It’s home-buying peak season, and a popular time to sell properties as well. Many sellers ask me: What is the best time to sell my house? What strategies can get me top dollars for my house? What are the things to watch out for besides staging, pricing, market timing and consumer behaviors? What kind of offers should the seller never accept regardless of the price? Let’s look at some of the most commonly asked questions for sellers:

What’s the best time to sell a house?

Generally, between April and late June is when the number of buyers peak, so under normal circumstances you want to sell during that time to capture the highest number of buyers and to get the most exposure. However, there are specific dates to watch out for. For example, you don’t want to your open house to happen right around important special events such as Boston Marathon. Any weekend where people want to go out of town or see family should be avoided. So holiday weekends should be avoided at all cost. This sounds like common sense, but some inexperienced listing agents make the mistake of doing Open Houses at the wrong time and end up missing out on the crucial opening week traffic. In general, the first open house is the most critical period of the home selling history, because usually the best inventory sells within a week. The longer the property stays on the market, the more likely buyers will pass it by or assume that something is wrong with the property. Many will try to lowball a property that’s been on the market for too long. Winter inventory tends to be the lowest even though the number of buyers is low during this time. In some cases, the seller of a desirable property can get a top price because the number of inventory is substantially lower relative to the demand.

Do I need to stage my property?

Whether you stage your property, and how much to spend on staging your property, varies greatly based on the location and price range of the property. For some properties, you never want to go cheap on the staging, whereas for some properties the staging is just redundant. Also, how you stage the property and utilize the space cam impact consumer behaviors. It’s important to discuss with an experienced realtor about the best strategy for staging.

How do you price the property?

When I sell a property, I look at similar properties sold within 0.3-0.5 mile of the subject property in the past 3-6 months. The closer in distance and offer date, the more relevant the comps. However, what I also do is call around the realtors with deals under agreement in that area for the most precise prediction of market behaviors. The number of offers properties for sale in that area have received is important information. Often, there is a 2-3 month time lapse between when a property is under agreement and when the sale price data is released to the public. So it is important to capture the most relevant information in the 2-3 months gap. If there were multiple offers for similar properties sold recently, it is quite likely the same group of people who lost the bid will be bidding again, so these consumer behaviors are critical. Properties sold by other realtors could be strategically priced high or low, but it is important to look past these listing numbers to analyze the pricing trends based on consumer behaviors.

Is price the most important thing when picking an offer?

Price is important, but there are some offers you never want to pick regardless of price. If possible, never pick an offer with a super low down payment like 5% if you have better options. If I get an offer of 780k with 5% down payment versus an offer of 750k with 20% down, I would pick the latter. The reason is because in a rapidly appreciating market, the appraisals ordered by the bank often fail to catch up to the rapidly appreciating market. This means that appraisers hired by the bank sometimes lowball the appraised value based on delayed market data, and in this case, a delay of 2-3 months could make a big difference if the market appreciates 8-10% annually. If the appraisal gets lowballed, the loan cannot be secured because the bank is only willing to lend 80-75% of the appraised value. So in such cases the financing falls through and the property would have to be put back on the market. Also, choose offers with inspection and financing contingency waivers whenever possible. You don’t want to take the risk of the property going back on the market.