Finding a Home in This Overheated Market

So when Ms. Park was pricing a house in Millbrook , N.Y., that needed updating but sat on a quiet country road on five bucolic acres, she...


So when Ms. Park was pricing a house in Millbrook, N.Y., that needed updating but sat on a quiet country road on five bucolic acres, she listed it at $287,000 and had 62 showings and 32 offers. “The house is selling for way over asking price,” she said, declining to give the figure because it hadn’t closed yet. A comparable house in Millbrook, with far less acreage, was listed in May for $310,000, reduced in June to $299,999 and is still for sale.

For buyer clients, Ms. Park looks intensely at houses that have been sitting like lumps, including those for sale by their owners and even listings that have been withdrawn. If she spots a rough gem, she jumps in and offers a lower price before the seller makes a formal reduction online that triggers multiple bids. “I just got a client into a deal for $35,000 under asking that very way,” she said. Her clients call her “Swoop Sandi.”

When it comes to pricing, third-party websites like Zillow and Realtor offer useful transparency (to a point), but also contribute to the problems of sluggish properties, agents say. Buyers see a house’s sales history and draw their own conclusions about why a price has been reduced. But sometimes the story is more complicated than a few stats suggest, and the agent may never get a chance to explain it. Zillow’s habit of reporting how many people look at or save a listing further shapes negative perceptions. If the numbers are skimpy, viewers might assume something is wrong and move on.

Then again, a house that isn’t smothered with interest has its own charms. If enthusiasm for a home is dampened, Peggy Bellar in Margaretville said, it may be for no other reason than buyer fatigue. “Lots of people have been in numerous competitive bidding situations and are gun shy at this point.”

Ms. Bellar had one final explanation for a moribund listing: “when everything has been done correctly” (including the all-important pricing), then it “may simply be a factor of the real estate market adjusting slightly.”

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