TALK ABOUT THE POWER of perception. Neighboring Monroe homes with the exact same floor plan sold within weeks of each other last spring, one for $488,000 and the other for $498,000. But the one that went for more actually started with a lower asking price: The former was listed at $688,000, the latter at $589,000. What gives? The lower initial price was closer to fair market value to begin with and, with less room to fall, it spent less time on the market and appeared more desirable to prospective buyers.

“Sellers need to know that correct pricing is and always has been the key to a successful marketing process,” says agent Chelsey Samonte, who brokered the better deal for her clients. “That is, pricing that is in line or even slightly below what the comparables indicate a home’s price should be.”

While it’s rare you’ll find duplicate properties, real estate veterans like Samonte say it’s still crucial to scope out the surrounding market. A little research assessing a home’s value—like looking at the dollar-per-square-foot value of neighboring properties that have sold and checking out active competing properties in person—can cut time on the market and curb financial losses.

In King County, a house sits on the market for an average of over 70 days. To avoid sitting even longer, sellers must promptly adjust asking prices; the longer a property idles, the more reason a buyer has to make a lower offer. If there’s no interest within three weeks, bring the cost to a level that buyers wouldn’t have already offered. Fail to do so, and you might find yourself in a sinking situation, much like the Monroe property owner who lost nearly 15 percent of his intended sale.

“When the market started slowing down last summer [the seller] did not adjust quickly 
enough, and it ended up hurting him in the end,” says Samonte. “There are buyers out there, but 
there is also a lot of inventory, so the buyers can be picky. If they do not see value in your house, they will move on.”