Homes for sale for 2nd time raise tough questions

A home sale sign indicating a new price A home sale sign indicating a new price is seen in King City, Ore. (May 31, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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Relisting a home isn't an enviable position for any seller. Something went wrong the first time, and for many sellers, trying again to sell the home raises more questions than answers.

While it's common for real estate agents to handle relistings, data on just how common the situation is can be hard to come by because some agents pull listings for a week or two and then relist. It's a tactic designed to make a home listing look fresh. But increasingly, a true relisting is defined as having a 90-day gap between the time the property goes off the market and when it comes back. In that scenario, many real estate agents say it isn't always price that kept the property from moving.

"When relisting a home, the first objective should be to tackle the questions of why the home was removed from the market in the first place," says Aaron Mighty, a real estate broker in central Florida. "Clearly, in this economy and recovering housing market, it can be one of many reasons, but the best answer is always the truth, no matter what it may be."

Listen to broker comments. If you're relisting your home after three or more months off the market, the best place to start is with a post-mortem on what went wrong the last time.

After the original listing ends, ask your agent how the market perceived the home, said Paul LeJoy, founder of Pacific Realty Partners in Newark, Calif. What you hear should guide future strategy, especially if a number of agents and buyers raise the same issues.

Consider low-cost improvements. But don't go overboard, says Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty in San Diego.

"Painting, whether interior or exterior, is relatively low-cost and adds a quick revamp to your home," Christian says.

But that doesn't mean customizing the property to your tastes. Paint in neutral colors, and avoid making improvements beyond cosmetic changes. Expensive repairs seldom pay for themselves.

Stage it right. Sellers who relist their homes without rethinking staging aren't setting themselves up for success, according to David Kean, a real estate agent in Beverly Hills, Calif.

"A well-presented house can make all the difference," says Kean, who advises clients to keep a listing "clean and clear" by decluttering. "If you don't need something, store it, sell it or give it away," he says.

He advises clients to air out their homes because every dwelling has a distinct aroma that may not be pleasing to all buyers.

Hire the right agent. If your home didn't sell, consider hiring someone else to handle the listing. But, says Deb Tomaro, a Re/Max agent in Bloomington, Ind., it's the seller's responsibility to do the due diligence.

"People tend to pick a Realtor because he's their parent's neighbor, or she's their hair stylist's cousin, and a lot of times, it doesn't end up being a good match," Tomaro says. "What they need to do is ask a lot of questions to make sure the agent is on the same page."

Change the marketing. Ask if the previous marketing plan's ads and photos drove enough prospective buyers to your property.

A good place to start, says Houston Realtor Sissy Lappin, is with the photos in the old listing.

"Some of the pictures I see on the (multiple listing service) look like a drunk took them with a flip phone," she says, adding that all sellers need quality pictures in their listings.

In addition to more professional photos, Lappin says it's critical that sellers make sure their agent markets the property widely online.

Should you reduce the price? That's perhaps the most common question sellers face when they return to the market after an unsuccessful first attempt to sell a house.

Sellers should consider cutting the price if some or many of the market conditions remain the same as when the house was on the market the first time. A general rule of thumb is if 40 buyers have seen your home and you have not received a single offer, your home is overpriced.


Mortgage rates skyrocketed the week of May 29 as the market reacted to hints that the Federal Reserve may taper its bond-buying program soon.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 25 basis points to 3.99 percent. A basis point is one-hundredth of 1 percentage point.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 24 basis points to 3.21 percent. The average rate for 30-year jumbo mortgages, or generally for those of more than $417,000, rose 21 basis points to 4.2 percent.

The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose 11 basis points to 2.81 percent. With a 5/1 ARM, the rate is fixed for five years and adjusted annually thereafter. 

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