The Overpriced Home: Figuring Out The Problem

Can You Spot The Overpriced Home in a Neighborhood?

Which Home is Overpriced?
Would you know if one of these homes was overpriced?
Hint: it's the one that isn't selling. (Ooooh, imagine that - an overpriced home not getting any offers!) You know, the one that has been on the market so long no one even notices the sign any more. Sunday home-shoppers don't even slow down (they've already seen it) as they cruise on by to another Open House. Neighbors speculate on why it's not selling and what that means for their own chances of selling (when they get around to it). But if you ask the seller . . . it's priced right. They just KNOW it because someone told them so. So how do YOU avoid becoming one of the non-selling sellers of an overpriced home?

Know Thy Market When Pricing a Home for Sale

Picking the right price for a home is part art, part math, part intuition, part experience. If you're not careful, you'll end up with an overpriced home - and that can really hurt your chances of selling it anytime soon. The person coming up with the numbers needs something to go on. You know . . . some actual data to use to figure it out. Emotions need to be checked at the door - as strong as they may be, they just get in the way of what needs to be done: get the price right so the house sells as fast as possible at the highest price possible. Let me share an example with you so that you can see why just breezing through some other local listings, or recent sales isn't quite enough to nail the price on a listing. What you learn here could save you a lot of time and money (and teeth gnashing).

But It's Priced Right!!!

I ran across a listing a while ago that stuck out in a sea of data as an outlier - a data point that looked out of place. At first, it was a bit confusing: the price per square foot was clearly under other homes of similar size and age in the area. The photos in the MLS looked okay. The photos themselves weren't that great, but the home looked presentable in them. The neighborhood and schools are considered desireable. Other listings were selling in just a few weeks. And yet . . . this one was still on the market. It was still on the market despite several downward price adjustments, each of which made it look more and more favorably priced than the competition. And yet, other houses were coming on the market and selling and this one was . . . sitting. It was the classic overpriced home.

The Big List of Small and Not-So-Small Things That Matter

To re-cap: at first glance, the priced seemed reasonable. But at deep-gazing, the price was way off, from a combination of these things:
  • The house was built by a lower-end builder in a subdivision of homes built by better builders: it did not have the same quality of original fit-and-finish as the typical home in the area.
  • The fixtures (faucets, light fixtures, shower surrounds) were original, and in a bright-brass finish.
  • The house did not appear to have been well-maintained.
  • The fence was rotty.
  • The playscape was falling down.
  • Some cabinets had sharpie (?) markings and other scribbles on them.
  • The bathrooms had dated (and peeling) wallpaper.
  • The flooring that looked like hardwood was actually super-thin, poorly-installed laminate.
  • The floorplan was awkward.
  • The house was crowded with too much stuff (that had been moved aside for the photos).
On other words: it really wasn't comparable to the other homes for sale, or other homes that had recently sold. Those homes were mostly updated, mostly built by better builders, mostly wall-paper free and were in better locations within the subdivision. They were better presented (de-cluttered), and more importantly: more accurately presented in the MLS. The photos in the MLS for the non-selling home looked better than the reality - by a long shot. wshen you add it all up, the price for this home was just too high - it was overpriced.

What To Do, What To DO?

If you're home isn't selling, and you want to know why, it might be time to step back and take a cold, hard look at it. Look at the list above, and talk it over with your real estate agent. How DOES your house compare? Don't be tempted to stick with the "but, we priced it right!" party line that has gotten so comfortable in recent months. If it's not selling, the price isn't right. To get your price, you may need to do a lot of work. If you don't want to do the work, you'll need to lower the price to the point where someone else might be willing to do the work. And, if it's really stale because it's gotten the reputation of being an overpriced home, you may even need to slightly underprice it, just to get folks back to take a second look, or to generate some new traffic. After all, the point is to sell the house, not just list it for sale - right?

Condo Plumbing: Some Things You Need to Know

Condo Plumbing can be a bit tricky.

If you own a home (or have in the past), you probably know a bit about plumbing. When you need to work on it, you can turn off the water. Easy Peasy! This is so not the case in many condos!

Shared Waters Systems for Condos

Condos are often on a shared water system. By shared, we don't mean just on city water, we mean shared, as in: the pipes run from one unit to the next, or they're all fed off of one (or more) main valves. Shutting off the service to one unit may mean shutting off the service to all of them in the complex, or to a bunch of them that are in the same building (if the development has multiple buildings). If you want to do some plumbing work on your own unit, you need to schedule a maintenance period with the HOA (Home Owners Association). The HOA is often managed by an HOA Management Company. This might take a few days, or it could take a few weeks.

Working on Condo Plumbing

You may or may not get to pick your shut-down time to work on the plumbing in your unit. The HOA might tell you when you can do it, and then you get to work within that time frame. You must find a reliable plumber that will show up on time, and make sure the job is completed before he leaves, so that the water to all of the affected units can be turned back on. Some HOAs will want the licensing information for the plumber before approving the maintenance, so your friend Joe-the-handyman who will work for beer and $20 might not pass muster. And here is the painful kicker to all of this: shutting off the water isn't as simple as just shutting off the water like it is for a single-family home. The water may take a while to drain from the system. It could take 20 minutes, it could take an hour or more. More units = longer time to drain. And then, let's say the work gets done, and the plumber wants to tests the work for leaks. It also takes a while to turn the water back on. Sometimes the plumber won't have permission to turn the valve back on - maybe the maintenance guy has to do that, and you might have to hunt him down, first. And if the new connections leak, it'll take the shared plumbing system a while to drain again before more work can be done.

A Real Life Condo Plumbing Story

You may be asking: where do they GET this stuff they write about? Real life, of course. Here is a real life shared condo plumbing tale of woe.
  • Woman buys condo.
  • Hall bathroom is UGLY.
  • Woman orders new countertop for hall bathroom.
  • Counter is delivered and can't be installed because the water shut-off valves under the sink don't turn all the way off, which means the faucet on the old counter can't be removed.
  • Woman learns that replacing the shut-off values requires shutting off the water main for 8 units.
  • HOA gives permission after checking plumber's license, notifies residents of 4-hours for a water-off maintenance window.
  • Maintenance man shuts off main valve at designated time.
  • Plumber and woman wait and wait and wait.
  • The plumbing system takes an hour to drain before work can start.
  • Plumber replaces two shut-off valves under the sink.
  • HOA maintenance man turns water back on.
  • New shut-off valves work properly.
  • Woman pays plumber $180 for two hours of work that would have taken 20 minutes for a single-family residence.
And that would be the end of the story . . . except . . .
  • When the water is turned back on, some debris (scale) in the hot water pipes of the older plumbing system clog the shower valves in both showers.
  • Both showers that used to have full water pressure now have very low water pressure.
  • Fixing THAT is going to require another planned maintenance, and the HOA doesn't want to approve it quickly due to the inconvenience to the other unit owners.

Bottom Line on Condo Plumbing

When you live in a development like a condo where some resources are shared, it just takes longer to get some stuff done. More coordination is necessary. More people are going to be in the mix for getting stuff approved, scheduled, and completed. That doesn't mean don't buy one, it just means: know what you're buying and make sure you're ok with the trade-offs that condo living brings to your lifestyle.