Home-sellers have reigned supreme for months, as escalator-price contracts and multiple offers mounted and rival buyers competed ferociously for the same property. This frenzied market has caused many sellers to become arrogant.
But housing analysts now question whether the same level of arrogance will be justifiable going forward. That’s because there are signs the red-hot real estate market may be gradually beginning to cool.
Granted, home values keep escalating, raising serious affordability challenges for purchasers, especially those struggling to acquire their first home. Still, the drum-tight shortage of available properties is starting to loosen.
Danielle Hale, chief economist for the home-listing firm Realtor.com, says post-Independence Day data foretell improving trends for buyers.
“While listing prices ticked up, other metrics like inventory and time on market shifted in a buyer-friendly direction,” Hale says.
Whether seller hubris was ever warranted is a matter of debate. But real estate specialists say a cavalier approach is certainly unwise for owners as market conditions begin their slow shift.
Rich Harty, a real estate broker who works solely with buyers, catalogs a number of turnoffs that could seriously impair your sale, especially now that competition among buyers is gradually lessening.
“Allowing a musty odor to persist in your home is a tipoff to serious water problems. You need to address your drainage issues or face the real prospect that buyers will pass on your place,” says Harty, president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (naeba.org).
Another buyer turnoff is the odor of cigarette smoke.
“It’s extremely hard to remove cigarette smells from any place because the smoke gets absorbed in the carpets, furniture and cabinets. But as sellers, you should do this to achieve your maximum level of success,” Harty says.
Here are a few added pointers for sellers on errors to avoid:
-- Don’t show your place with a grimy interior.
Sid Davis, a real estate broker and author of “A Survival Guide to Selling a Home,” says that trying to sell a home that’s unclean is a huge mistake.
“Going on sale in junk condition could be deadly for your prospects,” Davis says.
Cleanliness is paramount because all buyers want a fresh start when they move.
Unless their houses are immaculate, Davis recommends that sellers pay for an in-depth cleaning. He advises those planning to hire a cleaning service to ask neighbors or work associates for recommendations.
-- Avoid rebuffing your listing agent’s advice on fix-ups.
As real estate experts point out, sellers benefit when they receive a critique of their property well before it goes up for sale. That way, they have time to make sure all important repairs and upgrades are done before buyers troop through.
But Davis contends that too many agents “fear giving sellers the straight truth.” He says some worry their candid remarks about a property could cost them the chance to obtain or retain the sellers’ business.
Savvy home-sellers welcome constructive criticism.
“Why not hand the agent a room-by-room checklist on which they can itemize the improvements needed to maximize the sale? And leave space on the checklist for changes to your yard,” Davis says.
Obviously, it’s not enough to merely solicit feedback. You’ll also need to go down the checklist and make the suggested changes.
-- Avoid listening to pricing advice from know-it-all neighbors.
As soon as word spreads that you’re planning to sell, odds are neighbors will begin offering advice on pricing.
“Neighbors believe they’ll benefit if you price high, because they think that will push up local home values,” Davis says.
But neighbors’ views on pricing are often based solely on wishful thinking or the rumored prices for other homes that have sold. That’s why Davis recommends you ignore their suggestions and set your asking price only after sitting down with your agent to do a systematic review of recent sales in your area.
“If you want another opinion, call in an appraiser. That’s much better than relying on gossip,” Davis says.
With rare exceptions, he urges sellers to avoid the common error of trying to “test the market” with a list price higher than what other similar properties in the area have fetched. That’s because an over-market asking price usually hurts the reputation of a home and yields less in the long run.
-- Avoid hanging around during showings.
Real estate agents almost always advise their clients to disappear when their property is shown to prospects. But some sellers believe they know better and insist on staying around.
“These sellers don’t like strangers walking through their home -- which they find unsettling. They worry something bad will happen to the property if they’re not there to protect it,” says Fred Meyer, an appraiser-broker who sells homes near Harvard University.
Why is it critically important for the sellers to disappear before showings? Because it’s tough for buyers to bond with a property if they must muffle their comments to avoid offending the owners.
“Buyers need to be able to say out loud the negatives about a house so they can figure out how they’d address them. It takes a lot of energy not to say what you really think,” Meyer says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)