Real Estate Selling

How to Sell Your House in a Sluggish Market

While it’s ideal to sell during a hot market, if you must sell your house during a slow period, tweak your marketing approach to get the best possible price.
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A Focused Plan of Action

Like all markets, real estate has its ups and downs. In a declining housing market, you’ll find houses listed below their appraised value that will be in competition with yours, but that doesn’t mean you must dump your house and take a huge loss. You can still sell—even at a profit—if you’re committed to working harder than your competition to creatively market your house and make it stand out. Click through for tips on how to successfully sell your house in a sluggish market.

Price it Right

Overpricing their houses is the number-one mistake sellers make, which results in houses sitting on the market for months. When a property sits, potential buyers may wonder whether something is wrong with it and the house becomes stigmatized. For a quick sell in a sluggish market, have a real estate agent perform a market analysis, which will determine the likely eventual sales price of the home based on recent similar sales.

Have it Appraised

A home appraisal is a certified estimate of its fair market value that is used by lenders when deciding whether they should loan money for it. Typically, after an offer is made on a house, the buyer’s lending company orders a professional appraisal to ensure the house is worth the price—and what the buyer usually pays for this appraisal. In a slow market, however, if the seller shells out for a professional appraisal (around $250 to $400) before the home is listed, a lender is more likely to loan money for the purchase and the buyer knows exactly what the house is worth. Your lender can recommend a qualified appraiser, or you can use the interactive site at the National Association of Realtors.


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Have it Inspected

Like an appraisal, a professional inspection is usually required for a lender to finance a mortgage on the house, so having the inspection done in advance ($300 to $500) increases your odds of a buyer making an offer. The report gives both potential buyers and lenders comprehensive details about the condition of your home’s structure, as well as its siding, wiring, HVAC, windows, roof, and interior.

Focus on Curb Appeal

When your house has a lot of market competition and housing prices are dipping, make moves to set it apart from the pack. One of the best ways to lure buyers in the front door is to boost your curb appeal. A new coat of paint, manicured shrubs and hedges, a pristine lawn, and no clutter anywhere in sight will make your house more attractive than others for sale in your area.

Get the Right Agent

Real estate agents abound—you can find their photos on everything from newspaper pages to park benches—but during a sluggish market, you need the power of an outstanding agent to move your house. Ask your banker who the top-selling agent is in your community; also ask for referrals from neighbors and friends. Interview at least three agents to find out how they plan to market your home. Ask, for instance: Will they hold frequent open houses? Will they pay to run larger ads in the local newspaper? An agent who will market aggressively has a better chance of selling.


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Stage It Professionally

Staging a home to sell is a skill, and a professional stager—often an interior designer with a solid sense of the real estate market in your area—knows exactly what turns buyers on. You’ll pay an average of $500 to $1,200 per month, depending on the quality of the furnishings, to have your house professionally staged, which includes the cost to rent high-end furniture. The most important rooms to stage are the living room, kitchen, dining room, master bedroom and bathroom; any rooms that are not staged should be scrupulously clean and clutter free.

Buy a Home Warranty

Buying a home warranty that covers the cost of repairing appliances and mechanical systems will sweeten the pot and might bring a buyer to the table. A home warranty, through a company such as American Home Shield, will cost an average of $50 to $80 per month, depending on what it covers, and you can prepay for the service for a year or two so the buyer feels protected from major repair costs.


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Make Repairs Now

It’s easy to get so used to small problems in a home that you no longer notice them, but dripping faucets, peeling wallpaper, and other cosmetic problems will be glaring to potential buyers. Walk all the way through your house and look for problems you usually ignore; better yet, have a trusted friend do so—someone more likely to see the issues. These should all be fixed before listing your house.

Skip iBuyers

You may be tempted by ads and signs that proclaim, “We Buy Houses for Cash.” These are placed by iBuyers, companies or individuals that make online offers on homes almost as soon as they are listed on internet real estate sites–without ever seeing the home in person. While it might be tempting to sell your house and get the money immediately, iBuyers will offer far less than what your house is worth, and then resell it at a profit. Even in a sluggish market, you stand a much better chance of getting a fair price through a traditional real estate transaction.

Define a Selling Point

What is your home’s most outstanding feature? Does it have historic appeal? Have you made recent home improvements? Is there a huge yard with a deck and pool? Determine what makes your house unique and market that point strongly. Be objective, making sure that the defining desirable feature will appeal to a broad spectrum of folks. Ask your agent to mention the selling point early in the online and/or published listing, followed by other details such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.


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Get Creative

While a selling agent will advertise your home, when the market is down, you need to step up. Post the online listing to your Facebook page and ask your friends to share it. Have a drone operator take aerial views of your property so buyers can see it from all angles. Set up your own website dedicated to marketing your property and share stories of happy times you’ve had in your house. Creative marketing will set your house apart from the competition.

Keep it Clean

It can be difficult to maintain the high level of clean required for a showing, but it’s essential. When sellers list a home, it’s common for them to request a 24-hour, or longer, notice before scheduling a showing in order to get the house ready to show. If you need a few hours (or days) to get it spit-shined, potential buyers could walk through other houses first and you could lose a sale. Don’t chance it—keep your place spotless while it’s listed.