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Pricing guide for sellers

Pricing Guide

Estimate current market value offers a real-time home value estimator that you can fine-tune to reflect the conditions and specifics of your neighbourhood. For $40 — 10% of the cost of a full appraisal — you can use this report to:

Agents and appraisals

A estate agent will offer to do a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to identify the current market value of your home. Of course, a free CMA is a marketing tool to encourage you to list your home with that agent, so the agent will present evidence that the CMA supports a higher asking price. If you list with the agent, then he/she will pressure you to ‘listen to the market’ and lower your price - undermining the value of her own CMA.

The most reliable estimate of home value is an appraisal conducted by a licensed appraiser who is familiar with your neighbourhood. The Real-Time Home Value Estimator provides valuable context for making last minute improvements and estimating your equity. However, your buyer’s lender will require an appraisal. We recommend you arrange for an appraisal and then set your price accordingly. This will enable you to reach a sale price that is very likely to be accepted by the lender from the beginning.

More pricing resources

Agents and appraisers are not the only sources of home value estimates. Here are three additional sources that can provide valuable context for setting the listing price of your home.

Federal Housing Finance Agency Home Value Calculator

This index compares the actual sale price of recently sold houses to the last sale prices of those same houses. However, it does not include improvements that may have increased the value of the properties.

Use the House Price Calculator to see the likely change in value of your house since you bought it.

Use the House Price Index to see the market trends for cities around the country.

S&P Case Shiller Index

This widely followed index tracks home price changes for 20 major markets. If you are located in one of these markets, you can be sure your buyers are valuing your house according to Case Shiller trends.


Drawing from the mountain of data it collects for lenders, FNC uses appraisals for the basis of its index. That means, that unlike the FHFA and Case-Shiller indices, the FNC index counts in home improvements that probably added value. If you have substantially improved (not just maintained) your house, and if you are located in a neighborhood where homeowners put a premium on updates, this is the index for you.

Pricing in a buyer’s market

It’s tough being the seller in a buyer’s market. But you can improve your odds with the right research.

1. Recognise that housing markets are local

Home prices are like the weather - very different in different areas. In addition, demand will change depending on the price range and even the neighbuorhood. What you need to know: what’s the demand for a home like yours in your area? Look at comparables for similar homes. Study prices and sales for one year ago, six months ago, three months ago and current numbers. (Use the Real-Time Home Value Estimator as a starting point.)

What are the trends? Are prices going up or down - and by how much? How many days are homes staying on the market? If they are on the market longer, how much of that could be seasonal? In many areas, spring and summer are the busy seasons.

Track the homes for sale in your neighbourhood by scouring online listings and visiting open homes in your area. Another reliable source: public records of recently sold properties. You will be able to see not only the price history of homes in your neighbourhood, but also permits for improvements. This will enable you to estimate how much value was actually added by home improvements - and how much those homeowners recouped when they sold.

But you also need to realise that the paperwork alone only tells part of the story. While sales and prices are public, seller concessions are not. For example, a seller might have added a free lawn mower. In practical terms, that might have added $500 to the value of the sale, but it is not reflected in the official records.

2. Analyse who is buying and selling in your market

What’s your competition? Who are the buyers, and why are they shopping?

Is your area growing, which supports rising home values? Or are there layoffs and foreclosures? Are you competing against a flood of new homes from builders eager to sell, or are you selling a newer home in an area where most of the housing stock is older?

3. Know what your house is worth

Get an appraisal from a certified professional appraiser. Look at your comparables. Taken together, that information will give you a pretty good idea of what your home is currently worth.

4. Consider strategic pricing

Here’s how it works: if prices in your area are dropping 1% each month and you want to sell within the next three months, you immediately take 3% off your price. So if you were going to put your home on the market for $400,000, you set the price at roughly $388,000.

The upside: you'll have the competitive edge over the man who isdropping his price every month, without the air of desperation. Plus, in a market where prices are falling, you’ll make more money if you sell quickly.

The downside: predicting the market is a tough call, even for the professionals. And it’s really difficult to raise the price if your market starts to rebound.

5. Rebate the ‘commission’

If you’re selling it yourself and need to move quickly, consider subtracting half of what would have been the commission from the sale price. The standard commission is about 6%, so if you subtract 3%, your $300,000 home would go on the market for $291,000.

6. Assess the market where you plan to buy.

If you’re selling one home and buying another, look at the market where you plan to move. Try to estimate how much you must have to buy the kind of home you want. You might be able to absorb a greater loss in selling, because you need less to buy your next home.


Estimate Your Gross Equity

Calculate the equity you have in your home, before you factor in selling expenses.

