If it seems as though sellers have the upper hand in today’s housing market, consider this: 83 percent of sellers make some concession with buyers in order to close the sale, and 41 percent have at least one offer fall through. That may help explain why, despite the proliferation of online tools that help sellers price their homes and market them to eager buyers, only 10 percent of home sellers go the distance and sell completely on their own. The overwhelming majority (85 percent) of sellers partner with agents and rely on those agents both to bring prospective buyers to their homes and to handle the nitty-gritty details of selling and closing.
When selling a home, two clear objectives drive the process: finding a buyer within the preferred time frame and selling for the highest price possible. Of the pitfalls that affect sellers, most are the result of the squeeze on buyers, who for years have faced rising home prices and difficulties qualifying for mortgages and saving for down payments. Those stressors are reflected in some of the reasons sellers give for having one or more offers fall through: issues with the buyer’s financing (23 percent); the buyer changing their mind (21 percent); or the buyer’s inability to sell their home, which was a contingency of the sale (17 percent). Perhaps because of the prevailing view that homes are an investment, agents provide a particularly important resource during selling. Eighty-five percent of sellers work with an agent or broker to sell their home, compared with 74 percent of home buyers. In terms of general sentiment and preferences during buying and selling activities, 58 percent of buyers say they prefer to take the lead themselves, while only 41 percent of sellers express that sentiment.
Those sellers who do prefer to take the lead — whether they are working with an agent or not — tend to be younger and more accustomed to finding information online. Millennial sellers are especially likely to get out in front: 58 percent say they prefer to take the lead on decisions regarding the sale of the home, compared with 29 percent of Baby Boomers. Millennials are also more likely than older sellers to prefer research over intuition in their decision-making (65 percent of Millennials versus 52 percent of Boomers).
Sellers rely heavily on agents, from start to finish. When sellers work with agents, they value first and foremost their abilities to find interested buyers (89 percent). After that, most sellers (85 percent) want agents who can take photos of their property and promote the listing on real estate websites (84 percent). Once a buyer is in hand, sellers appreciate an agent who can lead negotiations with potential buyers (84 percent) and shepherd paperwork through the transaction (88 percent). Before any of this happens, though, sellers want to be sure the agent they hire is someone they can trust. They’ll determine that through a number of channels, including online reviews, recommendations from family and friends, and the agent’s reputation in the community. Although most sellers spend months thinking about selling before they act, about a quarter (24 percent) say they wish they’d started getting their home ready to sell earlier, possibly because of the difficulties in making repairs, cleaning out the house and accommodating buyers. On the way to closing the deal, four out of five sellers (83 percent) have to make at least one concession or allowance, with nearly one-third (29 percent) of sellers sealing the deal by lowering the sales price of their home. Millennial sellers are the cohort most likely to make concessions to finalize the sale of their home (89 percent do), while Baby Boomers are the least likely (78 percent do). Home as an investment versus a reflection of identity. Most sellers see their home as an investment, a sentiment that’s especially strong in the West. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of sellers in the West view their home as an investment versus a reflection of their identity. That’s true of other regions but not to the same degree: 66 percent of sellers in the Midwest, 65 percent of sellers in the South and 59 percent of sellers in the Northeast say they view their home as an investment. Reflecting on the process, 67 percent of sellers say they would do at least one thing differently, including listing their home at a different price (22 percent). And even though almost half (46 percent) sell their homes for the asking price or higher, buyers are more satisfied with the process than sellers are: 84 percent of buyers say they’re satisfied with the process versus 79 percent of sellers. It may be that buyers go into the market knowing they’re going to face some difficulties, while sellers, following the news of surging home prices and fierce competition, might underestimate the work involved until they’re in the middle of the action.