real estate

Top 5 incentives for home sellers

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Here are some tips and additional incentives for sellers who foresee selling in the next year or so and have the luxury of more time to adjust to the changing markets:

Offer a more inviting home atmosphere: Stage it left and right (see above). A well-staged home -- perhaps with feng shui treatment -- becomes a psychological incentive for the buyer, giving the home a more positive energy, Schwarz says. "Once somebody stages and gets top dollar for their home, they will do it for the rest of their lives."

Selectively refurbish: Present all remodeling and other home-improvement receipts to potential buyers to help illustrate recent improvements. According to Remodeling Magazine's 2007 Cost vs. Value Report, a minor kitchen remodel recoups 83 percent of its cost in a home sale, as does a siding replacement (85 percent of cost is recouped). Even if improvements don't fully pay for themselves, they will help sell a house, Realtors say. Homeowners are showing less willingness to use their home equity to remodel in the current housing slump, according to recent research by Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. That means good rehabbers are more readily available for work and a little more amenable to negotiation.

"Incentivize" the right agent: There's a natural tendency for sellers to negotiate lower commissions in a flat market. However, some of the more serious sellers have added 1 percent to the customary 3 percent their listing agent would get in a traditional 6 percent split with the buyer's agent -- even tossing in a cash bonus for an executed sale. In this market, hire and motivate the best if you want the best results.

Lead the market: Incentivize yourself, says "Bubble" blogger Jones. "Don't chase the market down," he says. "It's a natural tendency, but if a seller will recognize how these cycles work, getting out ahead of the competition is the only way to get the place sold."

Become a market researcher: Get on the Internet, read Bankrate.com and business-journal stories, real estate blogs and newspapers. Chat up several Realtors. Learn where the biggest home-inventory backlogs are and where there have been an abundance of foreclosures and new construction. "A lot of areas that haven't been hit as hard are areas that have not seen new construction," Brown says.

Forget the incentives and just sit a spell: "If you're not happy with the current pricing, it's probably not the right time to sell for you if you don't have to sell," Brown says. "Don't come out expecting 125 percent of market because your home will be ignored."

Andrea Geller, a Realtor with Sudler Sotheby's International Realty, summarizes: "The numbers are what the numbers are. The big challenge is getting the buyer and seller engaged in negotiations. There was a period when the buyer was not engaging in the market. That is changing this spring. We are finding that there really is a real estate (buying) market out there."

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