By Tara-Nicholle Nelson, Published: 4/14/2009

#8: Get a real estate market reality check. (And kiss fantasyland goodbye.)Walk a mile in the shoes of a prospective buyer for your home. They are out there. And they are well-educated. Today’s qualified homebuyers have every piece of data about home prices and sales trends in your neighborhood. They are willing to pay a fair price, but they know how to formulate a fair offer to a degree that previous generations of buyers have never had the ability to do. All the info is just a few keystrokes away! And they have an incredible level of house hunting stamina from having seen so many foreclosed homes with abandoned remodeling projects and ripped out plumbing.

Clueless is as clueless does. So, a buyer is doing their nightly obsessive scouring of the Web listings of homes for sale in their price range in your town, and your listing comes up. What will their first response be? Do they think it’s a serious prospect they should mull over? Do they instantly autodial their Realtor to set a first-thing-in-the-morning appointment to see your place? Or do they grab their sides as they roll on the floor in hysterical laughter, wondering what planet the seller is from to think someone would pay that for that place?

Long story short: clueless is a very bad look for a home seller. It’s the easiest route to getting lowball offers or no offers at all. In a market like this, you might wish desperately that your home was worth more than it actually is. But check yourself — wishing it were so doesn’t make it so. If you’re selling now, you probably really want or need to, so get over yourself and get clued into the realities of your market if you want to get it sold.

When on the Web, do as Web buyers do. Before you ever list your home with a Realtor, spend some time on perusing MLS listings the way a prospective buyer would. Check out the other listings in your neighborhood, and do an honest mental comparison of their homes to yours. This will start to give you a reality check on prices and price ranges. Then visit a site like and type in your address to get an estimated value. It will show you the actual sales prices from nearby similar homes that have closed escrow, so you can begin to appreciate the difference between list price and sales price in your area.

Experience the competition, live and in person. Once you are familiar with recent sales prices and you’ve hired a Realtor, get up close and personal with your competition. Stroll through a few open houses and see what your house is up against, in terms of condition and staging. Then ask your Realtor to analyze the competing listings on the basis of how many days the active, pending and recently sold MLS listings in your area have been on the market. That way, you’ll know up front which price points get quick buyer interest and about how long you should wait for an offer before you reduce your price.

Now, get real! Remember that the same buyers who come to see your place will have seen the other active listings too. So price or prep your place to be more attractive than the others. You will eliminate the clueless factor and get buyers to take you seriously when you get a real estate reality check, and let the data drive a fact-based pricing and property preparation strategy.