Taking your home off market won't spur new interest

SMART MOVES

October 11, 1992|By ELLEN JAMES MARTIN

Are you an exasperated home seller who imagines that by removing your house from the market for a few weeks you'll spark new interest when it's relisted later?

Think again.

"When you list or relist a house today, it doesn't create any excitement," says Richard Sawyer, sales manager for the Bethesda office of Coldwell Banker. "Buyers are just overwhelmed with home choices. Today, what creates excitement is when someone is willing and able to buy."

Trying to spark new interest through a relisting is just one of the bad reasons to take your home off the market temporarily. Here are others:

* Bad reason No. 2: You are discouraged because your home has been up for sale for a long time.

What constitutes a "long time" is quite variable in real estate. How soon you can expect a house to sell depends on the overall market in your community and the type of property you're selling -- as well as its price and condition. Your agent should be able to provide you with local statistics.

"You have to look at the local pattern and see whether your house is typical," says Peter G. Miller, a Silver Spring-based author of real estate books.

The reality is that it takes longer than it did in the 1980s for a home to sell in most neighborhoods. And you can expect to wait especially long if your house is different from the norm -- say an architect-designed contemporary with an exotic floor plan or an upper-end property.

Assuming your home is shipshape in terms of condition and price, there will be more cons than pros in deliberately withholding it from prospects.

If your listing agreement is soon to expire and you're happy with your current agent, you can always negotiate a monthlong extension with that agent, real estate experts remind. You don't have to re-enlist for an additional three to six months.

* Bad reason No. 3: You want to change agents and think you must wait until one agent is gone before you engage another.

Some people think they must wait until a listing agreement expires to start talking to other agents. They'd rather not even let a second agent come over to see their property until the first agent is out of the picture. Thus, to execute a change, such sellers typically take their homes off the market for several weeks.

But there is no real basis to believe that you shouldn't go directly from one agent to another. As long as you are fulfilling the terms of the original listing contract, there's no reason to be sheepish about considering alternatives. In fact, bringing another agent or two over to see your property sooner rather than later could provide a welcome new perspective on how to market the place.

With sellers outnumbering buyers in many neighborhoods these days, you're likely to need a pro-active marketing program -- rather than the sort of reactive one that sold many homes in the 1980s. In other words, you need an agent who hustles -- one who talks up your property on the phone, distributes fliers and conducts open houses involving other salespeople.

* Bad reason No. 4: Your house has been overpriced and you think that by waiting a month or two, you'll give the market time to "catch up" with your price.

In many neighborhoods, prices are still drifting downward or are expected to plateau for what seems to be the indefinite future. That means that you have little hope that, after waiting out the market for a few weeks or months, you could capture your high price, says Barbara Hucht, who sells real estate through the RE/MAX Columbia office.

Though it's generally unwise to take a for-sale home off the market, there are exceptions to the rule. Here are three:

* Good reason No. 1: You realize that the home needs improvements to sell at a fair price.

If feedback from visitors tells you the house needs an interior paint job, it's better to withhold the property than make prospects navigate around step ladders and paint cloths.

* Good reason No. 2: You believe the current market won't give you what you absolutely need to trade up to your next home.

"You can't expect the market to pay you more for your house than it's worth," points out Ms. Hucht, the Columbia agent.

* Good reason No. 3: You need a justifiable stress break from the rigors of selling your home.

A household that's so frazzled that it is no longer cooperative with agents and buyers is not in an optimal position to sell, says Mr. Miller, the real estate author.

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