Given the advancing economic recovery and mortgage rates that remain favorable, home sales in most neighborhoods continue to be strong. But there are always "outliers" -- places where the market is slowing due to special factors, like layoffs announced by a nearby employer.
"Because all real estate is ultimately local, you'll always have housing markets that move contrary to the rest of the nation," says Michael Connerly, a real estate analyst and author of "How to Win With Real Estate."
A slow market can be discouraging for homeowners planning to sell an extra-fancy, upscale home for which they'd hoped to get a premium price. But even in a weak market, Connerly says it's possible for a one-of-a-kind showplace with exquisite features to fetch a fair price.
What characteristics set showplace homes apart? As Connerly says, these are typically spacious properties in the top 5 percent of the value spectrum for their area. Many have Old-World charm and such features as ornate moldings, built-in cabinetry, exposed beams and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Here are a few pointers for showplace sellers:
-- Don't bank on an excessive price premium.
Dorcas Helfant, a former president of the National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org) cautions against attaching too high a premium when pricing your showplace --particularly in a slow neighborhood market.
"I wouldn't go more than 3 to 5 percent over other homes of the same size in your community, even ones that don't show nearly as well," Helfant says.
As Connerly stresses, sellers who ask too much at the outset of a listing often pay a large penalty later if their property sits unsold for a lengthy period and the price must be dropped to draw buyers back.
-- Choose a listing agent with a sharp eye.
Buyers are always influenced by the appearance of a home, particularly how it looks from the street view. This is where a showplace can especially shine.
As Helfant says, "People who have a spectacular house have all the more reason to show it off through excellent visuals," such as photos for print advertising and video for online listings, including the online "virtual tours" that are now a popular marketing tool.
-- Request a neighborhood-wide open house.
When it comes to run-of-the-mill residences, real estate specialists often downplay open houses as a means for attracting serious buyers.
Still, Helfant says there's a way to enhance the impact of an open house conducted for a showplace: encourage other nearby sellers to hold open houses on the same afternoon, thereby increasing the potential draw.
"The more homes that are open, the greater the chance that serious prospects will come by, with or without their agents," she says.
As Helfant says, a neighborhood-wide open house can be especially beneficial for the sellers of a showplace. That's because buyers who visit multiple open houses in the same area can easily compare all the places they see.
"Go ahead and encourage buyers to see your competition. A beautiful house that's staged to sell will outshine all the others during a mega open house," she says.
-- Don't postpone moving plans due to a weak market.
Many owners of showplace homes are resistant to letting go of a beloved property, even if they have a good reason. And some even cancel their plans to sell soon after their place hits the market.
For example, Connerly tells the true story of a couple in their 50s who owned a handsome Edwardian-era property. Their plan had been to buy a waterfront place where they could one day retire. But within days of their place going on the market, they called their agent to withdraw the listing.
"Their 18-year-old daughter had become hysterical about losing the house where she'd grown up," Connerly recalls.
Tom Early, a longtime real estate broker who was twice president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (www.naeba.org) encourages sellers with second thoughts to remember the larger picture, taking into account the personal and financial implications of postponing a sale.
"Life isn't a dress rehearsal. If your dream after selling your showplace is to change your lifestyle for the better, then postponing a move could translate to quite a sacrifice in your happiness," Early says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at email@example.com.)