When visiting houses on broker open house tours I’m often struck by the disparity between asking price and reality. I’m usually tempted to blame the seller for this ridiculous situation but, on reflection, I suspect we agents share some of the fault. In short, we tend to fall in love with our listings. Any good agent will elicit from their client the strong points of a house; the features that made them buy it in the first place. We listen, we’re convinced, and then price the place based on our belief in the unique qualities of the place. The trouble is, buyers and objective agents often fail to appreciate those features; they come in, compare the generic features to other houses in the same price range and make a decision accordingly. While this phenomenon may make the case for creative marketing, I suspect that the real lesson to be drawn is that, ultimately, houses are houses, and we should price them based on location, condition and what’s for sale in the same price range. A spouse or a child has a unique value: a house, alas, does not.

The Market
I’ll have real statistics in a few weeks but, anecdotally, we seem to be repeating last year’s pattern which, as Nancy Healy of Shore & Country recently reminded me, saw a complete drop-off of customers from July through October and then a surge of buyers in November and December. That’s certainly happening to me – if it really is the new pattern, I’m going to start booking fall flyfishing / hunting trips to Wyoming for the early fall and return in time to take advantage of this late season buying. In the meantime, if you’re selling, you should be experiencing a marked increase in showings and offers. If not, I suggest that you review your asking price – you’re not where you should be.

There’s nothing wrong with this market that the right price can’t fix, especially in the high range. I’m wrapping up a deal for a house that started, foolishly, near $11,000,000; once it dropped substantially and to where it originally belonged, five buyers chased it. The money’s there, but the people who earned that money aren’t in the mood to toss it away. Offer value, and they will come.

Which brings us to …There are a lot of new houses being constructed with asking prices of $9,000,000 and above. My suspicion that they won’t sell at that level has been reinforced by seeing a number of recent sales in the $7’s of slightly older homes and new construction like that on Thunder Mountain. A $10,000,000 house may seem attractive, but when you can get comparable quality in an albeit dated house for $3,000,000 less, is there any question which to buy? I note that Antares, has dropped the asking price of one its Cherry Blossom Road houses from $12,000,000 to $7,500,000. I have my issues with Antares but I do admire folks who can read the handwriting on the wall. I wonder what the neighbor who paid Antares $10,300,000 for essentially the same house just two months ago feels about all this.

Holiday reading
One of my all time favorite historical fiction reads is “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett – yes, that guy – author of “Eye of the Needle” and all those other suspense stories. “Pillars” was completely different from those, and told the story of the building of an English cathedral in 1100 AD. Twenty years later, Follett has revisited that scene and gone forward two hundred years. I suppose you might profit from reading “Pillars” before this latest, “World Without End”, but the latter stands entirely on its own. It’s as absorbing as the first and just a terrific read. My pal Nancy (ok, to all those readers who know us and question my reference to her thus, how would you describe a former spouse who remains your best friend and champion?) gave me an early copy and, although I’m barely 150 pages into its 1000 page bulk, I’m loving it and, if you indulge in this sort of well researched, fetching fiction, you will too. Highly recommended.

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