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SELLERS SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES // "What can go wrong, will'

Sally Kamrada can laugh now when she tells this story, but it wasn't funny at the time. She and her husband, Marty, had put their home on the market: a three-bedroom, three-bath house in the Bardmoor area in mid-Pinellas. Marty had already moved to Orlando to start his new job with Walt Disney World Resorts, and he returned home only every other weekend.

In his absence, Sally made sure the house was in apple-pie order every morning before she left for work as public affairs director at Patrick Media (now Eller Media) in case a real estate agent brought a potential buyer through.

One Saturday morning, Sally had to leave the house to attend a meeting while Marty and 7-year-old son Christopher were still asleep. While she was gone, they got up and made breakfast, then went out to a nearby park to throw a ball around. "They left the beds unmade, toys everywhere, dirty dishes everywhere," Sally recalled. And of course that was the morning a real estate agent brought someone to see the house. Sally found the agent's card on the table when she returned to her untidy home.

"From Sept. 10 to Nov. 4, two months, nobody looked at the house, and the one and only day the beds weren't made and the house wasn't straightened . . . It's comical now, but it proved to me it's Murphy's Law," Sally said: What can go wrong, will.

Kamrada is a believer in open houses as a way to attract real estate agents and potential buyers to view the home. Her eventual buyer was someone who lived in the neighborhood. "She kept walking her dog by and coming into the cul-de-sac. She saw the sign and she came to an open house," Sally said. "I don't know if she would have picked up the phone and called if we had not had the open house." The house was listed with Bob Hendry of ERA Hendry in St. Petersburg. It went on the market Aug. 12; a contract was signed Dec. 20.

"If I had it to do over again, timing is what hurt us," Sally said. "The house went on the market a week before school started." The thinking is that families with school-age children want to be settled in a new home before classes start. "If we had had it on the market just one month prior to school starting, I think we might have sold it quicker."