buying- check, selling- uh,oh

MeghaneJanuary 3, 2009

We had to move due to job relocation. Bought a lovely house, very happy with it. Our old house has not sold yet, been on market since Labor Day, a couple of showings, no offers. Reduced price once.

The house is currently empty. Based on my research, it seems staging may help? Expect to pay 2% of house value for staging (which would equal about $3400. Add that to real estate commission and we are darn close to getting upside down. We can afford to pay 2 mortgages for a while, although of course would rather use that other $1200/month to pay off debts and invest. I don't know whether to keep price same and stage now, wait and see what spring brings and possibly save that $3400 although we'd be out the carrying costs, or what to do. This is NOT a high-end neighborhood, but the prices have remained remarkably stable throughout this RE mess because of close proximity to good stable jobs (Research Triangle Park) and amenities.

So should I stage now, during the slow market time, or wait? Anything else I should consider about staging? I have absolutely NO experience with it, and absolutely nothing that we have in our current home could go back to the old home, so I would probably have to rent, borrow, or buy cheaply or hire a stager. Again, I don't want to get to the closing table and owe money, but carrying this second mortgage is not fun either. We don't have much liquid assets to pay at closing table- most savings is in 401k, etc.

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In my area the only thing selling a home is price. So if you were in my area, I'd advise you to save the money on "staging" and lower the price. I'm familiar with the research triangle (my third child went to NC State) and normally that's a hot hot market, but I'm sure it's been affected by the real estate downturn as have the majority of other markets. Carrying costs add up, lower the price, get it sold, and move on. No one wants to take money to closing, and unfortunately many in this market are doing so.

Many buyers in this market are becoming smart enough to realize that price is what matters and not the pretty packaging of staging. Many television shows which promote staging haven't caught up with the notion of selling a home on price instead of pretty packaging. As long as the home is well maintained, clean, clutter free, and possibly freshly painted if the paint is distressed, you're good to go.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 5:07PM
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I'd reduce the price.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 5:16PM
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Cleaning is always better than staging. You got the windows and screens, right? Make sure your not missing lookers with a silly Walmart XX9,999 price. If I was looking online from 300 to 325K, I may not see a 299K due to my search criteria. You get both the 275-300K and the 300-325K looker with a "search point" price like 300K.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 3:55PM
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It's VERY clean inside and out, completely empty except for nice wood blinds which are going with the house and the appliances (fridge, stove, washer, dryer, dishwasher, microwave, even the coffee maker), and freshly painted in neutrals. We have a lawn service maintain the outside since we no longer live in Durham and 2 friends check to make sure everything is OK (one lives across the street).

Price is now $169,900, down from $174,900. I don't think that really changed anything for price shoppers, since we catch the $150-175 lookers with both prices. We don't want to drop so low in price that we can't afford to negotiate at all. We will most certainly have to offer some kind of closing assistance to any buyer, since there are still new houses being built in the area, although most of them are more expensive ($190+ range).

So save the money for staging and lower the price is the consensus? Should we drop price now in the slow season or wait until there are more lookers in the spring so we can advertise New Lower Price? Of course, spring would also bring more competition.

This is the first time we've had to sell a house. When we relocated from MD to NC, the relocation company bought our old house. We didn't have that luxury this time :( I just don't know the best way to go about getting the best price in the shortest amount of time, how to find that balance. If staging helps sell faster then I'd be willing to throw some money at the house rather than have it sit at the same price. OTOH, of course I don't want to waste any money. Since so many of the houses on the market in our area are still occupied or are new builds, they all have furniture, so maybe we are at a disadvantage by being empty.

So many decisions...

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 9:27PM
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I would do some staging. If there are other houses for sale nearby around the same price, you need to make your house grab attention and stand out. I plan to do some staging of my house when I put it on in the Spring.

If the house sells fast, you got your money back. If it doesn't, you didn't loose that much. I would do it.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 11:44PM
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I'm by no means an expert but I do live and work in your area and I have been shopping around a bit for the last year or so. I wouldn't spend any money on staging. There is still a healthy inflow of potential buyers into this area (supposedly 1000 per month). They are looking for quick turn around and the cheapest price possible. Staging helps sell a house for some buyers, it also has no affect on others. Save your money and prepare to lower your price during negotiation or hang on to your house for a while and hope that things turn around.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 9:37AM
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I wouldn't spend the money on staging either. Our house was staged and nothing changed. Dropping the price a couple of months later caused a flurry of activity and the sale. Just before we dropped the price, we moved almost everything out of the house and to our new place. The house was spotlessly clean the whole time it was on the market.

The decision to drop the price was based upon the other listings in the area.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 3:40PM
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I'd ask your Realtor for advice.

Will a $3,000 price reduction on a $170K house (about 2%) be enough to make an impression on someone? (When I was buying, I would consider the difference between a $165K house and a $170K house "wiggle room" on the negotiation -- so effectively the same price, and not enough to tip one house ahead of another.

But if your house is priced on the high side now --Yeah. A small reduction could be all it takes to be more competitive.

And ask your Realtor to be 'brutally honest' about how your house 'shows' relative to the competition. Is it now Too Neutral? (a.k.a. B O R I N G) Would staging liven it up and make it stand out from the competition? Also, $3,400 should buy a lot of staging. Could be a pair of candlesticks on the fireplace mantle, a silk floral arrangement on the island, and some bright hand towels in the bathroom is all it really needs to come to life.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 2:07PM
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We also relocated for work. We're renting in our new location because we knew selling our house was going to be difficult, and we can't save up for a down payment until the other one sells. I was in the old house with all our furniture for several months while DH was already in the new location. I kept it immaculate and clutter free and always got positive comments on how it looked. Now that it's empty I'm still being told it shows well. The hardwood floors look great and the paint is neutral and looks just painted. It's being checked on regularly to make sure it's clean. There has been no negative feedback regarding it being empty. The feed back has been that our price is too high. I just posted in another thread we can't go any lower. We walk away with nothing at our current price. Really I don't think staging would help me at all. Dropping the price significantly would, however we would be quite upside down.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 4:37AM
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When we did price reductions on our Tucson house, my realtor said it's pretty useless and a waste to reduce by only $5K. It typically does not generate much more interest. I had to bite the bullet and reduce by 10K.

I'm wondering if you reduced by 10K instead, if you may have sold. You're spending too much in carrying costs that the 10K reduction may have paid for itself rather than holding onto the cost of the house by not reducing it by that much.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 11:16PM
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Sparksals has it right IMO.
forget the staging... reduce as much as you can right now. Even if it means you bring a bit of cash to close. After all your paying cash every month to not sell.
I deal with Buyers all the time. they are all looking for exciting prices. If your pricing is not generating excitement, it will not sell.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 6:58AM
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As a buyer I wouldnt care about the staging. I would rather have the lower price. In my minds eye I can determine the potential the home may have. I dont need someone elses high priced rental furniture to know how the house will look.
Good luck

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 10:40AM
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