Selling Step 3: Set the Listing Price

All owners want the best possible price and terms when selling their home. Several factors, including market conditions and interest rates, will determine how much you can get for your home. The idea is to get the maximum price and the best terms during the window of time when your home is on the market.

In other words, home selling is part science, part marketing, part negotiation and part art. Unlike math where 2 + 2 always equals 4, in real estate there is no certain conclusion. All transactions are different, and because of this, you should do as much as possible to prepare your home for sale and engage the REALTOR® you feel is best able to sell your home.

What is Your Home Worth?

What homes are worth boils down to “what the market says it’s worth.” A home “value” also depends on who you ask: there's the price owners would like to get, the price buyers would like to offer and the point of agreement between buyer and seller that actually results in a sale.

In considering home values, several factors are important:

  • The value of your home relates to local sale prices. The same home located elsewhere could have a different value.
  • Sale prices are a product of supply and demand. If you live in a community with an expanding job base, a growing population and a limited housing supply, you have a seller’s market, and home prices will likely rise. Alternatively, if the local community is losing jobs and people are moving out, then you'll likely have a buyer's market.
  • Listing prices should not be inflated. You should be strategic in setting your listing price and be sure not to overprice your home, because you may not be able to sell it. The longer a home is on the market, the more “stale” it gets, and the more likely that buyer agents will tend not to show it and that buyers will think there is something wrong with the home because it is not selling. If you overpriced your home, you many eventually have to bring the price down to even less than what you could’ve got if it was priced properly in the first place. And you will have lost the initial flurry of interest that new listings generate.
  • How quickly the owner needs to sell can affect sale values. Owners who " must" sell quickly will have less leverage in the marketplace. Buyers may think that the owner is willing to trade a quick closing for a lower price - and they may be right. Conversely, owners who do not need to sell quickly may have more marketplace strength.
  • Sale prices are not based on what owners " need." When an owner says, " I must sell for $300,000 because I need $100,000 in cash to buy my next home," buyers will quickly ask if $300,000 is a reasonable price for the property. If similar homes in the same community are selling for $250,000, the seller will not be able to sell for $300,000.
  • Sale prices are NOT the whole deal; look also at terms and conditions. Which would you rather have: a sale price of $200,000, or a sale price of $205,000 but where you agree to make a " seller contribution" of $5,000 to offset the buyer's closing costs, pay a $2,000 allowance for roof repairs, fund two mortgage points, repaint the entire house and leave the washer and dryer?

How Do You Set a Listing Price?

Because all transactions are unique there is price flexibility in the marketplace. The amount of flexibility depends on local conditions.

For example: you're selling a townhouse and there have been five recent sales of the same model townhouse and prices ranged from $200,000 to $210,000. You now have an idea of how your home might be priced. In a strong market perhaps you can ask for $210,000 or a little more. If the market has slowed, $210,000 may be a reasonable asking price, but perhaps more than you could get for a final sale price.

Here's another scenario: you live in a community of Victorian-style homes, most of which were built in the 1920s. All the homes are different in terms of size, condition, modernization, style and features. In such a neighborhood, an average sale price is just a statistic without much practical meaning. On a single block one home may sell for $400,000 while another is priced at more than $1 million. The average price may be outrageously high for one home and staggeringly low for another.

Knowing what listing price to set for your home can be difficult. That is why it is valuable to work with a REALTOR®. Because experienced REALTORS® have handled many transactions, they're familiar with the terms and conditions that went into individual sales, not just published sale prices that may not reflect various premiums, discounts, terms, conditions and adjustments. And, importantly, REALTORS® know of the latest sale prices among competing houses and can offer that information to the home seller.