To entice buyers, remove clutter from your home

SMART MOVES

September 12, 1993|By ELLEN JAMES MARTIN

Are some houses in your neighborhood selling as fast as an Alaskan glacier moves? Well, your property need not be like them.

"Your house doesn't have to sit there for 180 days. With the right combination of price, agent, marketing and condition, it can sell much more quickly," says Lonnie Wiskman, an agent for Coldwell Banker Grempler Real Estate in the Towson area.

Here are a half-dozen pointers from realty experts on how to hasten the sale of your home:

* Sell your excess belongings before you market your home, not after.

"When you're selling a house, you want it to look as spacious as possible. It's tough to get the feeling of a room size if you have three sofas crowding the same room," Mr. Wiskman says.

A majority of homeowners wait until after they've sold a house to haul the extra sofas, books and potato mashers out on the curb for the inevitable "moving sale." Why not do your uncluttering before you market your home?

* Create a "financial fact sheet" to go with your home.

There's a reason why those who sell cars, boats, refrigerators or other big-ticket items advertise how much a consumer would have to pay monthly. That's because many Americans are more concerned about their monthly payout than the total price of a purchase.

By giving prospects a fact sheet telling how much it would cost them to buy your home at the current mortgage rates through several basic loan programs, you (or your agent) could make the purchase of your home seem more manageable, Mr. Wiskman says.

Granted, most homebuyers who are working with an agent have access to sound financing information when they're "prequalified" by the agent. Still, the desire for privacy about their financial affairs keeps some buyers from going through such money talks with the agent, according to Mr. Wiskman.

"They're reluctant to disclose their personal finances to someone they don't know well. They'd rather have a financial fact sheet they can take home and study," he says.

* Lower the cash barriers to the purchase of your property.

"Many people have the income to buy a property but can't assemble the cash," says Peter G. Miller, Silver Spring-based co-author of "Successful Real Estate Negotiation."

By making an upfront offer to help a buyer cover closing costs -- such as mortgage points or government property transfer costs -- you can enlarge the circle of buyers interested in your place.

But remember that many mortgage lenders limit the extent of seller help. You must keep your contributions within a lender's guidelines or your buyer won't get his mortgage, Mr. Miller cautions.

* Focus on the curb appeal of your home.

When you sell, real estate experts say, you should paint your front door, reseal your driveway with blacktop, and nail down loose shingles on your roof.

"First impressions are what's going to set the stage. If a buyer is turned off before he reaches the entrance, it's hard to get his enthusiasm back," Mr. Wiskman notes.

* Give your bushes a haircut.

Some owners become as enamored of their overgrown greenery as the unshorn locks on their toddler's head. But just as the toddler will eventually need a trip to the barber, so will your landscaping need an appointment with the pruning sheers.

In some minds, enlarged shrubs are not only a matter of aesthetics but also a security issue, says Carol Johnson, who sells homes through the Eldersburg office of RE/MAX Liberty Realty Inc.

"People don't want to buy a house with bushes that are overgrown around windows. People can hide in there," Ms. Johnson says.

* Offer the agent who sells your home a bonus.

"Commissions are totally negotiable," Mr. Wiskman notes, as a reminder to home sellers.

And if you offer to pay more than the going rate to the agent who ultimately sells your house, you can encourage more agents to show your property to the prospects with whom they are working. It's the agents, after all, who are influential in determining which properties their clients see.

Don't think only of giving a bonus to the listing agent when you think of creating an incentive. Be prepared, also, to reward the "co-op" agent who learns of your property through the Multiple Listing Service. And consider not only "over-commissions" but also such tangible incentives as a free car phone, fax machine or wide-screen TV.

"Anything you can do to attract interest in your particular home can certainly be beneficial in selling your home more quickly," Mr. Wiskman says.

@4 (Ellen James Martin is a columnist for The Sun.)

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