Agents divided on listing prices in ads

January 16, 1994|By Ellen James Martin | Ellen James Martin,Staff Writer

To price or not to price?

That's the question many homeowners ask when they bring a home to market and are working with their real estate agents in writing real estate ads.

Baltimore-area real estate specialists are divided.

"My feeling is that, if you're going to advertise the house, put the price in," said Arthur Davis III, president of the Maryland Association of Realtors.

"I think people are frustrated by not having the price in an ad," said Mr. Davis, president of Chase Fitzgerald, a Roland Park real estate firm. The absence of an advertised price, he said, may discourage some prospects from calling on a property.

But Mary Bell Grempler, chairman of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty, a Towson-based firm, said the presence of a price in a house ad will often needlessly eliminate some buyers, who might falsely believe that they cannot afford properties available to them. This is especially true now, she said, with mortgage rates so low.

"With all the different kinds of financing today, all the old rules of thumb are out the window," Ms. Grempler said. "You can afford a much more expensive house now than a few years ago."

Not all buyers have been "prequalified" for a mortgage, Ms. Grempler said. And among those who guess about their buying limit, most underestimate it, she said.

But David McIlvaine, an agent with ERA Caton Realty Co. in Ellicott City, said most would-be home buyers know their buying limits.

"I'm finding that buyers today are very sophisticated about what they can buy," he said.

Real estate ads often delete the price just to get buyers to call, said agent Jack Bateman of RE/MAX Advantage in Columbia.

If the price is in the ad, only buyers in that price range may call. If the price is excluded, many buyers may call to find the price. Even if it's out of their range, the agent can sell other properties to them.

Including the price "will reduce the number of people who call," Ms. Grempler said. "If one house is too high, we always have a lot of other houses we can show them."

Mr. McIlvaine, who includes prices in virtually all the ads he writes, thinks it can be a "turn-off" to a buyer if an ad fails to list a price.

"The price is as integral to the sale of a house as the number of bedrooms," he said. "If the price isn't there, there's a suspicion that something is wrong -- even though it probably isn't. Some customers won't even call."

Still, local real estate specialists emphasize that there are no absolutes. Although an ad for a house that is discounted should always include the price, Mr. McIlvaine said, the price should sometimes be left off a property that is extraordinary and requires an explanation.

For example, the house might be priced at the top of the neighborhood market, because of extras that are hard to describe in the ad, he said. In such cases, buyers could rule out the house on the false belief that the price is not justified.


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