when selling home – stay away from gimmicks & listen to buyers

home sellingYou’ve probably heard a story or two about a home that was priced very low to “create a buzz” and illicit a bidding war. And in fact, there was a 2012 article in a local newspaper about such a sale in DC that touted the rebounding housing market. But guess what? A recently published study, with robust empirical data, suggests that such a strategy may not be the best for a home seller. Furthermore, the study suggests evidence that real estate agents who recommend under pricing as a strategy believe that homes listed for less – sell for less than comparable homes.

Bucchianeri & Minson (A Homeowner’s Dilemma: Anchoring in Residential Real Estate Transactions. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. May 2013: 76–92) collected and compared data related to “anchoring” (higher list price to prompt buyers to make higher offers) and “herding” (lower list prices intended to creating bidding wars) theories. Although actual sale prices may depend on location and time on market, the conclusions are that homes listed at higher prices sold for more than those that relied on bidding up the price. The authors suggest that sellers should think twice before under pricing their home to create a bidding war; and suggest that results from such strategies are typically anecdotal.

If setting a higher price may translate into a longer time on market, how could you know if you are priced too high or low? Listen to home buyers. A study conducted by Case, Shiller, & Thompson (“What have they been Thinking? Homebuyer Behavior in Hot and Cold Markets.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. 2012: 265-315) of 25 years of data in four metropolitan areas concluded that there is a strong relationship between buyer’s perception of price trends and actual price changes; the stronger the price trend (in either direction), the stronger the agreement among home buyers perceptions.

Home buyers’ short term and long term expectations of home prices can differ. And although Case, Shiller, & Thompson indicate that it is more difficult to gauge long term pricing expectations, they were undoubtedly impressed that buyers’ were “out in front” of short term home price changes. They stated, “…We find that homebuyers were generally well informed, and that their short-run expectations if anything underreacted to the year-to-year change in actual home prices.”

If deciding on your home’s selling price gives you a headache, Stefanos Chen wonders if taking a Tylenol could assist in making a decision. In his October 23rd Wall Street Journal article (Can Tylenol Ease the Pain of a Home Sale?), Chen reported of to-be-published research that indicates taking the pain reliever may ease the anguish associated with “loss-aversion” (an avoidance of a perceived loss).

Can acetaminophen reduce the pain of decision-making?” by DeWall, Chester & White is expected to be published in the January volume of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (pages 117-120). The results indicate that those who took acetaminophen sold a mug (that was given to them 30 seconds prior) for significantly less than those who tool a placebo. Chen’s question whether taking a Tylenol could help a seller take a lower sales price is a stretch, considering that the study was limited to 95 college student subjects. Although further research is indicated, the study’s conclusions may have implications to lessening the “pain” of letting go of ownership.

© Dan Krell
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