Spring real estate II: Sellers LOOKS ARE EVERYTHING House must have appeal inside and out to get buyers

April 19, 1992|By Adriane Miller | Adriane Miller,Contributing Writer

Each spring, "For Sale" signs pop up alongside the daffodils and tulips. This year, the spring selling season is even more important, because the industry has been in a long slump. This story offers tips on selling your home. Next Sunday, we'll look at ++ people who are buying homes.

Thinking about selling your home? Now is the time to do it, real estate specialists say.

Flower-studded landscaping looks its best. Buyers who have hibernated during the recession are coming out for a spring stretch. And everyone feels a little more positive and a little more like buying.

Don't let the hint of spring and an enthusiastic agent mislead you, though -- it's still tough to sell a home. Sellers outnumber buyers, and buyers can afford to be picky.

But it can be done. Lisa and Craig Lee of Bel Air sold their three-bedroom colonial home in nine days. Although some real estate agents say most homes are on the market 90 days, "Sold" was bolted to the Lees' "For Sale" sign almost as soon as it was planted in their front yard.

The Lees' secret? They priced their home within range of others that had recently sold in their area. They made their home as appealing as possible, inside and out. And they worked with a real estate agent who advertised aggressively.

Realistic pricing -- the home listed for $157,900 -- was a big reason the Lees' home sold so quickly, says Debbie Taylor, who represented the couple in the sale.

Nancy Hubble, a Realtor with W.H.C. Wilson in Baltimore, says the weak economy has forced sellers to bring down inflated asking prices.

"We went through a whole year up until December 1991 where the market was really hurting. Sellers were adjusting their prices a lot then," Ms. Hubble said.

But price isn't everything.

"Curb appeal is very important," Ms. Taylor said. "Sometimes people drive by to decide if they even want to enter the house. That's where they form their first judgment. Sometimes the inside is absolutely lovely, but if the outside isn't appealing, they just drive on."

Ms. Taylor encourages attractive landscaping and a manicured lawn. "Sometimes you have to spend a few hundred to make a few thousand," she said.

Once priced right and shined up, the house was hyped. Ms. Taylor advertised the home in magazines and in newspapers every other week.

She made sure it was featured on an O'Conor, Piper & Flynn television show, "Sunday Homes on Parade," which runs every other week. She also printed brochures with color pictures of the home for prospects.

"Brochures with a photo are very important," Ms. Taylor said. "When people go through seven or eight houses they all start to blend together. People can't remember. 'Is this the house that had the blue carpet? Is this the house that had the porch?'

"I don't want them to forget my listing. If they have that brochure, they remember."

Open houses are another important marketing technique.

Some open houses are targeted at prospective buyers. An alternative is the "broker's open." That's designed exclusively for real estate agents, who are very influential in determining which homes a prospective buyer will see.

Sellers often are expected to help cover closing costs. Some sellers pay points or pick up transfer taxes for the buyer. "We have one seller who has offered to pay $3,000 toward the buyer's closing costs," Ms. Hubble said.

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