Dear Monty column: Timing your real estate transaction

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This week our reader puzzles me. Often, reading between the lines is the practical approach to respond to a reader. This person's question has me thinking a fast-talking agent runs the show and could be leading our reader into troubled water. The way they describe the situation seems odd. I hope this is not the case. [Richard Montgomery]

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.


Reader Question: ​Our home has been on the market for one month. We started at $698,500 and reduced it to $685,000 after two weeks. The house is 3,564 square feet in a desirable older neighborhood. We've had two showings and much positive feedback. The only negative is that we have no backyard. Our agent now is recommending we lower the price again. We are not in a hurry to move as we have no other place in mind. Do we lower the price or take it off the market and relist it when we are ready?

​Monty's Answer: Do not be disappointed with two showings and two turndowns. It is unclear what is happening in your neighborhood in terms of the sales rate, but two showings may not be unusual. Many home sellers have a sense that everyone will want their home, that the market is good, and they are surprised if a sale does not happen quickly. While some people want a large yard, there are advantages to a small yard and there are people who prefer a small yard.

Step back

Without understanding your circumstances outside of what you have written, the question of why you listed it for sale when you have no plan comes to mind. It is also unclear how the home's price was established, which can lead to a lack of resolve in the pricing strategy. Your real estate agent is likely the source of real estate information. It is easy for your agent to determine the sales rate in your range. In most hyper-local markets, sales may be strong just below and above your price range, but tepid in your range. If you had a document that demonstrates the best-case and worst-case value scenarios, and market activity, you could answer your question.

Make a plan

Consider the following steps as a potential plan to a smooth and successful transaction:

Ask your agent for the best price you can expect, and the lowest price you should consider. The answers should be demonstrable with comparable sales to defend their opinions. Do not abdicate your responsibility to understand the data they used to reach their conclusions.

Determine where you want to move and the availability of homes with your next home's features.

Now decide if, and when, you should hang out the for-sale sign.

To find the range of value, determine the three comparable sales with the most comparable features to your home. They will all have sold for different prices. The house that sold for the most would represent the high end, and the home that sold for the least amount would be the lowest price to consider accepting. In my opinion, the best time to sell your home is when you don't have to.

Here is a link to an article on titled "The Time Trap" that asks and answers questions about the situation you are currently facing that may help make your plan. When you have all the information you need, you can plan to keep yourself out of financial distress.

Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money - An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He is a real estate industry veteran who advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Find him at