2. Hire house sittersStaging is becoming more common, but some absent owners are taking it to the next level by hiring house sitters. Buyers also get the chance to buy the home fully furnished.
Getting a house sitter is something to consider in areas where there have been many vacancies and where you want buyers to have a sense of the neighborhood and someone occupying the home for security, Helfant-Browning says."People want to live in neighborhoods because there are people there," she says. "Not only does it help the property that's being sold, it really is a benefit to the neighborhood."
Professional stager Barb Schwarz, chairwoman of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals and CEO of StagedHomes.com, says having someone live in the home adds another challenge to the staging process. She says another gimmick she heard being used in Florida involved hiring actors to "live" in a community during open houses.
"When the buyer comes in, you want the buyer doing one thing: to mentally move into a space. That's what staging does," says Schwarz, author of "Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money." "What we don't want are people in the way. It's about setting the scene and doing it in a way that features the space."
On second thought: Choose the house sitter wisely. You want someone who lives neatly and who will allow buyers into the home whenever they want to visit.
3. Offer incentives, incentives and more incentivesBuilders continue to chip away at prices with special deals, some of which have taken $100,000 or more off the price of a home. But individual sellers also should consider price and other incentives that could entice a buyer to take a look.
"You have to attract their attention somehow," Travis says. "You want to create the buzz."
Travis' sellers have offered gas cards when prices skyrocketed or offered to pay for a year's worth of propane for an old house. He's sold condos in which the seller has paid for a years' worth of expensive homeowners fees.
Travis' most unusual sale happened when he advertised a free lakefront house with the purchase of a $405,000 pontoon boat that he says was "beat to hell." Travis says he was having a hard time selling the home, even though it was lakefront on a 300-acre New Hampshire lake, because it was on a cove lot without any beachfront.
When he advertised the house as free with the purchase of the boat, potential buyers came out just to see what was going on. The house eventually was sold, but the boat was turned down.
These and other incentives -- some sellers have offered free vacations and spa trips and boat and car leases for a year -- can get traffic through your door, Travis says.
Sometimes people see the concessions and realize the sellers are willing to work with them. "They realize they have a little more negotiating room," he says.