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SMART MOVES

How to Flaunt It if Your Home's Got It

March 09, 1997|ELLEN JAMES MARTIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

An eye-filling view. A lawn large enough for croquet. A family room with 14-foot ceilings. A gourmet kitchen. A floor plan with four spacious bedrooms and three full baths. Walk-in closets in several rooms. Or a trophy address.

Any one of these features could be "hot buttons" that draw potential buyers to the home you have for sale. But to pull prospects to the property, it's essential that you flaunt your strong points, real estate experts say.

How do you know what elements to promote?

"Your agent is your best guide," said Jay Colman, a broker-associate for the Re/Max Realty chain.

Good marketing is a combination of identifying the right prospects, knowing what they want and then addressing them through ads and other methods, said Nancy Ann Keeler, a broker-associate from Prudential Realty.

"You have to find your target market," she said.

Who is likely to buy in your community? You can get a clue by thinking of those who have moved into the area in recent years, she suggested. Have most of the homes been purchased by young families? Then quality schools could be a point to stress.

On the other hand, if you live in a grove of recent retirees, you might want to promote your proximity to a golf course or the fact that you're positioned inside a gated community, where crime is less worrisome.

No matter the price range, customers vary in their preferences, said Carol C. Hickman, a broker-associate for Sotheby's International Realty, a seller of high-end homes.

Whereas a garage with ample room to house a small yacht could be important to one set of buyers, it could be inconsequential to another. By the same token, someone interested in fine design could be drawn to a home done by a well-known architect.

Still, there are certain features valued by a widening swath of the U.S. population, Hickman said. These include open kitchens that flow into oversized family rooms (also known as "great rooms"), spacious closets and ceilings nine feet or higher.

Large kitchens and bathrooms are usually popular features, as are large yards--particularly in areas where there are plenty of reasonably priced yard maintenance companies competing for business, said Colman.

And nearly new houses--built in the last five years--are also preferred by a growing segment of the population, Colman said.

Are you intent on accentuating the positives? Then these tips could help:

No. 1: Focus your marketing appeal on lifestyle.

"People want to buy life enhancement," said Joan McLellan Tayler, an author of real estate books.

Print advertising can offer tantalizing hints about the lifestyle that's possible for the purchaser of your property, said Tayler, author of "From Ads to Riches: How to Write Dynamite Real Estate Classifieds and Harvest the Results" (Mansion Press, 1995).

Suppose, for instance, that the target buyers for your property are families with young children. Then why not describe your backyard in a way that appeals to such buyers?

For instance, as Tayler suggests, say your yard is "big enough for Little League practice" or that it has "enough room for a swing set and a sandbox, plus Mom's garden."

You can also suggest lifestyle opportunities by carefully "staging" your home for showings, the way model home decorators do with brand-new properties, said Colman.

For instance, if your home features a Roman bath large enough for a couple, you might want to drape "his" and "her" towels on the edge of the tub, or place a bottle of wine and some glasses near it, Colman said.

No. 2: Focus on features that are currently popular.

Not every "hot button" appeals to every buyer. But an increasing number are looking for wide driveways suitable for at least four to six cars, said Colman, who notes that "baby boomers have more cars."

Some households now own "weekend cars," such as sports cars, along with vehicles used for commuting, Colman said. Then, too, they want plenty of parking space for guests, especially if on-street parking is restricted in the area.

Proximity to a golf course is another increasingly popular lifestyle amenity for many buyers, said Keeler, who added that a third of her home-buying clients are golf enthusiasts.

Prestige of location also continues to grow in importance among buyers. Indeed, in some communities, a particular street may carry such cachet as to be worthy of mention in the headline of an ad, said Hickman.

No. 3: Flaunt great public schools, but do so carefully.

Agents know there are severe legal limits on their ability to characterize schools--without seeming to discriminate. But they're generally safe if they stick to the facts.

Suppose, for instance, that your home is served by what is widely considered to be a public high school well-known for superb teaching. Then chances are good you'll be able to mention the name of that school in your advertising. You can also circulate test scores.

As our economy becomes more competitive, schools become a more critical factor in housing choice, in Colman's opinion. "Education is the key to excelling," he said.

No. 4: Select an agent who will be wholehearted about selling your home.

You may have great pride of ownership in your home. But when it's shown, you'd better disappear and let an able agent do the talking on its strong points.

"The seller should take a walk, take a drive, go shopping--do anything but be there when the buyer comes by. A buyer can't talk honestly about a house when he's afraid of offending the owner's feelings," Colman said.

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Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate.

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