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Selling Your House In A Buyer’s Market
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 • Posted September 16, 2008 10:00 PM

Buying a house in today’s market is a lot like being a kid in a candy store: there’s so much to choose from that it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s great — and a bit overwhelming — if you’re the buyer, but what if you’re the seller? The fact is, potential homebuyers have everything to gain — and sellers have everything to lose, including their hard-earned equity if they happened to buy at the top of the market when the market was hot. So what’s the best plan of action?

One of the first things real estate brokers and agents will encourage you to do if you’re selling in a challenging market is to price your house appropriately. Many Realtors say that it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a great house in a prime location with top-notch schools and a view; if a house isn’t priced appropriately, it isn’t going anywhere. Ask around, ask your Realtor — just make sure the price is right.

Perks and incentives

Say your house is priced right, but it’s been almost 60 days and it just isn’t garnering as much interest as you’d like. Now what? For sellers, that means it’s time to do the extra things that will give your house more "curb appeal" than the one next door. There have been instances in the high-end home market ($500,000 and up, where sales have been the slowest these days) where the sellers will throw in a Porsche, membership to an exclusive country club or other perks — just to sweeten the pot. Now, that’s a lot of sugar, but you don’t have to throw in a Carrera just to get noticed.

If your carpet is old or outdated, offer a carpet allowance up front. If a potential buyer knows this before they walk in the door, they might be able to overlook the carpet with pet and baby food stains — or the occasional feline thrashing it’s been given.

Or, you could offer to include your appliances with the home. One couple got a great refrigerator and washer/dryer set when they bought their first house and, while it wasn’t the dealmaker, it certainly made their decision easier. And, if you’re moving into a new home, appliances may already be included, or you may be ready to upgrade. This type of offer will be especially enticing to first-time buyers who are putting most — if not all — of their available cash into their down payment and closing costs.

Homebuyers fees

You could also offer to pay the non-recurring closing costs — the loan appraisal, loan points, credit report, title insurance and property inspection. This can be a major motivation to cash-strapped buyers because these items usually amount to about 3 percent to 5 percent of the cost of the house. Offering to pay part or all of the costs may just help you sell your house.

Pay for a professional home inspection before you put your house on the market. You certainly don’t want the buyer’s inspector to find a major problem during the inspection. Even if you reach agreement with the buyer on who will pay how much of the repair work — or if you agree to pay all — the fact that the buyers have to wait for the repairs could put a damper on their plans, and even trigger them to break the deal, especially if there are plenty of other comparable houses on the market.

Be flexible. When you get an offer and the buyer wants to move in sooner than you’re ready, make plans to stay in an apartment or with relatives until your new place is ready. A month or two of inconvenience will surely be worth it down the road, especially in a slow market where a nibble on your house is golden.

Make cosmetic improvements

Looks are everything — when it comes to house shopping, anyway. And your shopper’s first impression is everything. Make sure that instant judgment is positive. Rake leaves, prune the bushes that haven’t been touched in six months, plant pretty flowers and store the toys in the garage. You want them to imagine it as their house — not yours.

Start with a clean slate. Dirty walls are an automatic turnoff to potential buyers. Think about touching up the paint on your walls before you put your home on the market, keeping the colors neutral and light. If your office is baby blue or if you had a pro paint the nursery, offer a paint allowance as one of your perks.

Does your home show well — or is it an organizer’s dream? Rid yourself of all the clutter, and keep the house clean and simple. That means no kitschy knickknacks (no matter how much you love your thimble collection, get rid of it), no pet or smoke odors and minimal family photos. Again, you want them to imagine their family photos — not yours. Finally, open blinds and curtains so plenty of light illuminates the home’s interior.

Patience is surely a virtue when it comes to selling your home in a slow or buyer’s market. Don’t automatically reduce your asking price after the first week. But be ready when the time comes. Have a heart-to-heart with your Realtor about how long you can expect your home to be on the market in your neighborhood.

For services contact REMAX Genesis at 830-833-2000 or lightfoot.com.

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