At this time of year, homeowners who are interested in selling figure the home-selling season is winding down and they put their moving plans on hold until spring. But this year, a changing market has given birth to a new mentality.

Many prospective sellers have accelerated their plans and are listing their homes for sale now rather than waiting until next spring.

The rationale runs something like this: Interest rates are rising and this is bound to change the market. If you wait until the spring of 2006 to sell, you could find yourself in a slower market. It might take longer to sell. And, you might not sell for as much as you could today. So, why not put your home on the market now?

There’s a sense of desperation in this train of thought. It’s impossible to know exactly what next year’s home sale market will look like. But, it’s unlikely that this is your last opportunity to sell.

In fact, you could argue that now is not the best time to sell given the recent decline in consumer confidence as a result of high gasoline prices, rising interest rates and recent hurricane disasters.

There is often a rebound after a natural disaster. Rebuilding New Orleans will create jobs, which could have a positive affect on the economy and on consumer confidence.

One thing we can be sure of is that you can’t time the real estate market. The market isn’t static; it’s constantly in flux. Home-sale activity varies not only over time, but also from one location to the next.

There’s no way to know if any given point in time is the very best time to sell. This can only be known in hindsight. It’s possible that the home sale market hit its peak for this cycle sometime during the past summer. This doesn’t mean that you’ve missed the boat. It means that the market is different than it was earlier in the year when buyers willingly paid over asking for prime listings.

Generally, the inventory of homes for sale currently is higher than it has been in some time, and interest rates also are higher. These two market shifts have resulted in a more discerning buyer.

You can’t personally influence the direction of the market. But you do have control over the price you ask for your home and how it looks when it hits the market. These two factors have a direct impact on how long it will take to sell your home and on the ultimate selling price.

Some sellers today are in such a rush to sell that they’re willing to put their home on the market without considering how it will be received by buyers. With more listings to choose from, buyers have the luxury of being selective. Why should they pay a high price to buy a house that looks bad when they can buy one that’s in move-in condition?

HOME SELLER TIP: Resist the temptation to put your home on the market in its “as-is” condition hoping that you’ll get lucky and find someone will overlook the clutter and deferred maintenance. Of course, you could ask a bargain price to attract attention. But even if you do discount, you’ll be selling to a limited market of buyers who want to buy a fixer-upper from a seller who’s desperate to sell.

THE CLOSING: Even though it takes time, you’ll have a better chance of a profitable sale if you properly prepare your home for sale before you put it on the market.

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.

***

What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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