Continued from page 1

“When I appraise a property, one of the questions I ask myself is, where would a typical buyer go to get a home like this one,” Mr. Colton said.

Although appraisers usually enter the process after a contract has been offered, some property owners hire an appraiser before listing their home to help them determine price. The $200 to $300 fee the appraiser charges can easily offset an unexpected cost or development later in the game. Be sure, though, to use a certified appraiser. Visit www.appraisalinstitute.org and click on “find an appraiser.”

Real estate professionals make use of “comparables” - homes in similar neighborhoods, styles and condition - when determining the price they can ask for yours. If, for example, you live in a mid-‘60s split-level house, you should look for houses of a similar style and age to yours in your neighborhood.

Of course, few homes are totally comparable. One may have a finished basement, another a different kind of flooring, yet another an added sunroom. Each of these can affect the price buyers are willing to pay.

“My personal experience has been that an agent’s strategy differs based on condition and location,” Ms. Kline said. “If you have two houses that are 15 years old and one has a new kitchen complete with stainless steel appliances, buyers will pay more. Location is also very important.”

Ask your agent for a “comparative market analysis” (CMA), which looks at comparable recently sold homes, on-the-market homes and homes that were on the market, but never sold. Be sure to compare the original list price with the actual sale price of the property. Learn about the “absorption rate” for your area - the length of time it would take all the houses on the market to sell, given current conditions. Just remember that predicting the market can be tough.

“A lot has to do with consumer confidence,” Ms. Bayat said. “When that changes, everything changes.”

While a CMA can help in determining price, there still may be other factors in play that can affect your bottom line. Neighborhoods that have a number of properties owned by banks or offered as short sales pose their own sorts of challenges. Compete with too many homes like these, and you may end up pricing your property for far less than you wanted.

“If these comprise more than 30 percent of the market, it has a significant impact on value,” Mr. Colton said. “You’ll have to take those prices into account an adjust accordingly.”

If other homes are for sale in your neighborhood, consider attending their open houses to get an idea of your competition. Looking at upgrades, location and general condition can give you a better idea of where to set your price.

When it comes to selling your home, packaging is nearly as important as pricing. Decluttering, painting and doing basic repairs are key - and usually inexpensive - ways to get the most for your property.

“You want to put your home into a condition that is as new as possible,” said Nancy Harvey Steorts, a Realtor with Long & Foster and a member of the NVAR Board.

Ms. Steorts noted that staging can be a key factor in determining price.

“Buyers need to be able to visualize themselves in the property,” she said. “They should not have to mentally undo what is already there.”

Do you have a pool? A panoramic view? A mother-in-law suite? These are amenities that can mean a great deal to buyers or little at all, depending upon what current buyers are like in your neighborhood. That’s why it’s important, real estate professionals say, to have an accurate gauge of what buyers want and need.

Story Continues →