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Top agent advice on how to price, method of sale, and when to accept an offer

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How do you set a sale price that's both realistic and enticing in a market that's cooling? When do you know you've received an offer you should accept? And should you move away from the typical method of sale for your area? 

We posed these questions and more to three top Australian agents to find out how they're guiding their vendors and still achieving top results in today's changing market. 

Find out what they had to say.

Getting the price just right is critical

"Over the past two years, real estate agents were struggling to keep up with the market and the way it was booming," Daniel Ellem of Illawarra Estate Agents in Wollongong explained. 

"We're going to start to see the opposite effect now. If we don't keep up with the market, we're going to be chasing our tail."

With buyer demand scaling back after 18 months of FOMO-driven madness, coming to the selling process with realistic expectations is vital right now. 

That means not getting caught up in what a property may have sold for 6 months ago, and instead being very responsive to buyer feedback. 

John Costanzo of Woodards Carlton recalls that "last year the headlines were about sales $100k or $200k above reserve. That's not happening anymore.

"If a property is worth $1 million and you're wanting $1.2 million, you're going to be sitting there for a long time."

John Costanzo, agent and auctioneer at Woodards Carlton in Melbourne, urges sellers to keep their feet on the ground with price expectations.

Rather than setting expectations too high and finding yourself trapped, having to reduce your price and chase the market downwards, it pays to make honest comparisons to similar local sales, assess what listing competition you're up against, and listen closely to the feedback buyers give. 

As long as you follow that advice, you're unlikely to be caught off guard.

Is it better to sell via auction or private treaty in a cooling market?

Deciding on the right method of sale for your property will always be unique to your location and property type. 

It's also going to vary depending on the strategic approach different agents will take, and it's essential to weigh up the pros and cons they present. 

For Max Klimenko of Ray White Touma Group in Redfern, the auction method is now more important than ever in the inner-city market. 

"It allows you to price the property super aggressively to get more buyers through," he explained. "With an auction, it's like building a house, you lay the foundation and you build it up brick by brick."

The process of enticing buyers with an appetising price guide to begin with, receiving as much buyer feedback as possible and adjusting expectations to fit, means getting maximum attention on the property. 

For Mr Ellem, because the urgency has come out of the Wollongong market, the private treaty route typically seems like the more sensible option at the moment. 

"There are still your one-off properties that are still auction properties, but there just isn't enough demand to be an auction market in this area. Not to get the best result," he said.

Daniel Ellem, sales manager at Illawarra Estate Agents, said it's crucial to focus on today's market rather than getting caught up in last year's boom.

Instead, his agency is typically opting to list without an asking price to begin with and gather up valuable buyer feedback, perhaps catching an early motivated buyer along the way. 

Taking the time to understand the interest the property draws and the motivations of potential buyers is key to honing in on the best buyer and the best sale price. 

Ultimately, a top agent will have a clear strategy around which method will work best for your property in the current conditions, so they're best placed to make the call.

How do you know when an early offer is the right offer? 

It's early into the sale campaign, it's a bit hard to tell whether you've got many serious buyers on the cards, and you receive an offer that's a little below your ideal. What do you do? 

It all comes down to carefully gauging interest, Mr Ellem explained. "We can always tell by the number of enquiries we get on a property," he said.

"Let's say I've got a new property on the market and I've had 30 email enquiries and a heap of people who are booked to come in on the weekend. Then I get an offer that's only mediocre.

"In that case, I know I've got another 29 people to come in who are going to potentially buy the property. If I haven't had many people enquire on the property, then it's something I've got to talk to my owners about and say 'hey, the market's quiet, we've had hardly any interest at this price range, you need to take this offer seriously.'"

Mr Klimenko always tries to wait out the first two weeks of the campaign before engaging with any offers in an effort to "let the property breathe and let the buyers have the opportunity to inspect the property a few times."

Max Klimenko, sales executive at Ray White Touma Group in Sydney, is using auctions to leverage buyer competition. 

That makes weighing up any offers a bit easier. If it's looking like there might be one standout option or only one buyer sitting in the top price range, then it's time to consider negotiating a sale prior to auction. 

It's a delicate balance when buyers aren't in the grips of FOMO, so every offer should be taken seriously.

What else should sellers consider right now?

When it comes to making the right calls when selling in this kind of market, Mr Ellem said it all starts with selecting an agent who is actively selling. 

"If they're not selling from week to week, they're not keeping up with the current market," he explained. 

"When the market's good, anyone can sell properties. When a market starts to turn, you've got to go to agencies that have got a number of sales staff that are out there working the ground every day, every weekend, talking to buyers."

Along with paying close attention to buyer feedback, Mr Costanzo noted that "presentation is key. If you're out there competing with other properties, yours has got to be the standout one in the same price range."

Mr Klimenko agreed, adding "we're not talking about big renovations, we're talking about things like painting, styling, fittings and fixtures. Because once you start doing the kitchens and bathrooms in this market, you might not get that money back. Do the minimum that's going to make the biggest difference."

He also said understanding a seller's motive is important right now, because the market may present some upsides. 

"The first question I'd be asking is 'why are you selling? Are you buying something else?' Your property might have dropped $50k, but if you're looking to upsize well that next house might have come down $150k."

At the end of the day, the market is still moving forward and people are transacting. It's all about sellers shifting their mindset along with the market to set realistic expectations and listen to buyers in order to achieve a top result.