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Tips for Home Sellers

Before you think of putting your home on the market, call your realtor and ask them for a brutally honest discussion of issues that they think should be addressed in your home before listing. Here are a few tips to keep in mind that might help you on an ongoing basis so pre-listing preparation is kept to a minimum.

Price correctly from the get-go
Unless you’re living in a handful of relatively stable U.S. markets, don’t start out too high-priced just to “test the waters.” Your backup plan of adjusting on the fly may prove futile. Keep that window of opportunity open from the first time the “for sale” sign appears on your lawn. The first 30 days a home is on the market are when it gets the most attention from potential buyers and their agents.

Fix earlier pricing mistakesIf you’ve already made the above pricing mistake, consider taking the home off the market and repositioning it for later entry. If you simply persist with that original, now-discounted offering and keep dropping the price as the months go by, lowball buyers and their brokers will be waiting in the wings to see how low you’ll go next month. If you do take it off, make some relatively simple cosmetic improvements such as new paint and landscaping, then list it again, but at the right price this time.

Looks do matter
Don’t underestimate the importance of curb appeal. Not only is there an acute price war going on out there, there’s also a beauty contest being staged. You may be strategically located in a quiet cul-de-sac, near great schools, great health-care facilities and fabulous shopping, and you may have easy highway access for that morning commute, but unless your exterior is well coifed and in sparkling condition, other offerings will outshine it. If your home’s outside doesn’t pass the drive-by test, the interior won’t, because it will not be viewed by serious buyers, who are already off to view the next home on their list.

Don’t overdo it
By contrast, if you go too far in improving your place, you likely will not be able to recoup your remodeling investment. Don’t over-invest to the point where your home greatly exceeds competing properties in your price range and neighborhood. And keep colors schemes neutral for best sale potential.

Don’t be an ambiguous seller
Either you are going to sell or you aren’t. Why waste everyone’s time, including yours? If you manage to fetch a decent offer with a test listing in this market, commit to sell. You may be able to buy a better replacement house at a disproportionately lower price with so many steals still out there.

Be an energy miser
A low- or mid-grade energy retrofit will make your home greener and more marketable and it won’t bankrupt you. The selling point of “seeing thousands of dollars in energy savings down the road” is a timely one.

Know all of your options
If you are among the thousands of homeowners who have lost significant value in their homes, are upside down on your note and can’t refinance, know what your next step may be.

And, if you can’t get your mortgage agreement modified, negotiate an alternative payment arrangement or find a buyer to simply assume your payments, then you should be aware of the more drastic alternative open to you.

For more information, read Bankrate articles on short sales, intentional foreclosures, pre-foreclosure sales and deeds in lieu of foreclosure — all extreme options for getting rid of your home and large mortgage payment.

Become a landlord
This approach is best for people who aren’t too far behind on their payments. Yes, those newly reset adjustable-rate monthly payments are often higher than the rents you can fetch. But the rental market has made a comeback with so many foreclosure victims out on the streets.

Give first priority to possible lease-option or lease-purchase tenants. In a lease-option, a renter pays more that the established monthly rent for the right — but not the obligation — to buy the property later. A lease-purchase pact is similar, but it obligates the renter to buy.

Unless you are able to carefully screen renters and doggedly look after your property in any of these scenarios, don’t become a landlord.

Hold fast
Don’t “panic sell.” Unless you owe more than what your home is worth or face a job change, relocation or a divorce, health crisis or other major negative life event, then wait until next year or the year after even, if at all possible. Current conditions are not permanent.

Read more: 9 tips for homebuyers and sellers in 2009

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