Pricing: Finding the Magic Number

Pricing strategies can help you market your listings and generate offers that turn into closed deals.

January 1, 2011

Pricing a home can seem easy on the surface: You simply have to come up with a number.

"Once you get a real estate license, you can start telling consumers what their homes are worth," says Melanie McLane, ABR, CRB, owner of the Melanie Group in Jersey Shore, Pa. She’s a certified appraiser with more than 30 years’ experience in real estate. "But I find many people aren’t prepared or haven’t done their homework to know what the market will support before giving price estimates."

And just doing your homework isn’t the end of setting a price; it’s also important to have a pricing strategy that works for your market and your clients. Here are four techniques:

Employ shock and awe.

Remember Economics 101—the simple law of supply and demand? Adam Smith, the grandfather of modern economics, said when an asset is undervalued, the "invisible hand of the market" corrects the pricing to fair market value. It’s a principle that Amanda DiVito Parle, ABR, CRS, broker associate with RE/MAX Alliance of Arvada, Colo., has used to her sellers’ advantage. By drastically lowering the price on some of her luxury listings—a process she calls "shocking and awing the market"—she creates instant demand. "I listed a $1 million–plus property for $599,000, and a sales professional called and asked if it was correct," she says.

Often, properties can end up selling for more what you’d have originally listed them at. "You need to the drop the price so dramatically that buyers think it’s outrageous," she says. "They’ll determine the price. They’ll be eager to see the property and create a competitive bidding war."

Set a market-leading price.

"Do your homework on the local market and price the home to lead the market, not chase the market," says Rick Lawrence, e-PRO, SFR, a sales associate with RE/MAX Professionals Select in Naperville, Ill. He recommends showing sellers virtual tours of comparables to get them on the same page about setting a price that will lead the market.

Pick an exact number.

Ben Kinney, founder of the Home4Investment real estate team in Bellingham, Wash., assesses a listing’s value, setting a price to the dollar: $137,368 or $213,348, for example. "Consumers assume that even prices aren’t carefully calculated and probably just a home price thrown out for the sake of it." At least with Kinney, that notion is correct. He considers all the features of the home to reach a precise number.

Don’t get counted out.

It’s not uncommon to price a house slightly under an even price point, say at $199,000 instead of $200,000, to give the home a competitive edge. The trouble is, buyers who search for homes online (and virtually all do) are typically searching a range of prices, Kinney says. So a buyer looking for a $200,000–$250,000 house wouldn’t even see your $199,000 listing. By knowing the range buyers usually use for a neighborhood, you can price your listing for maximum exposure, Kinney says.

When the offers do start rolling in, take them seriously, McLane says. Sellers sometimes make the mistake of refusing reasonable offers early in the listing period. Help your clients understand that the longer their house sits, the less desirable it may become to active house hunters.

Katherine Tarbox is a former senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine. Previously, she was editorial director for Washington Life. She is the author of the international bestselling book A Girl’s Life (Dutton, 2000) and has made hundreds of media appearances including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN.