Sunday, February 8, 2009

Time to Reprice that Listing

There's a term in real estate called "chasing the market down", and it refers to people who start out by pricing their listings too high, and then continue to lower them month by month. It's a strategy that many sellers employ, and we agents are not immune to it ourselves, but the results are almost always poor. We can cite example after example of buildings and houses that sold BELOW what they would have sold for, if they'd only started out at the correct price. Now, I realize that "correct" is a term of art, and subject to disagreement. I also realize how tempting it is just to "test the market" at a high number. But you have to understand how the selling process works in order to see what a mistake it is.

A listing receives most attention when it's new, for a number of reasons. We notice signs when they're just erected. We notice pictures in ads when they're different from prior weeks. The same is true of the website. Also, agents and buyers who are receiving notifications of new listings are focusing on the ones that they haven't seen before. Most mailings are done on new listings. Most showings come as soon as something comes on the market. Everyone is motivated to see, consider, and buy something before it gets snatched up by someone else.

What that means for sellers is that you have wasted the most valuable exposure that your listing will receive. It's the same principle as the old saying that "you only get one chance to make a first impression". Every time the price comes down later, agents and buyers will have a subliminal impression that your property is overpriced, or that there's something wrong with it, since it's been on the market for so long. Why would you risk that, when our experience shows that people whose homes sell quickly for a lower price ultimately receive more than people who start out high, in order to "leave room to negotiate" or "see what they can get".

The moral is clear: If you're serious about selling, be serious from the start. Don't waste your time, your agent's time, or the attention span of the buying public. Consumers now are far more educated about prices, with the advent of the Internet. They'll know when you've entered the market with an attractive price, and your chances of selling, and selling quickly, will ratchet up. Take the money and move on. Buy another property while rates are low. Time is money.

Right now, our agents feel that almost 90% of our listings are priced too high to sell right away. Some of that is because, with declining prices, what was a good price 90 days ago may be too high now. Some is because there's just not enough selling right now (for example, only two houses closed in Madison in November). However, a great deal is because people don't understand what I just described above. You will have an advantgage--one you need in a difficult economy--if you do.