Tips for home sellers in a bind: know market price, appearance key to success

With the real estate market still a bit sluggish at best, homeowners eager to sell their homes and move up or out of the area are looking to local real estate agents for the best in marketing tips. While fancy gimmicks may entice a few gawkers, the tried-and-true method is what really works: The house that is priced right and is in pristine condition is the house that sells.

Pricing a house properly requires knowledge of the market and of resales in a particular subdivision, information that any real estate agent can easily supply.

Eighty percent of the work involved in selling a house is pricing it right. If you price your house slightly above the market, you are going to eliminate a lot of buyers. If you price it slightly below the market, you are going to create a lot of excitement among Realtors, who will bring more potential buyers to your home. Keeping your price low is the most important element to selling.

While sellers may find it frustrating to realize they could have sold their property at a higher price a few years ago, they need to understand that prices change rapidly.

You have to look at pricing within a 60- to 90-day range, and it doesn’t matter what houses sold for two or three years ago. The summer months could be different from spring or fall, and 2012 could be completely different from 2011. And buyers will be even more aware of current prices than sellers are.

While pricing your home at the right level should appeal to buyers and their real estate agents, another method of generating interest is to offer an above-market commission to the selling agent.

Increasing the commission gives Realtors more of an incentive to bring buyers to your house, since they will earn more money for selling your house than someone else’s. The more traffic you have, the greater chance that you will sell your house.

Another option for sellers is to offer some financing assistance to purchasers.

Sometimes sellers are aware that buyers need a little help getting into a property. Helping a bit with down payment or closing costs can be good incentive for a buyer. Purchasers need to feel they are getting a decent deal, so sellers really need to start out with a reasonable offer and not overinflate their asking price.

Step 2 of the selling equation, after proper pricing, means getting your house into marketable condition.

Finding out the current value of your house means you need to compare it with other houses in your neighborhood in terms of both price and condition. Some homeowners have deferred maintenance on their home and should expect to replace items or accept a lower price than other homes in the area.

But getting a home into good condition does not always require purchasing all new appliances or replacing the roof. It can mean as little as washing the windows and the carpet, doing a few minor repairs and clearing the clutter out of the basement.

You have to qualify the requirement of getting your house in good condition, since a seller will not necessarily get back dollar for dollar what they have spent.

The point is that if your carpet is 20 years old and used up, you need to replace it in order to enhance your house and make it more salable . Homeowners naturally are trying to hold onto every cent they have and spend as little as possible, but if you have lots of equity, it just makes sense to enhance your house to get a better price.

Homeowners are often unaware of the condition of their home and have become so accustomed to its flaws that they don’t notice them. Having a third party, such as a real estate agent, look at your house helps a seller see his property through unbiased eyes.

Sellers need to see their house the way a prospective purchaser would see their house. Many times sellers have only one chance for the buyer to see that house, so they need to make all the necessary repairs and clean the house (or have it professionally cleaned) before it is put on the market.

Real estate agents agree that selling a home requires a lot of work in addition to the basic cleaning.

Buyers are very aware of the approach to a house, and first impressions are very important. So front doors should be cleaned or painted, and shabby storm doors should be replaced. The grass should be cut, windows washed and carpet cleaned. Sellers should have a yard sale or call the Salvation Army and clear out all the clutter before showing the property. They should also turn on all the lights to make the house look brighter.

A home warranty guarantees that appliances and heating systems will be repaired for one year, and they only run $200 to $400. This offers great peace of mind to buyers.

As if cleaning a property and pricing it right weren’t enough, there are a few more things sellers should (and shouldn’t) do to help market their homes.

Whenever a property is listed, sellers should make it available whenever a Realtor wants to show it. Realtors and buyers are often on tight schedules, especially when the buyers are from out of town, and you can’t always bring people back at another time.

When the house is being shown, sellers should restrain themselves from following the orange beach real estate agent and prospective buyers through the house, since buyers are more willing to ask questions and perhaps be more critical when the homeowner is not present.

Children, pets and guests should be kept out of the way as much as possible when potential buyers are in the house.

It’s important that sellers stay out of the way as much as possible, since it is the house that is selling, not the people. It matters much more that buyers like your home than whether they like you.