Real Estate Sales Tips for Winter 2008:

by : Jeff Hammerberg

Although winter is notoriously sluggish in terms of real estate shopping, the downtime provides a golden opportunity for homeowners to enhance their property's marketability. Here are five simple ways to pump-up your listing, even during the winter lull:

Ã?â‚??Calculate your estimated heating costs going forward for the rest of the winter.

Heat rises, and so does the cost to keep a house warm while energy prices escalate. So you may want to offer a discount to your potential buyers in exchange for a prompt sale. For example, one owner of a large antique house faced combined utility bills of $900 a month for the upcoming four months, for a total of $3,600. He advertised that he would contribute $2,000 in closing costs to a buyer, and one jumped at the chance. He closed within 30 days, saving himself more than $2,500.

Ã?â‚??Provide a Home Warranty

Especially if you are selling an older home, consider buying home warranty insurance and giving it to your buyer. A home warranty policy offers coverage for repair or replacement of items such as appliances, heating and air conditioning units, electrical systems, and clogged plumbing.

The cost of the policies varies, but most average between $250-$500. But the reassurance they provide to a homebuyer usually far outweighs the expense of paying for the policy, so a home warranty can sometimes give you a competitive edge as a seller.

Ã?â‚??Host a Broker's Open House

While public open houses are common - and we see lots of balloons tied to listing signs during spring and summer months - the broker's open house is a more specific marketing tool. And Realtors generally agree that a broker's open house is much more effective in terms of generating a sale.

Rather than invite buyers, you invite only Realtors, so for every person who attends you generate many potential contacts with qualified buyers who are looking for a home. Realtors visit your home, tour it, pick up information sheets on the property, and keep it in mind for possible showings to their own clients.

To host a broker's open house, contact local real estate brokers and invite them to attend. Schedule the event for a weekday, because weekends are busy for Realtors and they will have more time to attend during normal working hours. A good idea for a broker's open house is to host it on a Monday or Tuesday from 12 to 2 p.m., and offer a simple lunch of deli sandwiches, coffee, and soda. Because winter months are slower for Realtors - and because the entire event is hosted indoors - winter is a great time for a broker's open house.

Ã?â‚??Enlist the Expertise of a Reputable Mortgage Lender

One of the biggest obstacles to a successful sale is financing, and this has never been truer than it is now, during the subprime mortgage mess. To help potential buyers who visit your home come up with a mortgage, enlist the help of a local lender. Many mortgage loan officers will appreciate the opportunity to work with your potential buyers, because it gives them a chance to generate fresh leads for possible loans.

Visit your lenders, talk to them about ways they might be able to provide mortgage information to your buyers, and then provide their contact info to buyers. If you hold an open house event, have the mortgage professional set up a table in your living room and advise visitors regarding various types of mortgages and current interest rates.

Ã?â‚??Clean out the Clutter and Make Minor Repairs

Concentrate on clearing out closets, the garage, and the attic. Remove any unnecessary personal belonging and furniture. Emptying closets and rooms makes them look bigger, and buyers will feel like they are getting more space for their money.

There is no need to go into debt over minor repairs, but a strategic approach to fixing up your house can pay for itself in a faster sale at a better price. For example, if your doorbell does not work and there are cracks in your windowpanes or rips in your screens, buyers will notice and deduct points. Maybe the bathroom needs a coat of cosmetic paint, the kitchen faucet leaks, or the gutters need to be cleaned. You may be accustomed to these minor inconveniences, because as we live in a home we adapt to its quirks. But to a skeptical buyer they stand out as evidence that the rest of the property is not well maintained and may have major hidden problems.

Use the winter months to spruce-up your home and enjoy the pride of having a home that shows well and looks its best. Buyers and Realtors will notice and appreciate the effort, and attention to small details is often the difference between a languishing listing and a closed transaction.

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