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Addressing buyer's concerns can lead to a sale

December 06, 2008

Are you a wannabe home seller whose property has been on the market for far longer than you expected - despite your rock-bottom price? Have prospective buyers visited the place repeatedly, yet failed to step forward with a single offer?

If so, you're hardly alone among sellers. Financial concerns are now so prevalent that even the most motivated prospects often fear making a bid, says Mark Nash, a real estate broker and author of "1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home."

Yet despite rising unemployment and the current economic turmoil, Nash is optimistic that the U.S. real estate market is gradually heading toward recovery - at least in numerous desirable neighborhoods.

"With the presidential election behind us, we've eliminated one piece of uncertainty in the country. Slowly but surely, more people are becoming bolder in their resolve to buy a home. And savvy sellers can sometimes help them reach closure on a purchase," he says.

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Particularly promising prospects, Nash says, are professional couples in their 30s and 40s who have young children and have outgrown their condo-apartments or small houses.

"These families are bursting at the seams of their current housing units. They've been frustrated with the economy for many months, but they don't want their lives to be on hold any longer," he says.

Here are several pointers for home sellers trying to secure a serious bid:

· Discover and address your would-be buyers' concerns.

Nash calls home shoppers who are fearful of commitment "circlers" - people who often let small worries about a property keep them from making a bid. For instance, would-be purchasers may worry that utility costs for a large house could be too high or that property tax bills might break their budget. Or they wonder if nearby neighbors are friendly or a problem.

As home sellers, one way you could help nudge non-committal buyers into making an offer is to identify and address their concerns about your property.

Nash recommends that your listing agent call the agent representing would-be buyers of your place to tactfully inquire if your prospects have any unanswered questions. If so, gather the information they're seeking. Then respond promptly. For example, if their concerns focus on utility costs, you'll want to provide them copies of your gas, electric and water bills for the past 12 months.

Remember, however, that no amount of information will cause some reticent prospects to commit. That's because, in a buyers' market, these holdouts cling to unrealistically high standards.

· Underscore your pricing with an appraisal.

"Fear of overpaying is the obvious bottom line factor that keeps people from going forward now," says Leo Berard, a real estate broker and charter president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (www.naeba.org).

If you and your listing agent are convinced your home is priced at or below its true market value, you may not need to drop your price further to garner a serious bid. Perhaps you need only document the price you're now asking.

Berard suggests you hire an independent appraiser to provide an opinion of value on your home that is based on comparable properties in the same neighborhood that have sold during the last six months. Then make a copy of this appraisal available to anyone who expresses interest in buying your house.

· Create "buzz" with a charity event at your home.

If your home has been on the market for several weeks or months, you might be tempted to ask your agent to stage a series of open houses to revive interest.

But Nash says you might be able to generate even more buzz about your home by picking a cause worthy of support, inviting friends, neighbors and work associates over and having a charity party.

Not only could your charity party generate a new prospect or two, but it could also rekindle interest among those who've been contemplating its purchase for a while.

Nash suggests you pick a charity meaningful to your family - such as a local animal rescue shelter. Or you might ask guests to bring donations of children's books to augment the holdings of your neighborhood elementary school's library.

· Use fresh paint and carpet to rev up interest.

Perhaps you've done everything on your agent's "To Do" list to prepare for showings: You've pruned hedges, repaired shaky stair railings and hauled away boxes of clutter. Maybe you've even hired a "stager" who arranged furnishings to make your place show well. Still, your home continues to languish unsold.

Even though you've taken all these fundamental steps, Nash says you still may want to put in carpeting and paint in high-visibility areas of your interior, which can convey a sense of "newness" to buyers.

It doesn't take long for contractors to install new carpet or paint in a few areas of a home, so he recommends that you keep your property on the market while the upgrades are under way. Once the improvements are made, be sure your listing agent makes note of them in all your marketing materials.

"The very smell of fresh paint and the feel of plush carpet can help reignite interest in a house and make a possible sale happen," Nash says.

To contact Ellen James Martin, e-mail her at ellenjamesmartin@gmail.com.

Copyright 2008 Ellen James Martin

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