Likely sale price:
Minus mortgage outstanding:
Minus second mortgage:
Your equity:

Note: If you bought your home in 2008 - 2010 and claimed a Federal homebuyer’s tax credit you might have to give back part of that credit if you sell within three years. Check your loan documents and plan accordingly.


Estimate Your Net Equity

Now that you know how much equity you have, calculateout how you can keep what’s yours. Add up the transaction costs of selling on this worksheet to determine your net equity - that is, how much you will keep after all the selling costs are deducted. For most people, net equity becomes the down payment on their next home, so it’s important to minimise selling costs.

Estimate your net equity
Likely sale price:
Full service agent commission
6% of sale price
Buyer’s agent co-brokered commission
2% of sale price package
Ancillary expenses
Professional photos
Staging & touch ups
Municipal transfer taxes
Printing (marketing materials)
Market value data
Commissions + ancillary expenses
with full service agent
Commissions + ancillary expenses
with buyer agency &
Gross equity
Your estimated net equity
with full service agent
Your estimated net equity
with buyer agency &

Think like a buyer

The first step is to think like the people who you hope will buy your home. What do they see when they look at your home? How does your house compare to similar homes that have recently sold, and that are currently for sale, in your neighbourhood?

First, define your neighbourhood the way a buyer would. Do you expect a buyer to look for houses in particular subdivisions? By zip code? By access to public transit? By school district? Draw up a list of characteristics that you believe are most compelling to buyers.

Next, using those characteristics, compile a list of houses similar to yours in size, style, condition and amenities that have recently sold, and that are currently for sale.

Find lists of recently sold houses by searching property tax and title transfer records for your municipality and county. (If you are not sure where to start, try the county recorder of deeds. Many records are online, but you might have to go to the clerk’s office and make copies. ) You can get some of this information from the “Recently Sold” tabs of and These sites draw their data from MLS submissions and from public records. There is always a lag time, so you can get the latest data yourself directly from the clerk’s offices.

Find houses currently on the market by looking at listings at,, Craigslist, and other listing services. Pinpoint those that you believe are, objectively, most similar to yours. These houses are your active competition.

Now, calculate the price per square foot for the sold houses and for the active competition. What is the difference? What seems to justify it?

Come up with a narrow range of prices per square foot and calculate the asking price of your house for several price points. Which seems best aligned with market trends in your area?

Understand the active competition.

You need to know exactly what you are up against. Get the listing sheets for the houses on the market in your neighborhood. Typically, these are readily available through, and other listing services.

Using the sample listing sheet at, compare the characteristics of your house to that of the active competition. Key factors include:

Know lending trends

You and your buyer both want the same thing: for your house to be theirs. Understand current lending standards that will likely shape your buyer’s offer. If down payment requirements are high, for instance, buyers will be strapped for cash and a house that doesn’t require any immediate spending will appeal to them - and that will support your asking price. Keep up with lending trends at the .

Set your price

Set Your Price

The asking price you first set is a big number. It can attract buyers. It can repel buyers. It can be viewed as a starting point or an ending point.. Armed with an automated value report or appraisal (covered in steps 3 & 4) and your understanding of buyer preferences, a realistic view of the market appeal of your house, set your price!

Remember, the market value of your house is not determined by:

The market value of your house is what a willing, able and ready buyer will pay today.


You Have an Offer!

Keep the deal on track and capture the most equity.

Offer acceptedAccepted Offer!

Keep reading to find out how to pass the last two pricing barriers between you and closing.

The Inspection: Are Price Adjustments Required?

Price assessmentInspectors are commonly viewed with fear by both sellers and buyers because they often find flaws that can undermine a deal or reopen price negotiations. Here is a short guide to getting the most from the inspection - and to keeping your deal on track.

Assemble for the inspector a set of receipts, drawings, municipal building permits, occupancy permits and other evidence that supports your contention that improvements were made legally and in compliance with local building codes.

Are recent improvements out of compliance with local building codes? Fix that immediately - even if you have to pay fines - to avoid an embarrassing showdown with the inspector, or, at worse, a post-sale lawsuit from the buyer.

Don’t confuse maintenance with improvements. You are unlikely to recapture what you have recently spent on basic maintenance, though the market value of the house would be severely impaired if these essentials are not in good working order:

Are all in good condition? Can you provide evidence of cleaning and other routine care?

Improvements go beyond keeping what is there functional and typically add value to the house. Improvements can include:

The Appraisal

In the recent past, sellers could assume that a solid offer validated the market value of the house and that the deal would sail to a smooth close.

Not anymore. With foreclosures accounting for up to 25% of home sales across the country, market value has become a slippery slope. Cautious appraisers are more likely to find a lower market value, further fueling the trend of declining prices - and to your concern, forcing an after-the-fact price adjustment.

Here’s how to avoid that.

Deal closedClose!

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