While at times it seems most listings on the market right now are foreclosures, there are many sellers who need to and can sell their house in this market. I heard a statistic the other day, though I have not verified it, that one in every 38 listings in Prince William County in Northern Virginia are foreclosures. That, of course, depends on your specific area, too.
I personally sell mostly foreclosures, but I have a few listings that have a live human behind the door who simply needs to sell and move for one reason or another. I've found there are at least four features of a traditional sale like those that differentiate themselves from every foreclosure on the market.
1 - ATMOSPHERE: An occupied house presents a warmth in this market that seems to be appealing to buyers after they've gone through endless vacant, cold (in the winter or hot in the summer), and dark (many of them have no power on) foreclosures. Many of these are dirty and have been abused, too. So seller, leverage that warmth just as you would have in other markets. Lights on, temperature comfortable and refreshing, clean and relatively clutter-free.
2 - CONDITION: The banks are selling most of the Northern Virginia homes in "as-is" condition and have shown little interest in replacing carpet, painting, cleaning, repairs, and caring for the landscaping. Many of the buyers that aren't bottom-fishing are looking for move-in condition. A live seller can rise to that and really make the home sparkle. Invest in a carpet cleaning or replacement, if necessary. A few thousand now could save a lot of time on market and successive reductions. Clean up the paint, and make the landscaping attractive.
3 - PRICE: If you HAVE to sell in this market, you NEED to have some amount of equity to compete unless you have funds to bring to the table. So assuming you have the equity, please realize the equity you had a year or even six months ago was never in your bank account. You never had it, and if you need to sell right now, you never will have it from this house. Price your house aggressively. Here's what happens if you don't, taking a "let's try it at this higher price for a while" approach: you'll likely reduce to match falling prices, then reduce again and again, trailing the market as it declines (depending on your area). So what you need to do is price it at the first or second price reduction and get AHEAD of the market to sell now. I have seen many a seller wind up selling for less than they could have if they had priced aggressively to begin with. Resist the temptation to seek that special buyer that might be willing to pay the Zillow "move me now" price.
4 - MARKETING: For some reason, agents that generally place pictures online for traditional sellers put only the front picture of their foreclosure. I have had many sales of my foreclosures, I believe, because of the combination of price and buyers surfing online that have seen quality pictures with useful information. There's often just a greater ownership of the listing with a traditional seller. Now my recommendation would be to get a listing agent that takes as good of care of their foreclosures as they do their traditional listings, if the agent has foreclosures.
These, in my opinion, are a few of the more significant ways a traditional seller can beat the foreclosure market. Look for a future post, and I'll tell you the story of a successful seller that did just that!