Sellers who want or need to sell their homes quickly should take serious action. It's a buyer's market, so homeowners will have to work even harder to get their house noticed and sold.
In Springfield, Ill., where the Capital Area Association of Realtors reports 2007 was the third most successful home sales year in history, Realtor Barb Krueger offers some insight. "People need to sell quickly for a variety of reasons," she says. "Sometimes they are in distress and don't want to hurt their credit rating by not being able to make payments.
"Sometimes it is due to a job relocation or a divorce," says Krueger, who is associated with Re/Max Professionals. "Sometimes it is a health crisis. Sometimes it is simply due to an expanding family."
Krueger believes friends and family members mean well, but usually can't offer the best advice.
"Avoid listening to everyone at the office, relatives and friends who are very well intentioned but often confuse the seller," she says. "Take the advice of your Realtor, your attorney or your banker — those who are knowledgeable and deal with this every day." Homeowners who are in financial trouble really need to act quickly, Krueger says.
"My best advice is to call a Realtor immediately, especially one who is experienced so they will get the best help possible. Many people hide their head in the sand until it is too late to help them.
"In Illinois, for example, it takes approximately one year for foreclosure to be done. If they call their banker and their Realtor immediately, we can usually help them sell their home instead of ending up in foreclosure."
Krueger instructs sellers to have a Realtor prepare a comprehensive market analysis on their home — or to pay for a licensed appraisal. "Second, have a Realtor or a professional home stager walk through the house to get it in the best showable condition without spending too much money." Finally, ask your Realtor for a list on ways to improve your home and prepare it for selling.
"Go over the list and then do it," Krueger says. "Get family and friends to help, hire teenagers, hire professionals. Just do whatever it takes to get it ready to show. Above all, price it right since it is not 'location, location, location' anymore but now 'price, price, price.' "
Sellers aren't obligated to accept any offer, but they should never ignore one that is placed through a real estate agent.
"Do not be insulted at a low offer," says Krueger. "Always make a counter offer even it is just a little to show them to get serious and you will respond better."
Indianapolis Realtor Mary Hession agrees. "Even if an offer is low, it is certainly worth looking at," says Hession, who is an agent with Century 21 1st Choice. "I don't think you should write off any offer. The people may be testing the waters."
No matter what reason a seller has for selling, it is best not to have any house on the market for months on end.
"If a house is on the market for too long, buyers begin to get nervous," says Aspen Real Estate Realtor Linda Green, who is also based in Springfield. "Usually they begin to wonder why the house hasn't sold."
Krueger says a seller's best move is to take a professional's advice and then take action.
"I give advice to sellers all the time. If they take the advice, in our market they move," Krueger concludes. "In the end, it is still price, condition, location and marketing that must be in alignment for the sale to happen quickly."