In a buyer’s market, home sellers need to set realistic price

Selling a home can be an emotional experience because most sellers have a lot more than money invested in their homes. So, it’s understandable that sellers might be reluctant to respond to an offer that is for less than the asking price.

Most sellers have a difficult time being objective about their homes. But, detachment is something sellers should strive for, particularly when the market favors buyers. To be a successful seller in a buyer’s market, you need to be able to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Ask yourself if you were a buyer if you would pay the price you would like to ask for your home.

In a soft market, like we are currently experiencing in many parts of the country, buyers are prone to make a low offer on any listing that doesn’t receive offers from more than one buyer. The exception is when a listing is priced so competitively that a buyer recognizes a good deal and buys the property before others have a chance.

Some sellers might be inclined to inflate their asking price so that they will have room to bargain with a buyer. This is a risky strategy for serious sellers. In a buyers’ market where there are a lot of homes for sale, the best listings at the best prices sell.

The listings that don’t sell usually need price reductions to get them to a marketable range. If the market is trending downwards, this could mean selling for a lower price than might have been possible if the listing had been priced competitively to begin with.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Sellers whose homes are not competitively priced are prime targets for low offers. Even if your home is not badly priced, you could receive a lower-than-asking-price offer if market conditions are uncertain. Rather than being insulted by a low offer, sellers should view it as the beginning of a dialogue that could result in a sale.

Pay close attention to the buyer’s financial capability. Gone are the days where buyers could buy a home with little or no cash down, and without verifiable income. Today’s buyers are subjected to far more financial scrutiny by lenders than they were a year ago.

Ideally, buyers should be preapproved for the financing they need before they make an offer. If they are not, make sure there is a clause in the purchase contract that requires the buyers to apply for financing within a several days of acceptance.

Find out what kind of financing the buyers are applying for and which lender they intend to use. Some mortgage lenders recently failed to fund buyers’ loans at the last minute. Make sure your buyers receive underwriting approval from a bona fide lender. The number of days for lender approval should also be included in the contract.

Sellers who receive an offer that is unacceptable regarding any of its terms and conditions — not just the price — should have their agent draft a counteroffer. Buyers and sellers often don’t know in advance what price they’ll accept until they’re in the midst of a negotiation.

For example, a seller who bought another home before selling might accept a lower price if his house has been on the market awhile and the buyer’s offer is not contingent on the sale of another property, and if the transaction will close quickly. Likewise, a buyer could agree to pay more than he thought he would if interest rates were to drop.

THE CLOSING: The counteroffer process can happen quickly or it can be long and tedious. Be prepared to explore all options before letting a negotiation fail.

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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