Homes: buying, selling & credits
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Selling your home in a crowded market

McGuire adds that home staging is essential because even in this tough market, buyers tend to choose a home based on emotion rather than price.

"Consumers are price savvy, and they'll make sure they're getting a good buy, but it is the emotional appeal of a nice-looking home that seals the deal," she says.

For sellers who want extra decorating help, Dana recommends hiring a professional home stager.

"One advantage that we have is we can give tips to a homeowner that the real estate agent might be reluctant to share," she says.

For example, if a house smells bad, the home stager can break the news to its owner and offer constructive suggestions for eliminating the odor.

"I've often had to be the bad guy in many situations," Dana says.

In most cases, the owner is grateful for the feedback, Dana says.

Fees for home stagers vary according to the level of service needed, Dana says. An initial consultation with recommendations usually costs from $100 to $400.

Danielle Babb, a real estate analyst in New York, suggests sellers who plan to stage their homes complete major cosmetic improvement projects, such as replacing worn carpet.

Buyers are more reluctant to take on even minor "fixer uppers" in this economy, Babb says.

"People have tighter budgets, and lenders have even tighter loan restrictions, so buyers don't necessarily have the extra $2,000 out of pocket to put into a new home," she says. "The places that look like they're in move-in condition will be more appealing."

5. Price your house right

Since home values are falling in many markets, it can be hard to know what your asking price should be. A good way to determine the best dollar figure is to study recent sales prices of comparable homes in your neighborhood.

Real estate agents can look up these "comps" for you, and they can suggest a fair value. Web sites like Zillow.com and Trulia.com also provide data on recent sales.

Resist the urge to ask for more than your home is worth, Nourmand says.

"If your asking price is higher than it should be, you'll just help everybody else in your neighborhood sell their homes first," she says.

However, if you're convinced that you're asking for a fair amount, don't get into a price war with your neighbor, says Duffy. Instead, simply let the buyer know why your home is worth more than another one that's selling for less.

"Justify the value of your home," Duffy says. "If you've made upgrades, highlight them. Most buyers won't know that your granite countertops were a $6,000 improvement you made in your kitchen unless you tell them."

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She says the same principle applies if there are foreclosures in your neighborhood. Let buyers know that your higher priced home may be the better deal.

"A foreclosure usually has a different feel from a move-in ready home, so it will probably be priced a little lower," Duffy says. "But it may require much more expensive work after it's purchased."

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