Nobody wants to buy your house. It has been on the market for, oh, nine or 10 months or more now and you've had scarcely a nibble. This is getting old. What to do? Some real estate agents around Tampa Bay were asked how to jump-start your sale. Here's their advice.
Lower the price. This may not be what you want to hear, but "that's the No. 1 issue, provided you have overcome any other detriments," said Deborah Farmer of StarLight Realty in Tampa, president of the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors. A house that's been sitting on the market for a long time "has price issues."
"The houses that are selling are the houses that are priced properly," said Carolyn Kling of Tierra Verde Realty in Pinellas, past board chairwoman of the Pinellas Realtor Organization.
That means a house that is priced "back around the 2003-04 pricing," Kling said, not the loop-de-loop crazy pricing of 2005-06, before the bottom dropped out of everything. The median price of single-family homes listed on the Pinellas MLS this year has been in the range of $175,000 to $180,000, comparable to 2003. Condos are hovering around 2005 levels, from $152,000 to $176,000.
"It's a buyer's market," Farmer said. "It had been a seller's market for five years, but five years does not a tradition make. It was fun while it lasted."
Get your agent to run new comps — comparable sales — and pay attention. Pay for an independent appraisal and see what a third party thinks your house should sell for.
Be honest: Have you already taken your profits? Did you take out a home equity loan to remodel the kitchen or redo the master bath? Those were your profits. You need to adjust your expectations accordingly.
Look at the competition. Do you still have stars in your eyes about how wonderful your house is compared with others? Put in some shoe-leather time this weekend. Visit open houses in your neighborhood. See what's selling for what. "Get yourself some price reality therapy," says Alma James Alexander of Coldwell Banker Residential in Tampa.
Don't forget the basics. If your home has been on the market for a long time, it may be time to refresh and renew. What do those flowers out front look like after a long, steamy, wet summer? Have the weeds taken over? Are you sure the cat box doesn't smell? Maybe you do need to repair that rotted wood at the bottom of the garage door. Maybe you've put off painting the living room as long as you can. The home you want to move out of is somebody else's move-up, and it should look like a step up, an appealing improvement over where that potential buyer lives now.
Twelve percent of respondents to a Coldwell Banker survey said they knew the house they bought was "the one" even before they stepped inside. After visiting just once, that figure rose to 51 percent. Three out of four said the quality of a home was more important than the square footage.
Get your agent to post new pictures on the Multiple Listing Service and rewrite your home's description highlighting whatever you've done to change the home's appearance. "Hit the refresh button," Alma James Alexander recommended.
Take it off the market. Some buyers think if they pull their house off the market and relist it a few months later, they can fool agents or buyers into thinking it's a new listing, not one that has been gathering dust. Don't kid yourself. A good agent will look through the MLS archive and find that it's a relisting.
That said, if you don't absolutely need to sell, get out of the game. And if the house needs a new kitchen or new carpets, make those improvements and enjoy them for a few years, then sell. Why do all that work and make the house look fabulous so somebody else can enjoy it?
Or consider renting the house. It might help your cash flow and might convert to a sale.
Be realistic about how long it will take to sell. In July, of the 15,507 active listings of single-family homes and condos in the Hillsborough MLS, 12,723 had been on the market 270 days or longer. You have lots of company. Languishing on the market is the norm, not the exception. Average days on market in Hillsborough is 118, which may sound like a lot, but it's the lowest since 2007.
Consider all your alternatives. Some panicky sellers think a short sale is the only answer — selling the house for less than they owe on it. But lenders don't want all those homes. They may be willing to rewrite the loan, or tag on the interest at the end. Maybe a reverse mortgage is the right choice. Or maybe you need to bring some cash to the table, paying some of the closing costs or buying down the buyer's interest rate, to close a deal.