There is one thing for sure, wishful thinking is not working. Neither is the constant stream of anemic price reductions week after week. How about those incentives and broker bonuses? You know what I'm talking about; the three-year old Range Rover in the driveway, the 24' sailboat, a 60" LCD TV, seller paid closing costs, seller paid Land Bank fee, first payment in six months, a vacation in the Bahamas or $50,000 to the agent that brings the buyer. None of that is working, and any additional compensation offered to an agent that brings the buyer should be considered a conflict of interest and bribery.
So what is working, and how is it working? Home "Staging" is working to some degree, but once buyers wise up to the fact that this kind of eye candy emotional sizzle is costing them thousands of dollars more in the price for the home, they will stop falling for it and start backing away from homes that look just too pretty. They will wonder what lies beneath the dining room table that is set for a 5-course formal dinner party seating twelve.
In an article written for Bloomberg News, John F. Wasik says, "Buyers just want price," he quotes one real-estate attorney/broker/consultant based in Stuart, Fla., as saying. "Buyers have become more educated and they can easily cut through the fluffy incentives". Hmmm. I don't think we're there yet. Everyone loves romance and people shopping for a home on Martha's Vineyard want to fall in love. This market is like going to Las Vegas for the first time and getting lost in one of the Casinos. Know the feeling?
What is the first question buyers ask? "How long has the house been on the market?" This has almost become a joke among real estate professionals, but buyers ask the question because it is commonly assumed that the longer a property has been on the market the weaker the seller's resolve to hold firm on price. You see, overpriced listings that languish on the market reduce the seller's negotiating ability as time diminishes their power. Once a listing has gone unsold, even if they take it off the market for a while or remove it and relist it with another agency, the information is in the public domain. There are definitely exceptions; EG: the seller doesn't have to sell, or the seller just likes to see their property advertized at some inflated price.
I think it is obvious that if a seller is serious --- I am NOT talking about desperate; homes priced to sell will sell. That means being ahead of the market instead of chasing the market. A good deal starts to get noticed if it is at least 10% below its competition. But when you see a good deal, do you think you are the only one who sees that good deal? Heck no, and usually you end up competing with other consumers who want what you want. What that can do is create a bidding war, and that is exactly what the seller wants --- or should want. A bidding war is probably the best and truest way to establish market value. I hate bidding wars, and right now I don't have to worry about it because sellers on Martha's Vineyard are following the same bloodletting technique; they all price high and week after week pull a few thousand dollars out of their last price. My clients feel like they are standing around the markdown sale table at Macy's waiting for the 70% off sign to go up.
There is a lot of misleading statistical information out there right now. Many agents talk about price-to-price ratio. In the recent 2007 NAR Report on Buyers and Sellers it states that "sellers sold their homes for 97% of list price." Does this mean 97% of the original listing price or 97% of the current listing price? The property could have been on the market for a year and transitioned through a half-dozen price reductions before it finally sold.
To sellers my advice is to listen to your listing broker when they give you an 'honest' price recommendation. In this market, if you interview several brokers, hire the broker who gives you the lowest price recommendation because they are probably the one telling you the truth. Many times a broker will agree to a listing contract with a seller because they are thinking, "If I don't take it, my competitor will and I will lose it." They know full well the property will never sell at the listing price. They are banking on the seller eventually coming to their senses and seeing the light. The conversation goes like this. "Mr. Seller, it has been three weeks since we listed your property and we have had no interest, so it is time to reduce the price." By then it is too late and that conversation will most certainly be had again --- and again.
To my buyer clients I always say if you like a property, pay little attention to the asking price and don't be afraid to make a "Bold Offer". By this I mean make an intelligent well thought-out and thoroughly researched offer. I make it perfectly clear on my website > ATTENTION SELLERS: A Low Offer Today, May be a High Offer in 60 Days.