House Calls: What to Ignore
Dear Edith: Before getting a real estate agent, we are going to try putting the house up for sale ourselves in the spring. It would help if you could give us some guidelines about how much to ask. Thanks in advance. -- G. S. O.
Answer: Let's start with factors to ignore:
--Your original cost. Suppose you received the house as a gift. Must you then give it away?
--Your investment in improvements. You put in that purple kitchen because you enjoyed it, but you're not likely to find a buyer who thinks that makes it worth $25,000 more. Certain viewers may even calculate the cost of tearing it out and replacing it with something in aquamarine.
--Reproduction cost. That figure is usually used for property insurance, but it's of little value except for a newly built house.
--Assessed value. No matter how often tax assessments are reviewed to keep them in line with market value, they're seldom a dependable guide.
--Your needs. Your problems are not the buyer's concern.
--Emotion. You cannot charge for sentiment, for the fact that your daughter took her first steps on the patio and your son had a clubhouse behind the garage. Emotions can lead to serious mistakes -- in the case of divorce, for example. If one party is impatient to leave town and the other isn't getting the proceeds anyhow, a buyer may walk off with a bargain.
So what counts?
Mostly competition. Start visiting nearby brokers' open houses to see what else is available and how these comps compare with your property. Search the internet, and study the market. If you were a buyer, would your asking price attract you before you had even seen your home?