Overconfidence can put the kibosh on a home sale

March 27, 1994|By Ellen James Martin | Ellen James Martin,Sun Staff Writer

The spring market may be strengthening in the Baltimore area. But it's hardly a time for overconfidence on the part of sellers. Local realty specialists suggest these tips for selling well in the current spring market:

* Don't price your home as if you're in a seller's market.

"The market has not gone up in price at all yet," said Chris Tsucalas, an agent with RE/MAX Columbia Inc. in Howard County.

Although the local market seems to be heating up this spring, that hasn't translated into price jumps yet, he said. There is still uncertainty about the economy and mortgage rates have started to inch up.

* Don't overprice, assuming you can always come down.

"If you price too high, you'll chase away buyers in your price range. They won't even look at your house," said Beverly Rosen, sales manager for the Pikesville office of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc..

Even small price differences can affect the volume of showings your house will receive from prospective buyers, she said.

This spring, many buyers are better educated and more price sensitive than ever.

To illustrate her point, Ms. Rosen tells about a Randallstown woman who listed her small, three-bedroom rancher on the market for $106,000 -- hoping to get an offer in the $97,000 to $98,000 range. But after about six months of waiting, the house had still not sold and few lookers had come by.

Yet after the owner changed agents and reduced the priced to $99,900, the house sold within 10 days, fetching $98,500 -- the sum she'd been counting on from the beginning.

"Come in close to where you want your house to sell," Ms. Rosen said.

* Don't forget to fill out your seller disclosure or disclaimer form.

Under a state law that took effect on Jan. 1, all sellers must itemize defects in their home, if any, or sign a disclaimer that they are offering the property "as is."

The law says the completed forms must be in the buyer's hands before ratification of a contract, which occurs when the seller puts his signature to a contract offer from a buyer. Failure to provide one of the forms on a timely basis could cause your deal to fall through.

Remember, too, that the law applies to all homes on the market after Jan. 1, even if they were put up for sale before that. And it applies to owner sales as well as agent sales.

* Use a "financial fact sheet" to spell out for buyers the cost of your house on a monthly basis.

For many buyers, the total cost of your house is secondary to the monthly outlays they would have to make to make the purchase, real estate specialists say. Now that they have watched mortgage rates rise in recent weeks, buyers are especially nervous about the payments they'll face. They also worry about down payment costs.

* Study your competition.

You might think you can price your house the same way the guy up the street has because you believe that the two properties are exactly comparable. But knowing more about the condition and improvements of the other property could give you a more realistic view, said Randy Camden, an agent for Long & Foster in Crofton.

* Be sure your house goes on the spring market in excellent condition.

During the warm seasons, prospects who come through your home will be more aware than ever of how clean it is, said Kay Deitz, an agent with Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc. in Bel Air.

"The sun shines in so powerfully in the spring and summer that people see all the dirt," Ms. Deitz said.

Ms. Deitz recommends that you wash your windows and blinds thoroughly for spring showings, and hire a power-washing company to clean your siding and walkways. She also suggests that you pay special attention to the cleanliness of your front door, which is a highly visible element when you show your home.

"If a buyer sees that the front door is dirty, he'll think the whole house is dirty and not well-maintained," she said.

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