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Selling Homes In A Buyer's Market

July 29, 2007 - by Carolyn Bigda, Hartford Courant

Need to sell your home in a hurry? Unfortunately, for most homeowners today it's no longer as simple as putting a "for sale" sign in the yard. Existing-home sales have fallen, and home prices have declined, too, as the number of houses up for sale has reached new highs. In other words, it's not an easy time to be a seller. There is too much supply for the demand.

Steep home prices, paired with super-size mortgages, can make it hard to keep making the monthly payment if you have to move - or to sell the property at a loss.

Here are some strategies to help get you on your way:

Price it right. Despite what your house was worth one year ago, real estate agents stress that you must price your home for its value in today's market. That means researching the prices of comparable homes sold in the past 30 days instead of, say, the previous six months. And when studying the competition, zero in on price, condition and location.

"The next house to sell today is not the cheapest house, but the best value," said Paul Wells, a ReMax broker in Barrington, Ill. "You don't want to be the cheapest, but the best buy overall."

Buyers are particularly sensitive to price because they know there are a lot of homes to examine. Also, interest rates are higher: On a 30-year fixed mortgage, the average rate recently hit 6.77 percent, up one percentage point from the same period in 2005, according to HSH Associates, which tracks loan data.

If you overshoot the asking price, it could take longer to sell your home, and you may have to concede significant price reductions later.

"The buyer thinks the longer a home is on the market, the less he should pay for it," said Andrea Geller, a member of the board of directors for the Chicago Association of Realtors.

Show it right. Once your house is priced appropriately, the best way to keep buyers' interest is to make your house look irresistible.

You can hire professionals to de-clutter, repaint and otherwise beautify your home without going so far as a major renovation. But Barb Schwarz, the CEO of StagedHomes.com, offers her "Top Three Cs," which anyone can do on their own.

One: Clean. "And I mean Q-Tip clean," Schwarz said. Wipe down the windows, rake the yard and dust the tops of light fixtures. You may no longer notice the grime, but discriminating buyers will.

Two: Make it clutter-free.. Pack up and put away family photos and trinkets. If the room feels crowded, put some furniture in storage. Remember, no home catalogs ever show a room with piles of mail and newspapers lying about.

Three: Use light colors. Dark paint brings walls in; light paint helps make a room seem bigger.

E-mail Carolyn Bigda at yourmoney@tribune.com. Copyright © 2007, The Hartford Courant