How to Sell Your House in a Buyer's Market

Five steps to ensure the right buyer sees your home.

U.S. News & World Report

Selling Your House in a Buyer's Market

A row of houses in a suburban American neighborhood

A buyer's market doesn't mean it's impossible to sell your home, but you do need to put in the effort to attract the right buyer.(Getty Images)

The tables have turned across the U.S. as the real estate market has shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market, which means that more homes are for sale than there are buyers to purchase them. Gone are the days of listing a home and it selling overnight simply because of its mere existence, as if it were the last home to be had. In many parts of the country, buyers had felt lucky and accomplished just for winning a bidding war for a property.

Those days are over and now sellers have to do everything perfectly, from initial pricing to marketing strategy, in order to sell their properties on a reasonable timeline. But not everything about this shift is unfavorable for sellers and their agents.

There are a few things sellers can do to ensure the buyer's market doesn't get the best of them. This new set of rules is critical to follow in any market as it forces both sellers and agents to think carefully about all aspects of the transaction process, and the importance of getting it right the first time around.

Here are five details to focus on while you prepare your house to sell in a buyer’s market:

  • Pricing
  • Staging
  • Marketing
  • Showings
  • Attitude Adjustment

Pricing


Understand the comparable recent sales and active listings in your area, and work with an agent to price your property accordingly. A buyer’s market is not the time for aspirational pricing. Only unique properties, which are really outliers, fly off the shelf these days. Buyers are looking for deals and they rarely bid at asking price.

When pricing, it's best to factor in a cushion for negotiating. Price up slightly, but not out of the range to lure in buyers. It's important to note that, as a general rule in this market, underpricing is not recommended as a strategy to drive up demand. Underpricing works best in a seller's market, when multiple bids can drive a price up. But when buyers have the upper hand they're rarely bidding properties up, and you may end up with offers lower than your bottom price.

Staging


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but not always in the eye of the buyer. This can be a hard pill to swallow because you may not only need to freshen up your decor and paint, but the work also costs you money at a time when you're looking to make money, not spend it. Make that first impression count. Buyers want properties that look clean, fresh and uncluttered.

Marketing


Make sure the online listing photos and marketing materials are of the highest caliber and quality, and appeal to the widest pool of potential buyers. The photos are your calling card, and the deciding factor when agents and customers are choosing whether to view your property. You’d be amazed at how many bedroom photos show wrinkled comforters and how many kitchen counters are overcrowded with appliances and decorative bowls.

Most importantly, work with your agent to review and plan a comprehensive marketing strategy that best suits your specific property, which might encompass a combination of a custom video tour, social media advertising campaign and print or digital advertising.

Showings


Make your property accessible to buyers within reasonable days and times, which often means being able to make yourself scarce during evenings and weekends. Remember that you want to make it as easy as possible for interested buyers to come and see your property. After all, they are the customer and you want to make it the most pleasant experience, not a hardship. This is why most agents schedule open houses in the morning or early afternoon on Saturdays and Sundays.

Attitude Adjustment


Get real. Listen and educate yourself on current market conditions in your neighborhood. Ask your real estate agent for recent comparable closings and active listings, and size them up to market highs. It’s also very important to take into account the number of days on market. In New York City, for example, the median time from a listing hitting the market to contract signed increased to 117 days in February 2019, nearly a month longer than in February 2018, according to a report from New York real estate information company StreetEasy.

If you don’t like the hand the current marketplace is dealing, and if you’re not in a hurry to sell, you may want to consider positioning your property when market conditions are more favorable to sellers. It's critical that the seller has realistic expectations and is on board with the new playing field if he or she wishes to have a quick and profitable transaction.

The real estate market has pressed the reset button. Now more than ever, sellers cannot leave anything to chance if they want to get top dollar for their properties in this new arena. In the end, consider these guidelines as best practices for any market, up or down. Putting your best foot forward, pricing correctly and marketing your property with excellence should always be the gold standard.

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