According to the media, now is one of the worst times to consider selling a home. However, although the national statistics don’t paint a rosy picture, some sellers are finding success in this market. It all depends on what you have to sell — house or condo, where it’s located, what kind of condition it’s in, and how well it’s priced for the market.
Some sellers wonder if one time of year is better for selling than another. Usually, spring is the season when the highest volume of home sales takes place. The end of summer tends to be slower, while there is often a spurt in the fall after prospective home buyers return from vacation.
However, although there is generally a seasonal pattern to the real estate market, every year is somewhat unique. For instance, last year, the housing market didn’t have a noticeable fall pickup in home-sale activity. Whether or not we experience an uptick in activity this fall will depend on interest rates and on the supply/demand balance in your particular neighborhood.
The most notable characteristic of the recent slowdown in the home-sale market has been the increase in the numbers of homes for sale in comparison to recent years when inventories were at record lows in many areas. Although rising inventories of homes for sale is a widespread phenomenon, there are still some markets in the country where listings have not increased significantly. In those areas, the market is likely to be active this fall as long as interest rates remain relatively low.
In areas with a large standing inventory of unsold homes, selling is more challenging. Buyers in these markets feel no urgency to buy. With plenty of homes for sale to choose from, buyers can take their time to find exactly the right place.
A precipitous drop in interest rates could create a catalyst if buyers perceive an opportunity to buy a well-priced home with a low-interest-rate mortgage. Absent an outside stimulus, sellers need to provide an enticing incentive to motivate a buyer to buy in an otherwise lackluster market.
HOME SELLER TIP: Sellers who aren’t motivated to sell at market value, whatever that might be, should seriously consider postponing selling. Getting a home in the kind of condition that will maximize your return on the sale takes time and money, particularly if you’re competing against new homes that are sitting on the block unsold. Don’t waste your time if you’re not committed to doing what it takes to get your house sold.
When there’s stiff competition, being priced right for the market may mean pricing under the market. A Crocker Highlands (Oakland, Calif.) home in mint condition was listed in July at a below-market price that generated a handful of offers and a quick sale for over the asking price.
Economists forecast a turnaround in the housing market sometime in 2008 or 2009. But, no one knows for sure. The market could slow more before it improves. Or, the inventory for homes in your area could drop as sellers of overpriced listings give up. This would create a better market for sellers who are realistic about current market conditions.
Your agenda may require a timelier sale than next year or the following year. If so, get your home ready to sale. Study the local market carefully. When the for-sale signs disappear in your neighborhood, check with your agent and see if the time is right for you to make a move.
THE CLOSING: Then pick an enticing list price and make your home gleam. The market will take care of the rest.
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.