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More Tales From the Trenches : Swift Sellers

September 12, 1993

Editor's Note: A few weeks ago, we asked readers who had sold their homes quickly in today's sluggish market to share their strategies. The tips from you swift sellers were terrific, just as they were earlier this year when we asked for your advice for first-time buyers. So again, with our thanks to all who wrote, here are tales from the home-selling trenches.

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From Laura and Ted Cohen, Los Angeles: We sold our home recently, after less than three weeks on the market. Here are the key reasons for the relative ease of our experience.

1--Experienced realtors familiar with the neighborhood. We had a team of two realtors (Judy and Oshrit), one of whom lives on the same street as the house we were selling in Cathay Circle/Mid-Wilshire. She is involved in the block association and is intimately familiar with the neighborhood and our home's comparable value. Interestingly, the realtor representing the house we bought also lives on the same street as the house she was selling and is an active member of our new block association. She gave us valuable information about our new neighborhood, which helped us realize that we had made the right choice.

2--Pricing. Our agents prepared a survey for us indicating the listing and selling prices of numerous homes in the vicinity. Based on current market conditions and recent nearby sales--as well as the long periods of time on the market of many homes--they recommended an aggressive price. This was difficult for us to accept, since we knew what our house's value had been a few short years ago. But they convinced us of the marketplace realities and we accepted their judgment.

3--Timing. We listed our house on Dec. 11, 1992, when I was more than six months pregnant. At the time, we figured it would sit for a good six months and sell after the baby was born, at which point we would really need extra space. But our agents asserted that, in fact, the holidays could be a very good time for a new listing. When we accepted an offer on Dec. 30, we were believers. By the way, the offer we accepted was 96% of our asking price.

Three days after accepting the offer on our house, we put an offer on the house we are in now. Our escrow ended up being exactly 60 days, which was possible largely because the house we bought was vacant. (We moved in just two weeks before the birth of our son March 9.)

4--House Condition. Two years before selling our house, we had completely renovated the kitchen, and put in a room that was warm, extremely functional and in keeping with the 1930 character of the house. In addition, we had custom paint jobs in the living and dining rooms. All fixtures, other than those in the kitchen, were original. Not only was the house well-kept outside, but it was comfortable and "homey" inside.

My recommendation to others trying to sell a house in this market would be to spend even a small amount of money to dress up the house and make it as appealing as possible. Maybe invest in some nice doorknobs and drawer pulls. Our buyers knew they were getting a lot of recently installed extras for free, including window treatments and French doors, which helped make them feel the house was a good value.

Once you feel the house is as marketable as it can be, interview local realtors and choose someone you feel comfortable with and who knows your neighborhood--if possible, even your street--intimately. Ask for references. Get a comparative survey and price aggressively. Listen carefully to any recommendations your realtor makes regarding timing: when to list, when to have open houses, etc.

And get out of the house when the prospects parade through; it's just too hard to take.

From Chris Calingaert, Culver City:

We listed our home in Gardena in early January of this year and accepted an offer by the end of February. Finding a buyer in six weeks was not the result of any secret tricks. It involved being thorough and doing everything possible to make the house easy to market.

There were many homes available in the same area and price range. To make sure that prospective buyers considered our house, we tried to maximize the curb appeal. We painted the exterior, planted flowers and kept the yard neatly trimmed and free of weeds.

The kitchen and bathrooms had recently been upgraded, so the interior was in top condition. For the house to show well we concentrated on some simple areas. We put extra furniture in storage so that the rooms looked larger. We reduced the amount of clutter in places such as the kitchen, coffee table, mantle, night stands and on top of dressers so the house looked clean.

Finally, we removed family photos and other personal items that could inadvertently attract attention away from the house.

In short, we followed the advice of your columnists and other real estate professionals. It gave us a great advantage over the majority of homes on the market that looked as though no effort had been made to prepare them for sale.

From Mike Wong, West Los Angeles:

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