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Extra Effort Can Speed Home Sale

SELLING IN A SLOW MARKET: First of a two-part series. Next: Creative marketing strategies.

August 08, 1993|From Consumer Reports Books; Copyright 1993 by Amy S. Bly and Robert W. Bly. From the book "How to Sell Your House, Condo, Co-Op" by Amy Sprecher Bly and Robert W. Bly and the editors of Consumer Reports Books. Reprinted with permission from Consumer Reports Books, Yonkers, N.Y

In a buyer's market--or anytime you're having trouble selling your home--you need to do extra work to attract a buyer. Some steps involve spending money or making price concessions; still others mean adopting creative marketing techniques. Ideally, you take these actions before you list your home to achieve a quick sale. But you can also implement them later, if your home fails to sell.

When you are not getting buyer traffic or offers, ask your agent why, or--if you're selling on your own--make follow-up phone calls to prospects to find out their reactions. Certain situations may be hindering a successful sale, including problems with the property, drawbacks with the neighborhood, overpricing or an ineffective selling broker or agent.

Problems With the Property

Perhaps a lack of curb appeal, interior defects, poor condition or property flaws are limiting interest. Maybe there's a dilapidated fence that needs repairing, too many trees or noise from the road that could be deadened with a fence or landscaping.

Do an informal survey among neighbors and friends, asking them to give you an honest assessment of your home and property. They can be more objective than you can, and most will have some thoughts about what needs to be changed. Give priority to any problem or improvement that is mentioned more than once.

Unusual colors, for example, create a negative first impression that is hard to overcome. Houses painted or sided in unusual or outdated colors do not sell easily. Some colors, such as dark purple or lime green are almost always unattractive. Others, such as pink or lavender, look fine in parts of the West and Florida, but are out of place on a Colonial or split-level. Repaint or, if necessary, re-side your home. If your home has other unusual or unattractive features, consider whether they can be eliminated, de-emphasized or changed.

Don't overlook the yard and landscaping. A paved-over back yard can be dug up and planted with seed or sod fairly inexpensively; a broken or gravel front walkway can be repaired or replaced with flagstones, bricks or tinted and patterned concrete.

Except for repainting or re-siding, don't spend more than a couple of thousand dollars on cosmetics; adding imported granite countertops or tiled back-splashes featuring custom artwork is a waste of money. Stick to the basics, since buyers may not like your taste or may not appreciate expensive materials. The main tips to remember are to paint inside and out, make all needed repairs, freshen up landscaping and clean thoroughly.

Drawbacks With Neighborhood

Are there potholes in your street, or are you near an overgrown vacant lot?

If something about your neighborhood is bothering buyers, you may be able to correct the problem or at least improve the situation. Of course, a nearby industrial plant or a foul-smelling landfill or river can't be changed. But eyesores such as an empty lot, a neglected traffic island, a pothole-riddled street or a rundown playground can be improved, with the cooperation of your neighbors. Point out to them how fixing the problem--either by soliciting your town to appropriate funds, collecting donations from residents or volunteering labor--will benefit everyone by making the street a more attractive place to live and thereby increasing everyone's property values.

Overpricing

If buyers' and agents' reactions to your home are favorable, but you are not receiving offers or are getting only low bids, your price may be too high. If you are serious about selling, you will have to reduce your expectations. Price reductions do work; people like to feel they are getting a bargain, and the new selling price will bring in new buyers and agents. It may also stimulate previous lookers to make an offer. If it's any comfort, you will save some money on commission costs as well.

How much you choose to lower the price, and how long you should wait before doing so, depends on your home's general price range, how quickly you want to sell, the state of the market and how realistic the price was originally.

If you set a price that was 15% or 20% higher than your home's market value, you must drop your price more than if you priced it only 5% higher. This is especially true if the market has deteriorated or if your need to move has become more pressing. Some sellers choose to cut the price in small increments several times over a period of months. Unless your home is priced below $100,000, this strategy can be harmful, chiefly because a home sitting on the market for a long time becomes "stale." It's better to make fewer and larger price cuts that attract attention, show you're serious about selling and make an immediate difference in the ability of buyers to afford your home.

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