Help! Home for Sale

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NEW YORK -- Travel agent Terry Likens and his partner, contractor Duane Przybilla, own a three-bedroom, four-bath townhouse in Eden Prairie, Minn. They would rather have a single-family house with more space and a backyard.
So they want to sell -- but these days, that's a problem.
When they bought their home for $294,000 in June of 2004, real estate inventory was flying off the shelves, even in the relatively calm


NEW YORK -- Travel agent Terry Likens and his partner, contractor Duane Przybilla, own a three-bedroom, four-bath townhouse in Eden Prairie, Minn. They would rather have a single-family house with more space and a backyard.

So they want to sell -- but these days, that's a problem.

When they bought their home for $294,000 in June of 2004, real estate inventory was flying off the shelves, even in the relatively calm markets of the Upper Midwest.

Homeowners in the Minneapolis metro region had enjoyed steady house price increases for years -- an average of 9 percent a year for the 4 years through June 2005, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO).

In the year since, prices grew just 4.7 percent.

For Likens and Przybilla, the problem is not that their townhouse has been on the market so long -- it's been only four weeks -- it's that it has attracted almost zero interest.

"The hardest part is not being able to pursue new properties," says Likens. "We already lost the house we really wanted."

Prime condition

The failure to attract any buyers is not the house's fault -- it shows well. The pair bought it new and opted for several upgrades, including cherry wood cabinets, ceramic floors, Cambria countertops and a custom built bar. There are crown moldings, stainless steel appliances and about 1,900 square feet of space.

Everything's in mint condition and Eden Prairie is less than 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis.

Despite all that, only two showings of the house have taken place since it was put on the market. Likens doesn't think the price, $327,900, is the problem. It was arrived at with lots of input from Mary Condon, their Coldwell Banker Burnet agent, and other area brokers. They even held an open house just for agents so they could get feedback on how much they should ask.

Of the two buyers who have looked at the home, "One older couple didn't like that it has three levels," says Likens. "They didn't want to climb stairs."

According to Condon, Minneapolis market conditions are still decent, but the Likens/Przybilla property is in a challenging price category.

"There are currently 140 similar priced homes (between $250,000-$350,000) in Eden Prairie, and there's a 7.9 month supply of homes in this price range," says Condon. "It's important to point out that Terry's home has been on the market only for 30 days, and the average time on market for all properties in the Twin Cities is 70 days."

Condon says all it will take is a little more patience and they will succeed in selling the house.

Not selling has hurt, though. Losing the house they wanted hurt even more.

"We made an offer that was quickly accepted and was contingent on our house selling," says Likens. "The sellers were willing to push the closing date back to Nov. 30."

Likens and Przybilla lowered their asking price from $334,900 on the townhouse and sat back waiting for the bids to come rolling in. Nothing happened. Then, they heard that a family from California had made an offer on the house they wanted.

"We basically had 48 hours to sell our place," says Likens, "which didn't happen."

The alternative would have been holding two mortgages at once -- an option that would have made them even more anxious to sell and could induce them to accept a really low bid.

Already they don't expect to make any money on the sale. "By the time we pay the selling expenses we're not going to turn a profit," says Likens.

Meanwhile, the partners are halfheartedly looking at other listings, but, so far, only online.

"Do we want to put our emotions into finding the right property, getting a proposal together and putting up earnest money without knowing if we can sell the townhouse?" says Likens. "It's very frustrating."

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