The Problem with “What is My Home Worth?”

When we meet with a homeowner who is preparing to sell, there’s a long  list of information we’re looking to educate them on in the course of that meeting. Here are just a few items we typically cover:

  • How’s the market overall?
  • How’s the market specific to my house?
  • How strong  and plentiful is the buyer pool?
  • Who is the specific buyer for my house likely to be?
  • What are interest rates doing now, and what are they going to do?
  • How do we get my house ready for the market?
  • Will you tell me exactly what to do, room by room, item by item, to prepare for the market?
  • Should I make upgrades or just repairs?
  • Can we just sell it “as-is”?
  • Do you have referrals for the work you’re recommending?
  • Do we need to clean the closets and storage spaces too?
  • Can I use the garage as storage?
  • Should we stage the house?
  • Can we use our own furniture to stage, or do we have to bring furniture in?
  • Should I, the seller, be here for the showings?
  • How much notice can we require before a showing?
  • Should we move out or sell it while we’re living here?
  • How do we live here and stay “showing-ready” at the same time?
  • What month is the optimal month to hit the market?
  • What day of the week should we list?
  • Should we go for a bidding war or a more conservative approach with a higher initial price?
  • Should I buy first then sell, or sell first then buy, or do them simultaneously?

I could literally add another 100 questions on this list, and I still wouldn’t cover them all.  Selling a house with a proven, works-every-time process, for top dollar, efficiently and without wasting money,  is a complex thing.

Knowing exactly how — and being experienced in — navigating that complexity is what we’re paid to do as Realtors. But setting that aside for a moment… THE ONE THING every seller *mostly* wants to know is this:

“What is my home going to sell for?” 

It is THE most perfectly reasonable question.  Heck, it’s why we’re here. It’s why there’s a real estate industry and Realtors and big fancy websites with their pricing algorithms and all the above. It’s business… so of course you and every other seller wants to know: “What am I going to walk away with when this is done?”

OK. Are you sitting down? Because I’m about to drop the bomb:

Real estate doesn’t sell at a fixed price. 

Anyone who tells you differently is either completely inexperienced, or they’re giving you a below-market price that will cause you to leave money on the table, or they’re an appraiser and they are simply WRONG.

Real estate doesn’t sell at a fixed price. It sells within a range of value that is influenced by a range of variables.

Let me show you. I’m going to pop into the MLS website and pull a full spreadsheet page of the most recent sales in Bellingham, across price ranges, home sizes and types, across all neighborhoods… and I’m going to highlight 3 columns.

OK… let’s start by looking at the center highlighted column. That’s the price per square foot of each of the homes. Notice any patterns?  Me neither… because no two of those numbers are the same. They range from $132 to $572, and every… one… is… different.

Now look at the right two highlighted columns. Those are the percentage of sale price to original list price, and to final list price. Out of 41 homes on the list, 5 of those match (at 100%). The rest are different. The days on market also range, with no clear pattern.

Real estate is not a retail store with prices neatly marked on the shelves. Nor is it the stock market where, although prices of individual stocks vary rapidly, they’re published for traders to see and buy or sell at.

Real estate sales CLOSE at a single number, yes. But the process of arriving at that number can and should be influenced by carefully engineering many of those items on the list this article started with. Summarizing:

  • The thoughtful and careful optimization of the home before it hits the market.
  • The timing of hitting the market.
  • The careful choreography of the buyer experience while they’re viewing your home online and in person.
  • The marketing.
  • The reputation of your Realtor.
  • The negotiation skills of your Realtor.
  • The careful handling of multiple offer situations.

These. Things. Matter.

And they can swing the final sale price of your home by significant dollar amounts.

So when your time comes to interview Realtors, and you’re (reasonably) wondering what price that Realtor in front of you is going to say your house is “worth”… keep this in mind: Real estate doesn’t sell at a fixed price. It sells within a range of value.

The right Realtor is the one who can inform you how to — and then do the work to — maximize the price and the overall experience with a proven process that works every time!