Selling your home in a buyer's market
Size up the market before you list your house
But even if you have less competition and better prospects, today's buyers are still a tough bunch. They're nervous and risk-averse. They want a home in move-in condition, with all the upgrades completed, because they know they can't count on a quick increase in the home's value to help them recoup money they spend on improvements. "You must find a way to improve the condition or lower the price until a buyer pulls the trigger," says Leigh Brown, an agent with Re/Max in Charlotte, N.C.
As a seller, you may have your own issues to grapple with -- not the least of which is thinking your home is worth more than it is. Gayle Henderson, an agent with Re/Max in Phoenix, recommends that sellers play "buyer for a day" to check out the competition in their neighborhood. It will help you be more realistic about the price you set for your home.
Above all, find a good agent. Don't interview just one candidate -- that's a mistake that two-thirds of sellers make, according to the National Association of Realtors. In addition to a history of successful sales in or around your neighborhood, you want total honesty -- even if it's painful to hear that you must spend money in order to sell.
In 2010, sellers nationwide paid an average commission of 5.4 percent, reports Real Trends, a real estate consulting firm. If an agent or the agent's firm wants to be able to represent you and a buyer in the same transaction in order to collect the full commission, try to negotiate the rate down by one or two percentage points.
(Patricia Mertz Esswein is an associate editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit www.Kiplinger.com.)