How you do a price reduction in a Seller’s Market

Okay, so you have made a mistake and overpriced your house. No worries. The market is strong enough that you haven’t shot yourself in the foot, you’ve just wasted a little time.

Back when the market was bad, it was even more critical to get the price right from the get go. The reason was because there were so few buyers entering the market. If they came to see your house and didn’t like it, a small price reduction wasn’t much motivation to come back and see it. About all you could do was made a big price reduction or wait for new buyers to emerge into the market.

Today, there are new buyers out every day. I don’t think in this environment that you need a huge price reduction to get your house sold. While it is true a lot of the same buyers who saw your house probably haven’t bought anything because there is literally nothing else to buy, your best bet is to catch a buyer who just started looking.

I think right now, I would suggest a small price reduction. That could serve two purposes. The first is that it might just cause a buyer who is tired of losing out in multiple offers to come back to you. It also makes it attractive to those brand new buyers. Every buyer loves a price reduction.

If your house makes it past the first day on the market and you didn’t get an offer, something is wrong. Whatever the issue is, a lower price always helps. If you reduce the price a bit and it still doesn’t sell, keep reducing the price a little until it does.

Of course, the best way to prevent needing to drop your price is to start out with the right list price from the beginning. Pricing it correctly usually means a faster sale and a far greater likelihood of getting multiples offers.

Want to know where the market is, TODAY?

I like to do these market updates every once in a while. When I do, I do them in real time. What do I mean by that? I meant that the info is right now. Most of the time when you are hearing about the real estate market, it is from sources that are a month or more behind, or it is from a national source that is giving you a dated snapshot of the market for the entire country. My data is taken from the MLS in the past 20 minutes and is specifically for the Bluegrass area.

I won’t geek out and break down all this data into price range, which town, or property type, but there were 24 existing home sales that went pending in the past 24 hours. Do you want to guess how many of them sold within 2 days of being listed? You would think it would be all of them based on what your realtor friends post online, or what you read in the news. But, of those 24 houses, only 4 of them sold in less than 2 days. There were 8 that sold between 2 and 10 days. 4 sold between 11 and 30 days. 4 sold between 31 and 60 days. And 4 sold between 61 and 90 days on the market.

Let’s look at the houses that closed in the past 24 hours. While pending sales give us a snapshot of what the market is doing right now, freshly closed sales give us a snapshot of where the market was a month ago since it usually takes 30 days or so to close.

How many of the closed sales do you think got full price, or over full price offers when these sales went pending last month? Again, you would assume all of them, right? Of the 23 closed sales posted today, only 8 of them sold for the full list price. 5 sold for over the asking price. One sold for $10k over the list price in a neighborhood where I have seen this happen frequently. That means 10 of the closed sales went for LESS than the full asking price.

I could go a lot of ways with this blog post, but I think I will take this chance to say that you really need an agent that knows when you need to offer the full price, when you need to go over the list price, and when you can make an offer for less than the list price. The market is so fast right now that I think a lot of buyer’s realtors are not looking at comparable sales in the neighborhood. They are just so focused on getting an offer in fast that they don’t really take the time to figure out what the house is really worth. To me, that is the most important bit of info we have to offer a client. I have had many listings in the past year where I had a ton of showings and didn’t get an offer on the first day on the market. Then the next day a realtor is frantically trying to reach me saying they are about to send a full price offer and are so glad the house is still available. Well, if I had 12 buyers look at the listing and didn’t get an offer, truth be told the house probably wasn’t worth the list price……but I am not going to tell the buyer’s realtor that, I just tell them where to send the offer.

That’s the data. I am by no means saying the market is slowing down. It is after all the middle of winter which is usually the slowest time of the year. I do think the market will stay strong for quite some time. I just wanted you all to know that not every house sells the first day on the market for full price or more. I want to help separate the perception of what the market is like compared to the reality.

What is being a realtor really about?

You’d think it would be about houses, but it is not.

