Slow properties can move quickly with a little push


OK. You've painted your teen-age son's purple bedroom a nice, neutral antique white. You've gotten rid of the clutter in the family room, moving your bowling trophies to your brother-in-law's for temporary storage. Most importantly, you've lowered the price of your property below the neighborhood competition.

And your house still won't sell.

Before you give up completely, realty specialists suggest you consider some small, yet relatively inexpensive steps that could make a big difference.

"You don't have to spend a fortune to make your house move," says Sandra Sadler, Pasadena sales manager for Prudential Preferred Properties. And anyway, spending a little to get a quick sale is better than letting your property languish unsold for months while you pay the carrying costs, she points out.

Many of the steps designed to spark a quick sale increase realty agents' incentives to see your home and want to sell it. Remember, professional realty people often have a big influence on which homes are seen and bought.

"When you're in a market with an enormous number of homes in inventory, the more your home is seen by agents in a favorable light, the more you increase your odds of selling the house," says Dorcas Helfant, president-elect of the National Association of Realtors, based in Washington.

Realty specialists offer these pointers for making a sluggish property move:

* Ask for a "brokers' open house."

Open houses for buyers, though commonplace, rarely sell property. They're more effective in helping a realty agent make contacts leading to future sales and listings. But a so-called "brokers' open" can be a powerful event in sparking a sale, realty specialists say.

What is a brokers' open? It's an open house solely for realty people working in the area surrounding a home.

Until an agent sees a home, it's a mere abstraction in his mind. Agents are often reluctant to take prospects to homes they haven't personally visited.

Because of that, homes that are previewed have the potential for preferential treatment -- especially if they're in good condition and show well.

"Nobody wants to take the chance of showing a client something that goes 'ruff-ruff,' " Ms. Helfant says.

The point of a brokers' open is to draw as many realty people as possible.

Weekday lunches or weekend patio parties are good lures. As an eager home seller, you may want to pitch in -- preparing food or arranging for entertainment. Everything from a tuba player to a palm reader has been tried.

Try a business card contest as a good gimmick for drawing a large crowd, Ms. Helfant suggests. Each agent that attends the brokers' open drops a business card in a fishbowl. At the end, the agent whose card is drawn gets $100.

* Offer a bonus to the agent who brings in the buyer for your home.

The idea is to motivate those selling real estate to push your home harder. The bonus could come in the form of a straight monetary reward -- anywhere from $250 to $10,000,depending lTC on your financial capacity and the value of your property. Or it could be a gift, such as a color TV or week's vacation at some sunny resort.

"This is a technique that's very effective, yet very few people use it," says Robert Irwin, author of the book "How to Sell Your House in a Down Market," published this year by Warner Books.

* Offer help toward a buyer's closing costs.

These days, many buyers are so short of cash that they may be strongly attracted to a property offering money toward their settlement costs.

"There are a lot of first-time buyers with little cash and younger families moving up with little equity. Then, too, remember that settlement costs are very high in Maryland," says Ms. Sadler of Prudential Preferred Properties.

* Step up advertising on your home by agreeing to help shoulder the cost.

"You want your advertising to be consistently active throughout the listing period," says Mr. Irwin, the author.

But, remember, your home is just one of many that your agent is advertising. And his ad budget is undoubtedly limited.

Tell your agent that if he doubles his current level of advertising, you'll cover the extra cost -- if no one buys the home within a specified period.

* Improve your home's aroma.

You live there, so it may not be apparent to you unless you ask the opinion of a neighbor or good friend.

But odors created by pets, humidity, cooking, or rotting produce in your refrigerator can be an enormous turnoff to a would-be buyer. It's important to identify any odors that plague your home and purge them before the next prospect comes through.

* Change the entrance way into your home.

You may have repainted your son's room the neutral shade recommended by your agent, decluttered the place and brought in new Persian carpets. But if your front door is unimpressive, you've lost the opportunity to leave an important first impression with the buyer.

"For $100 to $300, you can get a magnificent front door that changes the character of your house and makes it exceptional. A mahogany door, even a painted door, can give you the aura of a better house, while a scruffy door can make even a nice house look bad," Mr. Irwin says.

If you can't afford a new door, there are other, less expensive ways to make your entrance way look more impressive.

Mount a classy new light fixture next to the door or put up a polished brass door knocker. Another way to make your entrance look more impressive is to remove an outer screen door.

"Having a screen door makes the main door look imprisoned," Mr. Irwin contends. "You can stand a few flies when you're selling your house."

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