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7-step approach to selling your house -- Page 2

4. Set your price. Many sellers set a price based on the amount of money they need to get out of the deal. "That's the kiss of death," Davis says. "It will sit on the market and you become a target of low-ball buyers and scammers. Price it right to sell it fast."

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If you're using an agent, he will help you set your price. If you're selling on your own, you might hire an appraiser, who will pull recent sales, called "comps," to see what buyers have paid for houses like yours in the last 30 days.

"The more detailed research you can do, the better you can price the house and the more money you can get for it," says Stuart Rider, a Phoenix, Ariz., real estate developer and author of "Millionaire Homeowner: How to Turn Your Home Into a Money Machine." "Market research is where it starts."

If you price yourself within 2 percent of fair market value, you'll have pretty good traffic, says Jonathan Nicholas, regional director and executive vice president of Re/MAX of Indiana. You'll know there's a problem with the pricing if you show the house to seven people and no one makes an offer, he says.

4. De-clutter. This is the top recommendation of real estate agents for making your house shine to potential buyers as they walk through the front door. If need be, rent a storage unit and move out any furniture that isn't necessary, says Tom Kraeutler, nationally syndicated radio host of "The Money Pit" home improvement show.

"People are moving because they need more space; space is what you're selling. The more space you have, the more inviting your house will be."

While you're at it, have a garage sale. You'll not only get rid of that accumulated clutter and pocket some cash, you might also find a buyer for your house. Nicholas says it happens so often, Realtors use them to prospect for new customers.

5. Freshen up. With the clutter gone, you'll probably see how much the place could use a fresh coat of paint. Stick with light, neutral colors -- but not white -- that go with everything. "Some buyers just don't have a 'vision' and if they see a green wall, they only remember the green wall," says Elizabeth Marquart, a real estate agent with Sotheby's International Realty in Beverly Hills, Calif.

6. List and show the property. With everything spiffed up, it's time to take the plunge and tell the world about your house. Once the house is on the market, you need to be prepared to show it at any time, keeping it clean, uncluttered, and smelling fresh, Nicholas says. When you have a showing scheduled, turn on the lights and open the drapes. Put out some fresh-baked cookies -- and a sign-in sheet with a place to offer comments and feedback. Invite them to write their comments on curb appeal, the condition of the house and whether they think it's priced appropriately. And then leave. Buyers feel much more comfortable looking at a home when the seller isn't standing over their shoulder.

7. Consider the offers. A listing agent is required to present all offers to you from qualified buyers, so even if he thinks it's a bad deal, he has to show it to you. You'll have a short amount of time, often 24 hours, to respond to an offer. You can decide to accept the offer, reject it, or make a counter offer, Marquart says. A counter offer is when you make an offer of your own. Any offer is a starting point for discussion, and everything in it is negotiable.

Before you accept an offer -- and take your property off the market -- make sure the buyer has been pre-approved with a bank, and they have shown proof of down payment and the initial deposit.

Once both you and the buyer are happy with the terms, it's time to sign on the dotted line. Congratulations! You just sold your house!

-- Posted: May 16, 2005
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'05 Real Estate Guide
30 yr fixed mtg 3.94%
15 yr fixed mtg 3.02%
5/1 jumbo ARM 3.66%
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