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5 ways to spot an overpriced house

For Sale sign overprice houses do not sell

If you are a homebuyer ready to buy a property in virtually any urban centre in Canada, you are often faced with a shocking price tag.  While some markets are still moderately affordable, other markets seem to consistently command higher and higher prices. The trick is don’t pay more than the home, and the land, are actually worth.  In other words, make sure you’re not buying an overpriced house. But how do you actually spot an overpriced house?

Here are five ways you can spot an overpriced house for sale before you make an offer.

1. Overpriced compared to its neighbours

Overpriced houses don't sell Zolo

If you suspect that a home is overpriced, do a little digging to support your theory. Use a home value calculator to see what the estimated price of the house is, as well as checking out the houses next door. Keep in mind these public calculators are based on general assumptions and algorithms.  They won’t provide a consistently accurate snapshot. But they will give you a good starting spot.  Do your research to ensure the home you’re looking at is not priced higher than similar properties of the same size and bedroom count.  If you believe this is an overpriced house, then move on to more specific data.

Talk to your real estate agent about getting recently sold data in the area where the property is located. This hard data should include pricing up to and including the last three months. This timeframe should give you a realistic idea of the price range for the neighbourhood.  It will be a good indicator of whether or not the home’s current asking price is in line with market valuations. If the price is above the most recent sale prices — and the property is comparable to all the others in the neighbourhood — then you’ll know the house for sale is definitely overpriced.

2. The price does not match the location

Brooklin New York Carriage House out of place Zolo

The location of the house is a big factor to its price. Homes are priced according to how sought after the area is.  As a homebuyer, you should have some expectations around what you will get for your money. For instance, homes in urban areas surrounded by green space, or sought after amenities such as local restaurants, stores and close to transit hubs will often command a higher price tag than homes located in areas that lack these amenities. Do your research on the location so you can understand if the house is fairly priced for its location or if the seller is asking too much.

Keep in mind, some locations are under-valued despite having access to great transit options or green space.  The key is to really understand the local area to see if you’ve found a good home in a great spot, or if the seller is just asking too much based on perceived area value.

3. The home is doing time on the market

Boarded up house sitting for too long Capt George Flavel House Astoria Oregon

Houses that are correctly priced don’t stay on the market for long.  The term “too long” will be different in every market.  Typically this can mean a home should sell within a couple of weeks (or a couple of days, if the market is really hot). However, if the home is on the market for a month or more or if the home is listed, terminated (or cancelled) and re-listed a number of times, this could be a sign that the home is overpriced or has issues.

4. People are interested, but there’s no sale

People touring open house sold sign on lawn

The location is good, there are plenty of nearby amenities and handy transport links, there appears to be interest but there is no sale, then ask your agent (or the seller’s agent) if there have been any offers. Chances are the seller of an in-demand house will receive and reject offers if the price doesn’t meet their exaggerated expectations.

5. Upgrades to the home haven’t added value

Bad brownstone renovation New York bad renovation

Homeowners often like to renovate and upgrade their houses.  Often the hope is that the house will fetch a better price when they sell it. But just because the seller renovated doesn’t mean they will get a dollar for dollar return on the renovation cost.  It could just mean the listing is an overpriced house.

For instance, the seller may have added a luxurious ensuite spa-like bathroom that cost $50,000.  In so doing they removed the home’s fourth bedroom. In real estate, removing a bedroom is akin to depleting your retirement fund.  You’re essentially eliminating relative value from the property. As a result, some renos don’t add value to a home and may actually reduce the home’s perceived market value. Be sure to assess whether or not the seller has priced the home due to an unrealistic reno they’ve completed. If they have, you may need to wait and let the market’s lack of interest persuade the seller to adjust their expectations.

So what can you do if a house has had no other offers and it’s been on the market for a few months?   You can go in with an offer that’s 10% to 15% lower than the asking price.  Be sure that discount puts you closer to the market value of comparable homes in the neighbourhood. Always do your due diligence and get a property inspection to make sure that you’re getting a good deal.  Don’t risk taking on a host of problems or an overpriced house.

Updated March 5, 2019

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Angela Pearse

Angela Pearse is a freelance writer who frequently travels but loves returning home to her Art Deco apartment. She’s also passionate about historical novels, Netflix, hiking and healthy living.