You’d think it would be about the market, but it is not.

You’d think it would be about knowing what a house is worth, but it is not.

You would think it would be about marketing a property for sale, but it is not.

You would think it would be about showing houses to buyers, but it’s not that either.

All of these things are important, but they are not what being a realtor is really about.

It is about guiding people to make a good decision using all of the things above. I often describe my job, when asked, as “Talking people into making a good decision and talking them out of making a bad one.”

In the future, realtors might not even be needed for a buyer to view a house. People may end buying real estate like they do anything else online, or there will be an app to open the lockbox on the front door without a realtor. In the future one of two things will happen: Technology will make tools like Zillow’s Zestimate more accurate, or people will broadly accept them as being accurate. Either way, realtors won’t be needed to determine market value.

It all comes down to helping people make a good decision. There are tons of tiny decisions in buying or selling a house that can have huge consequences. Money can be lost. Time can be wasted. Stress can be compounded. Since most people only buy or sell a house a few times in their lives, often they don’t know the difference between a good decision and a better one. It is easy to make a good verses bad decision. Good verses better requires some knowledge and experience.

A realtor friend and I often chat about what we having going on. It makes us both better realtors I think. He had a situation where he had two offers on a listing. One was slightly better than the other, but the people with the slightly worse offer really wanted to live in that specific neighborhood. Do you go with more money and risk losing those buyers if the home inspection didn’t go well? Do you go with the slightly less offer where you know the buyer is less likely to walk away because they have to have that specific neighborhood? I told my friend to go with the higher offer. My thinking was that if the higher offer people walked away after the inspection, which is usually within 10 days, the other buyers who wanted that specific neighborhood will still be around. Best of both worlds.

Since the market is so hot right now, I am seeing lots of sellers saying a neighbor or a somebody they know is interested in buying their house before it gets listed. My advice to anybody today is to put the house on the market and try to get at least two offers. Today’s buyers are used to fighting to get a house. Get two or more buyers competing for a house and YOU as the seller will always come out the winner. Also, a buyer wanting your house because their parents or grown children live on the street will ALWAYS be there too. That buyer is not just looking for any house in your price range. Being close to mom, dad, grandma, grandpa or grandkids is what makes them want your house. They may or may not pay the most for it, but they are not out actively looking for any house in your price range all over town.

Another thing I am seeing more of is the opposite end of this where a buyer thanks me for my time and tells me they have bought a house from a friend. I had somebody this year with a friend who was selling their house by owner. My client bought it. The house had been on the market for quite a while. In today’s hot market, not selling fast is a sure sign that something is wrong. When buyers decide to wait for the next new listing and pass on your house, can you imagine how difficult it will be to sell the house in a cooler market? This is where the whole good verses better decision starts to have big consequences. People who make poor choices as a buyer typically don’t realize they made a poor choice until they go to sell the house. I saw plenty of that from Great Recession sellers who told me they went over the asking price in multiple offers when they bought the house that they were now selling for less that they owed on it.

So, being a realtor is really about using your experience and knowledge to help people make the best decisions possible. There is nothing that feels better than knowing your seller got the best deal possible, or that your buyer landed a house that will always be easy to sell when that time comes.

Some numbers that don’t matter

After 15 years in this biz, I’m finally going to drop my opinion on some numbers that don’t matter as much as people think they do…..Let’s go.

Average days on market: This is a snap shot to tell you exactly what it says, the average. If you are a seller, you only care about the days on market of one house, your own. While the average days on market can give you a snapshot of the overall market, there are soooo many variables that it really means nothing. The average days on market is tainted by several things. Thing 1 is that it includes the loser houses that stayed on the market forever. Thing 2 is that it includes new build to suit homes which show either zero days on market or were placed on the market before ground was broken.

Average sale price for all of Lexington or the entire state: You will often see data published that will say what the average sale price is for a specific town, state or even nationwide. Again, it’s just an average and is not at all useful to anybody for any purpose other than people who are writing an article about the real estate market. If more expensive houses are selling, guess what, the average goes up. If more cheaper houses are selling, it goes down. All you care about is your own house, right?

