Tips for reviving buyer interest in shopworn house

SMART MOVES

April 12, 1992|By ELLEN JAMES MARTIN

Is your for-sale home suffering the shopworn syndrome?

Has the demand for showings dropped off drastically? Are telephone inquiries few? Has your agent stopped calling you back? Shopworn syndrome typically sets in two to six months after a property is put on the market and is a serious malady if allowed to go untreated, warns Carolyn Janik, author of several books on real estate.

"If your house has been hanging around the market for several months, you've got to find a way to renew interest or it may take longer and longer to sell and you'll get less and less money in the end," Ms. Janik says.

To be sure, price is the strongest determinant of the speed at which a home sells. Remarkably, a house that's fairly priced from the outset will often yield more for its seller than one set higher in the beginning but later subject to drastic discounting, realty specialists emphasize.

Still, as Ms. Janik points out, there are several explanations for the shopworn syndrome besides an overly high price. For example, the property may be suffering from too little advertising, the agent may not be promoting it effectively or the home may lack curb appeal.

To revive interest in a for-sale property suffering from shopworn syndrome, realty specialists offer these pointers:

* Make your house look better from the street.

At least a third of all prospective buyers make it a practice to drive by a home before they commit the time and energy to setting up a visit to see the interior, estimates Ms. Janik, author of "How to Sell Your Home in the '90s," a Penguin paperback.

If your bushes and trees are overgrown, if the paint is peeling on your front door, or if there are toys in your driveway, you risk losing the buyer's interest based on a superficial first impression alone. Regrettably, many people grow so used to the clutter they keep around their homes -- the rake propped against the front wall or the overflowing trash bin, for instance -- that they don't see it anymore. To get an objective look at the exterior of your for-sale home, take photos, study them closely and make changes. You can't afford to lose drive-by buyers.

* Have your agent get a color brochure made for your property.

Mailing a color brochure to agents in your area can re-ignite interest in a property that's been languishing on the market for months, Ms. Janik says. The idea is to reproduce color photos and prose in a format that increases interest in the property among agents who will, hopefully, transmit their enthusiasm to those involved in a house hunt.

* Increase the commission you're willing to pay the selling agent by 1 percent.

One tenet of selling a home is to realize that agents decide which properties get shown. That means that any encouragement you can provide agents to show prospective buyers your property could be well worth the added cost.

"By increasing the commission you're saying to the salespeople, 'there's a little cash bonus in there for you," an incentive to encourage more potential buyers to look at the property, Ms. Janik says.

Don't fall victim to the assumption that there are either floors or ceilings on the commissions realty agents can be paid. Indeed, there can be legal penalties imposed on agents who attempt to fix commissions.

* Sponsor a brokers' open house or brokers' caravan to make your property better known within the professional real estate community.

Public open houses, intended for homebuyers, typically attract more window shoppers than serious prospects, Ms. Janik contends. They're a better means for the agent conducting the open house to make contacts than they usually are for selling a home.

Organized efforts to bring many agents in can help you build momentum for your home sale in a serious way, says Edward Heron, a vice president with the Prudential realty chain.

A brokers' open house is akin to a party sponsored at your property to which realty agents from throughout the community are invited.

A like event is a caravan, which usually involves a large number of Realtors traveling to several for-sale properties in succession. Often, refreshments are served to create a festive atmosphere.

Regardless of the name or format, use of a caravan or brokers' open house means many more sales agent eyes focused on your property. And if the place shows well, that should translate into a lot more showings for your home for actual buyers.

Most realty experts agree that it's worth asking your listing agent to set up such an event for you.

"Sellers are often resistant to the idea of a caravan or brokers' open when their agents propose them. But they shouldn't be," Mr. Heron says. "Good agents are constantly marketing their properties to other agents because it works to do so."

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