"How much can I get for my house?" is the central question every seller wants answered.

In developing a pricing strategy, sellers must "build in" expected costs. These costs typically include expenses associated with preparing a home for sale - such as painting and repairing, legal fees, commissions if using a broker, improvements which may be required under a sales contract, financing charges to the seller, and other related expenses.

Both the selling price and the structure of the deal must be considered equally when marketing a home. As an example, consider the seller who receives two offers. The first is for $60,000 while the second is for $62,500. On the basis of gross price alone the second offer appears more desirable.

However there may be other factors which influence the deal. The second offer may require the buyer in install a new roof as well as pay three points (as much as $1,875 in this case) at settlement. In contrast the first offer could provide for the buyers to assume an existing mortage and pay the balance in cash. The offer, though "smaller," gives the best net benefit to the seller.

To properly develop a net pricing structure sellers must first establish the upper sales potential of their homes. With a subdivision or condominium there may be a series of recent sales with a particular model which reflect a consistent price pattern. It would be difficult to sell a similar model at a far greater cost since pricing benchmarks exist.

In established communities there is much wider pricing latitude. Comparisons are not as clear as those in subdivisions and condominiums and so a broader range of prices can exist. Wider pricing is a benefit to sellers with superior negotiating skills and tactics.

Once an upper sales potential has been established sellers may then calculate the range of proceeds they can expect from a sale. Suppose a seller has a home with a $80,000 market value and a $45,000 mortgage which can be assumed. At best the seller could realize $15,000 from the sale of this home.

But realistically, the seller may have fixing-up expenses (perhaps $1,000), appraisal costs ($70 to $125), legal fees ($50 to $500), brokerage commissions may run to 6 to 7 per cent ($3,600 to $,200), and costs paid by the seller at settlement (say in this case three points, $1,000). So, of the $15,000 which could be realized from this sale in the best case, as much as half could be expended in the selling process.

From these considerations sellers should establish a sales posture. Legal fees can generally be reduced through the use of a broker. The seller may require that in any sale the buyer must assume the mortgage, thus elimination points at settlement. An owner may elect to become a self-seller and place a home on the market without a broker.

Peter G. Miller teaches the course "How to Sell Your Own Home - With or Without a Broker" through the Consumer Information Institute here.