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Selling a home long distance

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After you leave, "The communication is the main thing," Alexander says. "Because they're not here, clients want to be kept informed. They want to be in constant communication."

So, before you leave, establish how often you're going to contact the agent and what means of communication -- phone, e-mail, snail mail, fax, smoke signals, etc. -- is best for you and the agent.

A good agent may also advise you, if your circumstances are right, that it's better to rent than to sell at the moment.

"There have been several instances where I've told the seller, 'I think there's more money and appreciation in this house,'" says Ronald Phipps, owner of Phipps Realty & Relocation in Warwick, RI (no relation to Jennie Phipps).

In those cases, he has suggested that the departing owner rent out the property and then re-evaluate the market a year or two later.

"Old rules about what you can do when buying and selling have changed a lot," he adds. "(Mortgage) money is so inexpensive that you may be able to carry two properties at once ... That's one of the luxuries of low interest money."

However, Alexander warns, be very careful if you decide to take the rental route. A bad tenant can cause problems, so it's a good idea to have prospective renters thoroughly checked out.

"We need to make the house as open and available as we possibly can," she says. "When you get a renter, they could make it very hard to get into the house. They don't care. What do they have in it? They can also deter a sale by the condition (in which they keep the house)."

Once again, trust is the key word. You have to believe that the people representing your interests are in your corner in order to accept hard advice. For instance, after it's been on the market awhile, the agent may suggest lowering the asking price.

"It's tough to tell that to someone," Alexander says. "The best thing is being honest with them about pie-in-the-sky expectations."

She says agents have got to know their business. If you don't trust an agent, save yourself a world of hurt by finding one you do.'s corrections policy -- Posted: July 1, 2003
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