Smart, Cost-Effective Tips for Selling a House

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If you’re having trouble selling a house, you’re not alone. The housing market is weak, and many sellers are struggling to attract buyers even after drastic price reductions. One notable example: This past spring, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner couldn’t sell his home for less than what he paid for it in 2004, and so he gave up. He’s renting the place now instead.

Everyone says this is a bad time to try to sell a house. So if you don’t have to sell, don’t. Sit on the place and wait until there’s more action in the market. But if you do have to sell, you’re probably wondering what’s the smartest, most cost-effective approach. A competitive asking price is key. Whether or not you should make some improvements to spruce your home up is a more complicated question.

Ken Shuman, a spokesman for real estate search engine Trulia.com, gives some tips for selling a home quickly, at a price you can live with—including ways to improve the house’s appeal without spending a lot of money, and advice on pricey projects you shouldn’t bother undertaking. A couple of quickie tips: Forget about putting money into fixing the roof or your gutters. Plant some flowers to pretty the place up instead. And if you’re hosting an open house this Sunday, get busy.

Cheapskate: How difficult is it to sell a house nowadays?

Ken Shuman: Selling a house is difficult these days but simple things can help. Here are some simple steps to help move your property quickly:

1. Make sure your agent has your home listed on as many online sites as possible including Trulia.com, Craigslist, and on the broker/agent websites. The more places your property can be found the better.

2. Take good pictures and consider adding in a virtual tour. This will add to the web appeal.

3. Publicize your open house times as many places as possible.

4. Sellers are now getting social with their property and are twittering about their home and using their Facebook status updates to help sell their home.

CS: What are some common mistakes when trying to sell a house?

KS: 1. Know the competition. Visit their homes and look around at what the other perspective buyers are looking at.

2. Pricing your home too high is a common mistake. According to Trulia’s June price reduction report, nearly 1 in 4 homes for sale today have had at least on price reduction. Be sure to understand what is happening on your street, in your neighborhood and in your city and that will help you price your home right.

3. Relying only on local newspapers and a sign on your front lawn is not going to move your home: 87 percent of home buyers start their search on the Internet.

CS: What are the 3-5 most cost-effective things a seller can do when trying to sell a house? From a cost-effective point of view, are there certain projects or improvements that you should definitely NOT take on before trying to sell a house?

KS: Cost Effective Tips:
1. Add a fresh coat of paint. Paint is cheap but makes a room look clean and vibrant.

2. If you have carpets, rent a steam cleaner and get the carpets looking as good as possible.

3. Plant flowers out front of your home. It is cheap investment and adds to the curb appeal.

Do NOT:
1. Do not remodel your kitchen or bathroom because in today’s market you will not see 100 percent return on your investment

2. Do not fix your roof or add gutters. If it pops up on the inspection, you can negotiate with the perspective buyer and lower the price of the home to cover the cost of repairs.

CS: Give us some tips on staging a house well and showing it in the best light, but without spending a lot of money.

KS: 1. Remove all the clutter. Start with the kitchen counter tops and then look at your shelves in the living areas and your bedroom. If you have kids, package up most of the toys so they are not spread across the house.

2. Remove unnecessary furniture. This will make your rooms look bigger and more open and buyers like open spaces!

3. If you have pets, remove any sign of them because perspective owners are afraid of a lingering smell in the house.

4. Open the shades and let in as much natural light as possible. Natural light is BIG selling point and it costs you nothing.

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