A four-bedroom home in an established neighborhood came on the market on a Thursday and was in contract five days later at $15,000 over the asking price, having received three offers.

A nearby property, of similar size and vintage, was on the Multiple Listing Service a little over three weeks before the sellers accepted an offer $25,000 under asking.

What makes some homes “hot properties” while others languish, even in a stable market such as this one?

Four things: condition of the property, marketing, price, and “The Market” itself.

1. Condition of the Property

The first home was a traditional rancher, built in the ‘60s but beautifully remodeled, on a quiet street with well-maintained lawns front and back.

The second home was on a busier street and had an unusual floorplan. Previous owners had added on in a way that worked for their lifestyle, but would not suit most people. Plus, in adding on, they encroached on most of the lot, so there was little backyard.

If you want to sell your home quickly and at top dollar, make all necessary repairs. Replace worn or outdated floor coverings. Paint. Get the yard work done. Declutter. Clean everything.

The first home was nicely staged; the second was vacant.

Staging a home can make it more attractive to buyers, but staging can be expensive. If your agent does not provide staging as part of his/her service, consider engaging a professional yourself for an in-home consultation. A top-notch stager can even offer suggestions for improving the “flow” of a home with an unusual floor plan.

Of course, there are some things you can’t do much about. If the home is on a busy street or close to the railroad tracks or next door to a poorly maintained house, you’ll have to compensate for that by getting yours in the best condition possible and then setting the price to reflect location.

2. Marketing

A listing agent who puts up a sign, makes flashy color brochures, promotes your home on Craig’s list and holds it open every Saturday and Sunday is likely working really hard to sell your property.

But an agent who promotes your property at office meetings, multi-brokerage marketing meetings, brokers’ tours, through inter-brokerage email campaigns, and by putting it on the Multiple Listing Service with a lockbox so that other agents can show it ensures that thousands of agents are working to sell your property.

You want a listing agent who does both. Only an estimated 10% of homes are sold to buyers who are also represented by the listing agent, so expanding opportunities for other Realtors to show your property increases your chances of receiving offers.

And you can help.

Make the home available for showing as much as possible.

Ensure that it is always “show ready” by keeping things clean and tidy. When you know someone is coming to look at the home, open the blinds or drapes, move your vehicles away from the front of the property, and turn on every light in the house.

First impressions matter.

3. Price

You have staged it flawlessly. Your agent has done everything possible to market your property for maximum views.

But if it’s not priced right, it won’t sell.

Your Realtor likely prepared a Comparative Market Analysis for you before discussing price with you.

This may have been a simple one-sheet printout of homes in your neighborhood of similar size to yours that have been on the market in the last few months, or an elaborate multi-page color spread with detailed analysis about each competing property.

What is important is that you looked at what has sold, what is currently in contract, what is on the market now, and what has expired or been withdrawn from the market recently.

Then you and your agent strategized about how to price your property.

Common wisdom used to hold that properties should be priced a little above market, so that buyers and sellers have room to negotiate.

That strategy is less popular these days. Yes, you can always reduce the price if it doesn’t sell. But homes that stay on the market too long become tainted with suspicion. Buyers wonder what is wrong with it.

Most agents will try to provide a figure they believe the home will actually sell for.

And some agents recommend setting the list price slightly below what you think you will get to encourage buyers to bid higher. In any case, it’s neither the agent nor the seller who dictate what a house will sell for – it’s the market.

If your property has been sitting for a few weeks with no offers, it may be time to consider adjusting the asking price.

4. The Market

Real estate, like so many things, has seasons and cycles.

Most folks know that spring is when most buyers are out looking. But your perfect buyer could show up in the summer, fall or even over the holidays.

Just be aware that timing is important. Your agent can help you figure out the best time for you to place your property on the market so you can sell in a timely fashion.

Real estate markets fluctuate. Just last year the Bay Area was in the fourth consecutive year of a very hot sellers’ market. Activity has stabilized since then.

Prices are still rising in some price ranges and in certain areas, but not as dramatically as before.

Instead of selling in a week, the average Tri-Valley home is taking 23 days to find a buyer. Upper end homes are taking a little longer than that.

It’s still a great market. If you are thinking about selling a property, contact your local Realtor today for the best advice on how to ensure your home sells quickly and at a great price.

Cher Wollard is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties in Livermore.