Every seller hopes to get the asking price.
Last year at this time that was easy. Some housing markets were so hot that sellers got even more than they had hoped for.
The second half of the year was another story. Abruptly, the market turned cold, and many sellers not only weren't getting their asking prices, they weren't getting any offers at all.
The market's warmer now, but far from sizzling. There are nearly three times as many homes on the market as there were last year.
If sellers hope to get close to their asking prices these days, agents advise, they need to get and keep their homes in "showroom" condition. Some homes, of course, require more than just cleaning and polishing.
Actually, there are hundreds of things sellers can do to make their homes more salable, according to San Francisco authors Dan Lieberman and Paul Hoffman.
Their book, "Getting the Most for Your Home in a Down Market," (BobAdams Inc., $14.95) lists nearly 400 such ideas. Some are classic cliches of the selling trade -- like filling your home with the aroma of fresh-baking bread.
But for often-harried sellers, such reminders as concealing personal objects in bathrooms might serve as a welcome checklist. The ideas are grouped under such topics as renovating, advertising, pricing, selling and financing a home.
When renovating, for example, the authors suggest using moldings, trim and woodwork to enhance the quality of the home.
"People want to feel that the home they live in is well-built," they write.
The authors also recommended adding a window or a skylight to brighten dark rooms. For those who don't want to cut new holes in their houses, the same goal can be achieved by adding new fixtures.
First impressions, of course, count most. So Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Hoffman remind sellers to make sure the front door is clean and looks new.
Some of their other tips include:
*Showing one of your bedrooms as a home office. "Home offices are hot these days, with over 50 million expected to work out of their homes by the year 2,000," the authors say.
*Using closet organizers. "They can give you up to twice as much usable space as you had before."
*Installing fresh landscaping usually adds more value than it costs. Plants also can be used "to screen out eyesores or unsightly views."
*Removing excess furniture to make a room feel more spacious. "Too often," the authors observe, "our rooms look as if pack rats lived in them."