"I'm tired," I said to my husband. "Me too," he replied. "The time change seems to get tougher every year." Yeah, it does. (I want the hour back!)
Sitting at my desk on Sunday morning, I startled as I looked at the clock. Shoot! I still needed to get my A-frames out, change into a suit, and bake cookies (yes, I do actually bake chocolate chip cookies before each Open House) and that's pretty much how the rest of the day went. Time definitely wasn't on my side. Scrambling to catch up, I felt like I was playing "Beat the Clock."
The same can be said for your listing. In the world of Real Estate, time works against you . . . What begins as a very exciting new opportunity for agents and their buyers, quickly becomes yesterday's news. Which is why I am always perplexed when sellers are reluctant to work with the first purchase offer that presents, as if it's just an appetizer for bigger and better offers down the road. It's not.
I know you have heard it a million times before, but it remains true: the first offer usually represents the most motivated and committed buyer! So unless the first offer truly misses the mark (and I mean by a long shot), it is probably a more realistic indication of market demand and performance, than a strategy or a desire to "low ball" the seller. (Make sense?)
Every agent tells the tale of a prior listing that received well-intentioned offers from eager buyers - but at "less than asking." Unfortunately, with respect to early offers, if they are "underwhelming," the seller often isn't ready to negotiate (timing is everything). Two years later (and typically with another agent) the home sells for significantly less (Ouch)! That never feels good. (In fact, it feels awful.)
Unfortunately, the longer your house sits, the more likely it is that you will be chasing the market, as opposed to making it, AND the more competition you will be facing as new homes steal your thunder and the fickle attention of your prospective buyers.
While I hate to be the bearer of bad news, it needs to be acknowledged that buyers have a fairly short attention span - and often times, so do their agents. With so many new homes to see, buyers want to know: "What's coming on next?" And having seen last week's new crop of offerings, they are quickly onto the next.
Which means that part of my conversation with sellers has to be about "the window of opportunity." With respect to the sale of your home, that window is approximately two weeks - give or take. (This isn't necessarily true for very high-end properties or for lots, which by virtue of their very small and specific buying pool, will take longer to sell than the average bear, but it is true for almost every other listing - no matter how "special.")
Is that tough news to deliver? Absolutely, and tougher news to hear, I suspect. But the truth is, if you want to sell quickly, you will need to reduce in today's more conservative marketplace. Setting aside your initial disappointment at receiving "less than asking," isn't it reassuring to have your home in escrow and securely on its way toward a successful close - especially with other homes sitting? (Yes, it is.) Try to put it in perspective; it's not an indication that your home is worth less, it's confirmation that your home is, in fact, in demand - but at fair market value!
So prepare your home for a quick sale through careful preparation and aggressive pricing and then prepare your mind as well. If you haven't sold in three weeks, it is probably time for a price reduction of approximately 10-15% (don't chip away at it in insubstantial increments.) The longer you wait, the more costly the discount becomes with each passing week.
Tick, tick, tick . . .
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.