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Advice for jump-starting your home sale

Nobody wants to buy your house. It has been on the market for, oh, nine or 10 months or more now and you've had scarcely a nibble. This is getting old. What to do? Some real estate agents around Tampa Bay were asked how to jump-start your sale. Here's their advice.

Lower the price. This may not be what you want to hear, but "that's the No. 1 issue, provided you have overcome any other detriments," said Deborah Farmer of StarLight Realty in Tampa, president of the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors. A house that's been sitting on the market for a long time "has price issues."

"The houses that are selling are the houses that are priced properly," said Carolyn Kling of Tierra Verde Realty in Pinellas, past board chairwoman of the Pinellas Realtor Organization.

That means a house that is priced "back around the 2003-04 pricing," Kling said, not the loop-de-loop crazy pricing of 2005-06, before the bottom dropped out of everything. The median price of single-family homes listed on the Pinellas MLS this year has been in the range of $175,000 to $180,000, comparable to 2003. Condos are hovering around 2005 levels, from $152,000 to $176,000.

"It's a buyer's market," Farmer said. "It had been a seller's market for five years, but five years does not a tradition make. It was fun while it lasted."

Get your agent to run new comps — comparable sales — and pay attention. Pay for an independent appraisal and see what a third party thinks your house should sell for.

Be honest: Have you already taken your profits? Did you take out a home equity loan to remodel the kitchen or redo the master bath? Those were your profits. You need to adjust your expectations accordingly.

Look at the competition. Do you still have stars in your eyes about how wonderful your house is compared with others? Put in some shoe-leather time this weekend. Visit open houses in your neighborhood. See what's selling for what. "Get yourself some price reality therapy," says Alma James Alexander of Coldwell Banker Residential in Tampa.

Don't forget the basics. If your home has been on the market for a long time, it may be time to refresh and renew. What do those flowers out front look like after a long, steamy, wet summer? Have the weeds taken over? Are you sure the cat box doesn't smell? Maybe you do need to repair that rotted wood at the bottom of the garage door. Maybe you've put off painting the living room as long as you can. The home you want to move out of is somebody else's move-up, and it should look like a step up, an appealing improvement over where that potential buyer lives now.

Twelve percent of respondents to a Coldwell Banker survey said they knew the house they bought was "the one" even before they stepped inside. After visiting just once, that figure rose to 51 percent. Three out of four said the quality of a home was more important than the square footage.

Get your agent to post new pictures on the Multiple Listing Service and rewrite your home's description highlighting whatever you've done to change the home's appearance. "Hit the refresh button," Alma James Alexander recommended.

Take it off the market. Some buyers think if they pull their house off the market and relist it a few months later, they can fool agents or buyers into thinking it's a new listing, not one that has been gathering dust. Don't kid yourself. A good agent will look through the MLS archive and find that it's a relisting.

That said, if you don't absolutely need to sell, get out of the game. And if the house needs a new kitchen or new carpets, make those improvements and enjoy them for a few years, then sell. Why do all that work and make the house look fabulous so somebody else can enjoy it?

Or consider renting the house. It might help your cash flow and might convert to a sale.

Be realistic about how long it will take to sell. In July, of the 15,507 active listings of single-family homes and condos in the Hillsborough MLS, 12,723 had been on the market 270 days or longer. You have lots of company. Languishing on the market is the norm, not the exception. Average days on market in Hillsborough is 118, which may sound like a lot, but it's the lowest since 2007.

Consider all your alternatives. Some panicky sellers think a short sale is the only answer — selling the house for less than they owe on it. But lenders don't want all those homes. They may be willing to rewrite the loan, or tag on the interest at the end. Maybe a reverse mortgage is the right choice. Or maybe you need to bring some cash to the table, paying some of the closing costs or buying down the buyer's interest rate, to close a deal.

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Quick fixes

Ed Del Grande, "Ed the Plumber" from HGTVpro.com, offers these quick tips to get your home ready to sell.

• Install an "eco-performance" showerhead. These sleek-looking, high-quality, high-performance heads add an inviting look to your shower. The big surprise is that they use 30 percent less water than a standard showerhead, while delivering a strong spray. Seeing is believing, so turn it on.

• Add gutter extensions to your downspouts. They divert the water about 4 feet from your foundation, so most of the water runs off into the property grading instead of forming puddles around the foundation.

• Install insulating pipe sleeves. Presplit and preglued insulating pipe sleeves can be installed easily on just about any exposed hot- or cold-water line. They save energy on hot-water lines and cut down on pipe sweating for cold ones. A home without pipe insulation is like wearing shoes with

no socks.

• Install plastic wall anchors in exposed picture-frame holes. Many homeowners simply bang a nail or screw into standard drywall to hang a picture. In most cases, this will damage the drywall. Plastic-anchor kits allow you to insert the anchor into the drywall hole, giving it an instant finished look with more strength. When the photo or painting is removed and potential buyers see the professional finished look of the anchor kit, that will be the true work of art.

• Add a transition seat to your toilet. It accommodates adults and children in one sleek seat. It consists of three layers, the first being the lid. Picking up the lid reveals a child seat that every mother falls in love with. Picking up the child seat reveals the standard adult seat. The complete seat is raised when the adult seat is in the up position. This toilet seat truly does "double duty." You can find these starting around $40.

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Low, low prices gone for good

If you're a potential buyer sitting on the fence, waiting for the reappearance in the housing market of the 1,500-square-foot home priced at $95,000, get off the fence and forget it. We won't see those again in our lifetime.

That's the judgment of a roomful of homebuilders who gathered for a roundtable recently presented by the Builders Association of Greater Tampa.

Why not? Rising prices, the builders said. They've just been notified that the cost of a yard of concrete, now $90, will increase by $25. The prices of shingles and drywall are rising.

In January, new building codes will require that homes be 15 percent

more energy-efficient. That will require better windows and higher-rated air-conditioning systems, which are more expensive. Add in impact fees, which start around $10,000 per home, and you do the math.

"The cost of a home is not going to go down; it's going to go up," said David Pelletz, Tampa division president of Standard Pacific Homes. Land prices are about as low as they can go, he said, "but the bricks and sticks we put on those lots cost more."

"You're not going to see further price declines," Pelletz said. "Nobody's going to build a house they can't make money on."

Judy Stark

Advice for jump-starting your home sale 09/05/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 5, 2008 4:30am]

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