Editor’s column: It’s not rosy for all sellers

While home sales have been booming in many neighborhoods in the Washington area, there is a flip side: a group of sellers in places like Prince George’s and Charles counties whose properties still languish on the market for weeks and months.


Mike Sandifer, who owns Staging by Mike, talks with real estate agent Kimberly Cestari about his ideas for staging the sunroom on Thursday May 3 in Washington, D.C. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

So far in our Navigating the Market series, we have detailed the struggles of buyers in the sellers’ market beginning to take hold in the D.C. region. But some of you wanted us to address the difficulties many sellers are having.

Commenting on the strong bargaining positions held by many home owners in the market, reader Steve Dansker sent me an e-mail that simply said: “Uh, tell that to the sellers who are still underwater.”

On Saturday, in addition to describing how sellers can increase their chances of getting their asking prices by enhancing their home’s image, we offer some tips for people in slow-selling areas and people whose homes are underwater.

One real estate agent persuaded her client to offer a $4,000 incentive to an agent who could produce a buyer willing to sign a deal by June 30. Another agent discussed a new Bank of America program that makes it easier for underwater owners to come to terms with a buyer on a short sale.

I know how frustrating it can be holding on to a house you no longer want.

As I mentioned in a column a few weeks ago, my wife and I found ourselves underwater on our first home in Rhode Island at the very time we needed to sell: when I had accepted a job at the Chicago Tribune. There was a $50,000 gap between what we owed on the house and what we could sell it for — and we didn’t have the money to make up the difference.

We asked the lender to allow us to sell it in a short sale, but officials refused.

So we rented the house at a loss for about three years before our tenants departed. In desperation, we approached the lender again. This time officials agreed to the short sale.

Morgan Knull, an agent at Re/Max Gateway, says in our story that owners who’ve experienced hardships — underwater and don’t have enough money to pay off the lender, job losses, job relocations — should qualify for short sales. But I’ve recently heard stories from underwater owners who say their lenders don’t return their phone calls and drag their feet about their requests for short sales — even when they qualify for them.

We hope you’ll find something helpful in the story whether you’re struggling to get rid of your home or potentially sitting pretty preparing to sell your home in a neighborhood where multiple offers are the norm.

Let us know your experiences selling your home and what you think of our coverage.

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