House for Sale

When Otis Darrell recently retired from the U.S. Postal Service, he knew exactly what he wanted to do: sell his house and move closer to family members in the South.

Darrell, 67, planned to move to Georgia, and he figured the sale of his four — bedroom, two — and — a — half — bathroom home in Victorville, California, would come in handy.

But more than six months after putting his house on the market, Darrell still hasn’t sold the property. Originally listed for $375,000, the house sits on an attractive lot framed by neatly trimmed shrubs and a rose garden that extends from the driveway to the front door. Even with its nice “curb appeal” and quiet cul — de — sac location, the house hasn’t budged.

“It hasn’t helped that a brand — new set of houses [is] being built a block away,” Darrell notes. “That’s just extra competition.”

Darrell has since lowered the asking price to $300,000, changed realtors, and even made repairs totaling about $1,700. He’s gone ahead and moved to Georgia, but he says if he doesn’t get a bite by spring, he’ll simply take the California property off the market and rent it.

Like many homeowners, Darrell finds winter to be the slowest home — buying season of the year. Homes are now sitting on the market for an average of 60 days, double the number of days it took to sell a house in 2005, when interest rates were falling. According to the National Association of Realtors, in 2007 the housing market nationwide is expected to be relatively flat, following a correction in home sales and prices in 2006.

Malik Ellis, an attorney and co — owner of the Ellis Development Group in Washington, D.C., says broad economic factors are indicated in the softening residential real estate market. Interest rates rose in 2006, Ellis says, and “helped to factor in the slowdown in buying, creating an oversupply of houses on the market.” As a result, home appreciation values dropped from 12.4% in 2005 to a forecasted 1.9% for 2006, according to the NAR.

Now that supply — and — demand considerations have tipped the balance of power squarely into the hands of buyers, “they can ask for incentives and concessions unheard of a year ago,” says Ellis, whose firm is a mixed — use real estate development company. “The psychology has shifted,” he notes, “and now buyers are willing to walk away from a house if it’s not just right, if they are not getting the amenities they desire, or if the price doesn’t suit them.”

With the real estate market recently cooling off in many areas of the country, sellers may be tempted to throw up their hands. There are, however, strategies to help you sell your home without pricing yourself into the poorhouse.

A seller’s greatest mistake, experts say, is insisting on an asking price that is out of line with the market. “Everybody thinks they have a million — dollar home because they raised their children there or because the kids planted a tree in the backyard a