What is the right pricing strategy for my home?

In Berkeley and in the surrounding areas, it has long been the case that many properties are listed below what they’ll likely sell for.  I’ll call this “low pricing.”  Low pricing is a strategy intended to attract the attention of a wide range of buyers and to generate multiple offers.  Most properties around here follow this strategy, but it’s not the only possibility.

“Transparent” pricing is a newer term for the classic pricing strategy followed in most other areas.  It refers to choosing a list price that is at a value that the seller will accept for the home; the expectation is not that there will be a bidding war and the price will get bid up.

In deciding which of these strategies makes more sense for a particular property, the biggest consideration is whether there will be multiple interested buyers for the property.  If you go with a low price and only get one offer, that offer may very well be at, or even below, the (low) list price.  For this reason, for a property that is not something that a typical buyer is looking for (because of size, style, customization, etc.), or for properties in the upper price ranges (that are too expensive for most buyers), it makes sense to choose a transparent price.  Listing a property low is only a good idea if there are likely to be multiple buyers bidding the price up.

For properties of broad interest, there are several reasons why the “price it low and generate bidding” strategy is beneficial. Multiple offers push up the price to the upper limit of what the buyers are willing to pay, so you know you’re getting top dollar.  They also give the buyer with the winning offer confidence that the property is a good one (“If all these other people also want it, it must be good!”), and buyer confidence is important in holding deals together.  Buyers may also waive contingencies they do not need and choose shorter time periods.

If you’re choosing a transparent price, the right price to choose is the market value of the home, determined by what other similar properties have sold for.  If you’re pricing low, though, the inevitable question is “How low do you go?”

The most advantageous “low” list price is  one that is similar to what other properties like yours are listed at.  You want your home to look good relative to other homes that are for sale.  If you list it at a price higher than similar properties, it will end up being compared by buyers to other homes that are bigger or otherwise more expensive, and it won’t compare favorably.

In normal times for this area, “low” list prices have been around 20-30% below market value.  Lately, though, list prices are a lot further below market value.  Why?

Sale prices/market values have shot up since the beginning of 2021, but typical list prices move more slowly. So far this year, homes are selling quite commonly for 30%, 40%, 50%, or even more above list price, up to double! Why haven’t list prices gone up as the market has risen?  It’s a coordination problem. When other properties on the market are still choosing the same list prices as last year, a strategic seller will do the same, so that their home is compared by buyers to the right segment of the market.