Before the torrid real estate market of recent years, a common pricing strategy was to list your home for between 2.5 to 5 percent more than the expected sale price. This way, you would have room to negotiate with the buyer.

If you used this approach today, you’d be lucky to receive any offers. Recently, listings that were priced at or under market value received offer–sometimes multiple offers. Over-priced listings sat on the market unsold.

One risk of pricing too high for the market is that you won’t receive offers. Sellers often find this hard to believe. Why won’t buyers just make an offer if they think a listing is priced too high?

The answer is two-fold. First of all, if a listing is priced too high in a market where well-priced listings are selling, this may indicate that the seller has unrealistic expectations. Making an offer involves a big emotional commitment and it takes a lot of time. Most buyers don’t want to waste their time offering on a listing that’s over-priced for the market, particularly when there are other listings to choose from.

Secondly, even though buyers might prefer to buy without competition, the fact that a listing is popular is a stamp of approval. A property that is in high-demand is one that is likely to have good resale value.

Another risk of over-pricing is that you could end up in downward price spiral. Here’s how this can happen: You bring your home on the market listed at a price that you’re sure is right. After all, your home is better–in your estimation–than anything else on the market. Your agent cautions against this, but you’re intent on getting your price. After a month or two, you aren’t even getting a nibble from an interested buyer. Even so, other listings similar to yours are coming on the market and selling. In fact, buyer’s agents are using your over-priced listing to help them sell the well-priced listings that come on the market.

The longer your home stays on the market unsold, the bigger the risk that it will develop a negative stigma. Your home becomes the white elephant on the market. Buyers wonder if there’s something wrong with the property. In most cases, the only thing wrong is the price.

So, you reluctantly agree to lower the price. Your efforts could be fruitless if you reduce too little, too late. Meanwhile, more well-priced listings come on the market and sell.

If the market softens, as it has in many areas around the country, you might have to make further price reductions. Buyers tend to gravitate to the newer listings, not the ones that have been on the market for months. You’ll have to offer a cut-rate price to be competitive.

HOME SELLER TIP: It’s difficult for sellers to be objective about the value of their home. Although most sellers estimate high, some sellers, who can’t believe how much their home has appreciated, underestimate the value. For best results, rely on a real estate professional for a realistic price assessment. The dynamic is changing in many real estate markets around the country. Sellers, in many cases, are no longer in the driver’s seat. Keep this in mind when you select a list price for your home.

Comparable sales from a few months ago may be out of date for the current market. Even though your neighbor’s home sold for an exceptional price, it may have been the only game in town at the time.

THE CLOSING: Today, you’re much more likely to find competition from other sellers who want to cash in on the recent extraordinary home price appreciation.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers,” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.


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