Average appreciation: You’ll read stuff like “The average home value increased by _% this year. That does not mean it is equally applied to every house. Some houses and neighborhoods did better than that, some did worse.

The exact square footage of a house: Sometimes I will encounter a seller who thinks his house is bigger than the PVA or an appraiser says it is. Often that difference is less than 100 square feet. Buyers tend to search within square footage ranges like 1500-2000, 2000-3000, over 3000 square feet, etc. If you have 2050 verses 2150 square feet it is not going to make any difference to a buyer. Which leads me into the next item.

Cost per square foot: This is again an average thing mostly used by people writing articles about the real estate market. The average person reads it and thinks it must be important. If it really mattered, then a very plain 2000 square foot home with ancient HVAC units and a roof that leaks would be worth exactly the same as a 2000 square foot, totally updated home that looks like something out of a magazine and has brand a new roof and HVAC units.

What the PVA says the house is worth: The tax assessor drives by every house every few years in their Toyota Prius, snaps a picture of the outside and places a value on the house for tax purposes. The value is just a number used to determine your tax bill. It is not the market value. They don’t go inside so they have no idea what it is like. Often, it can take years for a house to be reassessed. I bought a house in 2002 for $118,200 that I now rent out. The tax assessment was the purchase price until a neighbor sold in 2004. It then went to $135k. It stayed at $135k until 2018. During that 14 years, the market crashed, stabilized and took off again. The same house is now assessed at $153,300 and appraised earlier this year for $225k. (I hope nobody from the PVA follows my blog….shhhhhhh!)

The Zestimate: Is almost never correct. It’s a computer that takes in a lot of data without any wisdom about what makes a house worth more or less than other ones in the neighborhood. It’s sort of like the ultimate use of averaging data. Like the PVA, it can’t take into consideration things buyers factor into picking a house like colors, cleanliness, floor plan, shape of lot, slope of driveway, amount of natural light, number of trees, or a good or bad view. About the only time I have seen it be fairly accurate is in a newer subdivision where most of the houses are similar. The less variation in condition or updatedness, the easier it is to figure out a value because the value range is less broad. The more variation, the more you need an experienced realtor.

There you go. It feels so good to get this off my chest. I hope it helps you better understand the real estate market and how it impacts what is likely your biggest investment.

How do houses go up in value?

Ever wonder HOW prices rise for houses?

Before I got into real estate, I didn’t really think about it. You’d read stuff like the average price went up something like 4.6% last year…I assumed it was like a rising tide and affected every house the same way at the same time.

But it doesn’t work like that. It works more like traffic taking off after a stop light. The first car goes, then the second car see the first car moving and goes, then the third car sees the second car moving and goes, and so on. As much as I wished they would all move at the exact same time, they don’t. And that is exactly how prices go up in real estate.

There are lots of factors impacting value: Supply/demand, location, price range, condition, etc. No surprise here, but when prices are going up, the neighborhoods that are the most desirable and have the least supply go up first. Once there is enough of a price gap between those neighborhoods and the next best neighborhood, the prices of the second best neighborhood start to rise as buyers see a bargain and move in that direction. Then when the prices are up on the second best neighborhood, that does two things: It makes the prices go up on the first choice neighborhood since it is better, and it also drives bargain shoppers to the third best neighborhood. This process ends up going through ALL the neighborhoods in town as long as the market remains hot.

I sold two houses in one particular neighborhood several years ago to some friends wanting to rent them out. I was telling my friends that I thought the prices in the neighborhood were about to go up since there was a big gap between what an identical house was selling for in other neighborhoods. Since I tend to Geek out on this type of stuff, I don’t think they were as into it as I was…..but now their houses are each worth $35-45k more in just a few short years.

So, next time you are stuck in traffic, forgive me if it makes you think of real estate.