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Creative Ideas and Tactics Can Speed Home Sale

SELLING IN A SLOW MARKET. Second of a two-part series.

August 15, 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. and

When the market is slow or you're in a hurry to sell, look for agents with creative ideas and aggressive sales tactics that go beyond the standard practices. An enterprising agent can contact neighbors within a certain radius to let them know your home is available, for example, to suggest that their friends or relatives may be interested in the area. Your agent can make personal visits to these prospects, or distribute or mail a letter and information sheet, rather than just sending a card.

The agent can also take advantage of other brokers' and agents' open houses by "piggybacking"--that is, holding an open house for your property on the same day and at the same time, and making an agreement with the other agents to direct visitors to one another's open houses.

If the brokerage firm you are using is a large one, it may be able to offer more expensive marketing tools, such as listing your home in a directory arranged by town and price range, videotaping it for special buyer videos, or listing it in home guides published in different languages.

In some area, there may be opportunities to show it on cable television programs too. Or perhaps the brokerage can furnish you with special "For Sale" signs that invite drivers to tune in to a specified channel for radio-broadcast information about your home.

These marketing resources make it easier for prospects to hear about your home and can help capture impulsive buyers. Although it's important to choose a broker based on his or her knowledge, experience and track record, in a down market it's best to give more weight to those who offer extra services and use aggressive selling techniques.

Before deciding on these services, however, ask the brokers whether a particular marketing tactic really sells homes. Don't settle for a quick yes; ask for proof.

Other potentially successful techniques that you can employ yourself are warranties, selling to a broker or developer and offering various incentives for agents, brokers and buyers.

Home Warranties

Offering a home warranty to a buyer can help close a sale. Warranties appeal especially to first-time buyers who are financially strapped and nervous about future maintenance bills.

During the first year of ownership, a home warranty policy guarantees to pay for repairs and heating systems, after a deductible fee is paid. Warranties also help protect the seller and broker against lawsuits by the buyer if appliances or systems break down after the closing.

A home warranty is a particularly good selling tool for an older home with more worn appliances and systems or for any home that needs work or is poorly maintained. Sellers of older homes with known problems may have to pay a higher premium or have certain systems excluded from the warranty.

A number of real estate firms, lenders, home inspectors and other companies (but not insurance companies) offer home warranties, which usually cover a period of one year from the date of closing, but some also cover the home during the listing period. Companies generally sell warranties through real estate agents, not directly to sellers. People selling on their own, however may be able to obtain a warranty. A few brokers even pay for them themselves because they believe warranties are an important selling incentive.

As the seller, you do not pay for the warranty until your home is sold. The typical cost of a one-year home warranty ranges in price from $325 to $400, and the average deductible is $100.

There are other kinds of home protection incentives for buyers, including your paying warranty costs on the appliances in the home or paying the buyer's first year of homeowner's insurance. A home inspector may also offer a warranty based on an inspection report.

An inspection report and warranty coverage are two strong marketing tools that may convince buyers that your home is a prudent investment, if only because it is unlikely they will have to meet unexpected repair expenses in the future.

Selling to a Broker or Developer

If you can't sell on your own or with an agent, you may be able to find a local broker to buy your home, often at below-market value. For example, the national realty company ERA offers the seller the option, at the time of listing, to enter into an agreement that calls for the house to be sold to ERA at an established price if the house does not sell on the open market after a 210-day period. However, you must close on the purchase of a new home through an ERA-designated broker by that time.

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