If for-sale signs have sprouted like weeds in your neighborhood and the grass is growing up around them, it's no time to panic, say real estate experts.
It's time to go back to the basics.
In the past year, inventory levels are up 30 to 40 percent in some areas, say agents. Some homes sit for months instead of days. To sell, the experts say, the price has to be right and the house has to look move-in ready.
Setting a price at or below market, cutting it within weeks if buyers don't respond, helping buyers with closing costs, making your house stand out with new paint or new appliances--those are traditional strategies in competitive times.
Now, some sellers also are dangling offers of vacations and cars. Others are turning to auctions, normally associated with foreclosures. Some are just praying.
Here's a closer look at some sales tactics for today's market.
Price it right
Pricing a house right is the most important part of the equation, but it can be hard to find that number in a changing market. It doesn't help to know what a house sold for six months ago or even three months ago.
"You have to look at what the contract prices have been recently, not at what the high-water mark was in 2005," said Linda Braley, an appraiser in McLean, Va. "Those prices are gone."
Even those who had their houses appraised for refinancing in the past year should look again before listing, Braley said. "In a market where not much is changing, you might have a shelf life of about six months on an appraisal. But in the current situation, it's very difficult to keep up with prices."
The American Society of Appraisers in Herndon, Va., suggests sellers read their old appraisals to find things that had a negative effect and consider updating or remodeling those areas. Sellers might pay for an upfront appraisal, which costs about $350, to avoid getting blindsided.
Sellers also have to take a steely-eyed look at the condition of their house. If there are defects, a shopper will zero in on those first, said Tom Hanson, an agent with the Pure Energy Team at Gerlach Real Estate in Silver Spring, Md.
Then, sellers must either fix the problems or lower the price, Hanson said.
Some agents routinely advise clients to start at or about 5 percent below the last sale. "We encourage sellers to see what's comfortable for them to walk away from the table with," said Margaret Ireland, chairman of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and a managing broker at Weichert Realtors in Manassas, Va. "The key is being flexible. Some people are so set that `I have to leave on this date,' and that that's the main thing they want. But if you get a good contract with a price you can live with and the settlement date is sooner than you'd expected, then you try to work it out."
If a house isn't getting any traffic, the price is too high, Ireland said.
"What I teach my agents is that if you've got 10 legitimate showings--with agents that are bringing clients and not just agents coming to look--and there are no offers, it's time to lower your price," she said.
Also, if a property sits two weeks with no interest, not even an agent dropping by, "it's time to lower the price," she said.
If you don't want to waste time, go even lower than everyone else.