According to a Wall Street Journal report, only 47 percent of houses listed for sale in major U.S. markets had actually sold by August 2010. Several of the remaining listings were taken off the market. Moreover, the national averages belie the differences that realtors and other experts are seeing from one region to another and even one neighborhood to the next.
"There's no longer a national housing market," says Armando Montelongo, the real estate maven who was featured on A&E's "Flip This House," a housing-bubble-era reality show. "You can drive 200 miles and see a totally different real estate climate."
You might not have to drive that far. Realtors report homes getting offers after a few days on the market in some neighborhoods and languishing for six months or more the next town over. So how do you figure home value and set the right price?
"We have a lot of pockets of activity," says Debbie Cobb, RE/MAX realtor in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. "Out in the country we had foreclosures and that area is still sluggish, but we also have an area closer in, called North Hills. That market is still steady, although it's not as quick a sale as it use to be."
In short, home sellers who want a quick home sale, say to move for a job or transition to a more affordable place, need to be very price sensitive, especially if they live in average or underperforming areas (like those hit hard by foreclosures). "You can't price a home too low today, but you can price it too high and not have it sell," Montelongo cautions.
The best thing, real estate agents say, is to price a home appropriately to begin with. Try to resist the urge to overestimate your home's value; you want to avoid having your house sit for several months while you lower the price again and again. The more you do this, the more people will wonder what's wrong with your place, says Chad Goldwasser, a realtor with his own shop in Austin, Texas.