buildings where the supply of unsold units exceeds buyer demand.
"Most buyers trust their agents. If the agent likes a condo and knows it shows well, he's more likely to recommend a showing to his clients, and the clients will agree to visit. You want such serious buyers coming through, not just the kind of curiosity seekers who often visit public open houses," Nash says.
-- Make your kitchen more appealing.
Older condos often have small, galley-style kitchens. But that doesn't mean they can't be given the sort of spark that will set them apart.
"If you're selling a unit with a dated kitchen, you may need to spend a few thousand dollars to improve it. Often you can add great buzzwords to your listing with new appliances or countertops," Nash says.
Due to declining prices, granite countertops suitable for a small kitchen are now available for less than $3,000, according to Nash, though he says an increasing number of buyers are now expressing a preference for such solid surfaces as Corian, which is thought to be easier to maintain than granite.
For roughly the same sum, you can have a set of new appliances installed. Nash says that stainless steel appliances are still popular, though white appliances (and kitchen cabinets) are gaining favor with buyers of all ages.
-- Consider tangible incentives to increase buyer interest.
Some in the real estate field consider it crass for sellers to offer tangible incentives. But buyers who have an array of well-priced options in the same condo complex might pick a unit offered with such extras.
For instance, Nash says you might choose to give those who buy your condo a new iPad, a large plasma TV or a surround-sound stereo system. Or you could give them supermarket gift certificates for several months' worth of food.
"The freebies really work, I've seen it happen. But remember that freebies are no substitute for making your condo look wonderful and pricing it right," Nash says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at email@example.com.)