The Dangers of an Unreasonable Asking Price
One of the most common and costly mistakes made by sellers is setting an unrealistically high asking price. Every seller wants to receive the highest closing price possible for their house, but losing sight of fair market value can have serious repercussions.
In some cases a lack of objectivity results in overpricing the home, other sellers may subscribe to the theory that pricing high initially leaves room to negotiate lower later. Overpricing from the outset could actually force you to end up settling for a lower price than you would have received by setting a realistic asking price based on market research.
Common Results of Overpricing
Fewer "Eyes" on Your Listing - Mispricing your home can prevent it from ever being seen by a certain percentage of potential buyers who might otherwise be interested in your home. Savvy buyers today research the local market even before acquiring an agent. Buyers will search available listings both online and offline in real estate publications, and in most cases they will set a price range to limit the listings they review. If your home is outside of their range even by a few thousand dollars, it may not be on the buyer's radar.
Most buyers will then hire a specialized buyer's agent, and together they will develop a strategy to evaluate homes that match the buyer's needs within their acceptable price range. Occasionally an agent will provide information on a home above the buyer's maximum price point, but rarely will they stray too far above that boundary.
Lack of Showings - Agents who work with homebuyers will know local market conditions and the listing prices of comparable homes. If they feel your home is overpriced, they will be reluctant to show your home to their clients for fear of wasting their time.
Helping Competing Listings - It may not be your first thought, but overpricing for your home for the market can actually help the competition. Your home's higher asking price will make other nearby homes of equivalent size and quality look like steals in comparison. Astute selling agents for other properties will use the price gap between your home and their own as a further selling point of their listings.
Stagnation and Stigmatization - If your home is priced higher than what buyers in your market are willing to pay, it runs the risk of sitting on the market for a longer period. The longer your home sits on the market, the more likely it will become stigmatized as "overpriced" in the real estate community. Once that happens, removing the stigma and restoring interest in your home can be a difficult task. Even dropping the price later will not have the same level of impact as the initial, negative, impression of your listing.
Tough Negotiations - A high listing price can be a warning flag that buyers use for leverage during the negotiation process. If the asking price seems high without home improvements or features to warrant the difference, buyers may assume that you are either A) not well informed about the market, B) not a highly motivated seller, C) have a need for money (perhaps forced by a move to a higher-priced area), or D) are simply creating some bargaining room. If the buyer believes any of these, they are likely to fish to determine how low of a price you will accept.
On the other hand, if your home has languished on the market as a result of a high price, buyers may believe you are becoming desperate. Interested buyers will make lower offers as a result.
Appraisal Problems - Should you be fortunate enough to find a motivated buyer willing to pay your overestimated asking price, you still run the risk of having the deal fall apart prior to closing. Most buyers will use some kind of financing to pay for their home purchase, and every lender requires an appraisal of your home's value.
The appraiser will review your home in person to assess its value based on similar homes that have sold (usually within the last six months). If the appraised value is below the agreed selling price, the lender will only approve a loan for the lower amount. You may be forced to reduce the selling price or risk having the deal collapse, and your home return to the open market.
Overpricing and Today's Market
Today the tendency to overprice relative to the current market can be even more tempting. Home prices have dropped since the high peaks in the summer of 2006, and as a result many are in denial about the current market value of their home. Homeowners who bought within the past five or six years in particularly may be overly influenced by the purchase price they paid during the real estate boom.
This comes at time when overpricing couldn't be a worse strategy. There is a smaller pool of highly motivated buyers, and today's buyers tend to be well educated about the market. Without the assumption of price appreciation, few buyers are willing to gamble and overpay for a home. In addition, credit tightening has reduced both the number of buyers who can qualify for a mortgage as well as the size of the mortgages available.
Creating a Pricing Plan
When pricing your home, the best strategy is to remain objective and compare your home closely to similar properties on the market. Take the opportunity to visit open houses and pay attention to recent sales in your area. Are you more focused on selling quickly, or on receiving the highest possible selling price? Is the price you have in mind reasonable when compared with what other homes are asking for and selling for?
Priced Too High: Corrections
If your home has been sitting on the market with few offers or showings to its name, consider whether or not it is priced correctly. Review recent sales of comparable listings, especially those that have sold since your home went on the market. Another method is to ask agents who have shown your property for feedback they received from their clients. Have buyers who looked at your home in person purchased other homes in the area instead?
Acting quickly to adjust the asking price is the best way to keep as much of your marketing momentum as possible. Depending on how long your listing has been on the market, additional marketing may be needed to help repair some of the "damage" done to the reputation of your home's listing at the higher price. In some cases, you may be forced to slightly under price your listing to create additional interest.
Eric P. Egeland, SFR, CDPE, e-PRO