This is the toughest time we’ve seen for home sellers, perhaps since the Great Depression. The early 1980s were grim, when interest rates were near 18 percent and buyers couldn’t qualify for financing. Months went by when virtually nothing sold.
There is sales activity in the current market, but there are many more listings that aren’t selling than are. There are exceptions: high-demand price ranges or neighborhoods where there are very few homes for sale.
Two examples in the San Francisco Bay Area are Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood — within walking distance of the rail transit system (BART), shops and cafes — and the $900,000 to $1.4 million price range for a 3- to 4-bedroom long-term house in nearby Piedmont, where the public schools are stellar.
Even if you’re fortunate to own in a highly coveted area, you’re selling in a difficult market. You still need to properly prepare your home for sale. Today’s buyers want turnkey condition. And it must be priced right for the market.
Before deciding if this is the right time to sell, find out what your home is likely to sell for and what you need to do in order to realize that price. If you can’t be realistic about the current market value of your home, stay put. Your overpriced listing will help sell other well-priced listings. But the experience will be frustrating and a waste of your time.
Pragmatic sellers who have a desire to move now need to make their house shine in comparison to the competition. Your real estate agent can help you by recommending good people to work with for painting, staging, yard work, etc.
It’s wise to start preparing for a sale months in advance, depending on how much work needs to be done. You’re not just selling your home, but merchandising the complete package. Some sellers give too little attention to the exterior, which adds to curb appeal and can extend the living space of your home.
For example, a vacant deck won’t convey the same ambiance as a deck that is staged for sale with large, flowering potted plants, an outdoor table and chairs, and a chaise lounge. With these embellishments, the deck becomes an extension of the living space to use for entertaining or relaxing outdoors. It’s like having an extra room.
Be creative with extra nooks and crannies. A plus room off a bedroom could be a nursery or home office. Be careful how you disclose bonus rooms. Don’t misrepresent a plus room as an additional bedroom if it wasn’t put in legally with a permit.
First impressions are lasting. If the neighbor’s house looks ghastly, consider installing a privacy screen between your house and theirs, but don’t violate fence-height requirements. If your neighbors’ garage door needs painting and they can’t afford to do it, ask your neighbor for permission to have the work done at your expense.
Don’t skimp on disclosures. Lawsuits are on the rise in this market. Prices could drop before they rise again. Most people are under financial pressure and would be more likely to make a claim against a less-than-forthright seller today than they would have when prices were rising.
There’s a lot of anxiety involved in selling today. Will your house sell? How long will it take? What will it sell for? It will be easier on you if you’ve done everything you can to present a good listing at the right price.
The market is always changing. You could find that you need to make a price adjustment at some point. If your house is wonderful in many respects, but is a less-conventional home than most, it could take longer to sell.
THE CLOSING: Buyers are looking for homes that they can stay in for 10 or so years.