- - Thursday, July 28, 2011

The real estate market in the Washington metro area has been luckier than most in maintaining its stability, but it has by no means been immune to the economic downturn.

While homes in some neighborhoods have managed to hold their value and even experience price increases, in others, homes still languish on the market. Sellers have a few options available if their home stays on the market too long, including lowering the price, making some home improvements or renting their home while waiting for the market to improve.

“In the D.C. area, most homes should sell within no more than 60 days if they are properly priced and in good condition,” said Valerie Blake, an associate broker with Prudential Carruthers Realtors in the District. “There are three things that determine whether a home sells and for how much: location, condition and price. You can’t control the location, so you have to look at the condition and price if something is not selling.”

Heather Elias, a Realtor with Century 21 Redwood Realty in Ashburn, Va., said sometimes the lack of an offer is market-dependent and sometimes it is simply about the house itself.

“If a home is getting showings but no offers, you can look at the feedback from other agents and see if the problem is the price or the condition of the property,” Mrs. Elias said. “If there are no showings at all, then the problem is usually the price.”

Mrs. Elias recommended that frustrated sellers visit three other properties on the market in their area that are comparable in size and price to evaluate the differences.

“You have to look at homes like a buyer,” Mrs. Elias said. “For instance, if two houses are similar, but one has granite counters and yours doesn’t, you either need to drop the price or make adjustments to the condition. It depends on what the issue is as to which choice makes more sense.”

Home sellers who are not getting many showings should carefully evaluate the marketing efforts of their real estate agent. Most buyers today first sift through properties online, so if your home does not have enough photos that show the home at its best or does not appear on a variety of websites with property listings, it may be time to push your Realtor to do more marketing.

While all Realtors recommend pricing a property appropriately from the beginning, they also acknowledge there is an art and a science to setting the listing price.

“The hardest part for sellers is to recognize that the real estate market is fluid, with some areas coming back more quickly than others,” said Debra Swann, a Realtor with Long & Foster Real Estate in Mitchellville. “It is best to get the price right within the first six weeks a home is on the market, because if you have a house on the market too long and you keep dropping the price, you look desperate.”

Mrs. Elias said if houses in your area are selling and yours is not, a price reduction may be required to at least bring your property in line with others on the market.

“Pricing a home is very specific to the owner’s situation and how quickly they want to sell the property,” Mrs. Elias said.

Other options besides lowering the price include staging the home and making improvements.

Mrs. Elias said it may be time to bring in a professional stager if your home is comparable in size and condition to others that are going under contract, but you still are not getting offers.

“A stager can make a house show better,” Mrs. Elias said.

Story Continues →