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 What to do if your home won't sell

Consider lowering price, remodeling or renting it out

Homes take longer to sell today than they did in 2005. This is due to a slow home-sale market that has resulted in a build-up of the inventory of unsold listings. Although there are exceptions, this situation is expected to continue until late 2015 or 2016 -- at least. What options do sellers have whose homes aren't selling quickly enough?

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Sellers whose homes aren't selling should analyze the price they are asking with the help of their real estate agent. It's useful to look at similar homes in your area that have sold recently. Why did these homes sell when yours didn't? If price is the key determinant, adjust your price accordingly, if you can.

Sellers who are unable to accept a reasonable price for their home should take it off the market and wait for a better time to sell. Letting your home sit on the market overpriced won't accomplish your goals. And, it could hinder your sales effort at a later date when you get serious about selling. You don't want to be known as an unrealistic seller.

Some listings need more than a price adjustment to sell in this market. If modifications can be made to the property to make it more salable, consider removing the listing from the market temporarily until changes can be made. Then, adjust the price some to give the listing an entirely new look when it is re-marketed.

Finding a tenant rather than a buyer might seem like a good option for some sellers. Before taking this approach, talk with a tax advisor. The tax laws affecting single-family residences differ from those relating to income-producing properties.

One tax benefit of owning your home is that you are entitled to $250,000 of tax-free gain ($500,000 for a married couple filing jointly) when you sell. But, restrictions apply. For instance, you need to have owned and occupied your home for two of the last five years. If you were to move out of the area, with no plans of returning, this could pose problems when you decide to sell.

It can be difficult to sell a tenant-occupied property, particularly if the tenants are content to stay where they are. Also, your home might not show well with a tenant living in it. Ideally, plan on selling after the tenant has vacated.

THE CLOSING: This way you can have the property repaired, painted, cleaned and staged for sale before it goes on the market.

By Dian Hymer

Dian Hymer is author of "House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide," Chronicle Books. 

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