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Sellers need to avoid giving off negative 'house karma'

Smart Moves

Smart Moves

January 03, 2009|By ELLEN JAMES MARTIN

Despite the bleak economic news, real estate specialists say there's a solid reason for optimism among homeowners who've recently put their properties on the market or who plan to do so in early 2009. That's because mortgage rates are now remarkably low, bringing more properties within reach of the people who hanker to own them.

Nash isn't predicting a dramatic reversal that will convert the currently strong buyers' market into a sellers' market in 2009. But he's convinced that market conditions for sellers will gradually improve as the year progresses. And he says the sellers who will succeed are those who price realistically and also manage their stress effectively.

But with housing markets in turmoil, it isn't always easy for homeowners to manage what real estate agents call "house karma," the anxiety that seems to pervade a property when its owners are worried about its sale. You may need some guidance. Here are a few pointers for sellers:

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o Locate a listing agent who has ridden out a past recession or two.

It's not only homeowners who are troubled by stress due to the current turmoil in the home-selling market. Many real estate agents, whose livelihoods depend on commissions from sales that go through, are also prone to worry, says Blaine Rickford, the president of an independent mortgage firm.

Because stress is contagious, you'll want to avoid choosing a listing agent who handles anxiety poorly. Picking a composed, unflappable agent can greatly enhance your chances of a smooth housing transition, he says.

o Disappear when your property is shown to prospects.

Homeowners who are nervous about selling their property often presume their presence at showings could prove helpful. But it's likely to cause your visitors to feel crowded - making it hard for them to imagine making the place their own. Also - and this is particularly likely in a strong buyers' market - they're prone to making critical comments about your place. These remarks are especially hurtful to sellers who overhear them.

When a showing is scheduled, Rickford recommends you go to a place you enjoy, which will help reduce your stress level. You might catch a movie, for example, or visit friends in the neighborhood.

o Consider exercise as one key way to manage your stress.

Nash urges those trying to combat the stress of home selling to consider an exercise regimen as one important way to contain their anxiety - and one he uses himself.

"The endorphins released during exercise have a hugely beneficial effect. They're extremely calming," Nash says.

o Don't transmit your stress to your kids.

During his 12 years in real estate, Nash has often noticed how a lot of the stress that the adults in the household feel gets inadvertently transmitted to their children. Parents are particularly likely to unload on their children when the kids create a mess around the home, perhaps by leaving their toys or story books out.

He recommends that homeowners strive for "a sense of normalcy," allowing their children to have ample play time - so long as they understand that all their belongings must be put back before visitors come over.

o Get out of town to distract yourself.

Nowadays those who need to sell a home can easily become obsessed with meeting the challenge. Yet, as Nash notes, allowing this to happen is neither good for your stress level nor for your handling of any offers that come your way.

One antidote for this problem is to take a temporary break by getting out of town for at least one day or longer. This won't require you to take your property off the market, assuming you have a very capable listing agent who stays in close communication with you.

You don't have to fly to a remote Hawaiian island to find relief. Just going to the next town for an overnight visit to a budget hotel should give you a welcome break from the tension.

Those attempting to sell their property often wrongly assume a deal couldn't be consummated while they're away. But that's hardly the case, as Nash says.

"In an era when most people carry cell phones and have ready e-mail access, there's no reason your listing agent can't reach you promptly to handle an offer, should one arrive while you're away," he says.

Copyright 2008 Ellen James Martin

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