Time to sell? Multiple offers possible in tight housing market, experts say

Bidding wars are back as the housing market continues its recovery.

After years of lackluster sales and sagging prices, demand is growing while the number of homes for sale shrinks.

Those market conditions drive multiple offers in many areas, but real estate agents and other housing followers say sellers still can take practical steps to boost the level of interest among buyers.

Price it as low as possible.

Many sellers and their agents obviously underprice homes to attract bidding wars. Douglas Rill, a broker at Century 21 America's Choice in West Palm Beach, Fla., refers to the tactic as "drama pricing."

Rill said he was instructed by the lender to list a West Palm Beach home with a leaky roof and other problems for $37,600, even though comparable sales supported a listing close to $50,000.

"Do you know what that does to my cell phone?" Rill said. "It blows it up."

The bank's strategy worked. More than 70 potential buyers toured the home, which eventually sold for $51,000.

At the very least, sellers should list their homes at the low end of market value, which will draw in buyers who sense they're getting good value, agents say.

Pay for inspection, lien search

Buyers typically cover those, but motivated sellers can go on the offensive to prove the home is in good condition and free of title problems that would delay closing.

"You may be able to attract multiple offers just because the buyers will know what they're getting," said Marta DuPree, a broker for Keyes Co. in Broward County, Fla.

Offer owner-financing

This only works for sellers who own the property outright. But it's an option to consider, especially for condominiums in which government financing is limited, DuPree said.

De-clutter

Getting rid of all those books, magazines and board games you haven't touched in years will help make the home seem bigger and more appealing.

"Buyers are visual," said Judy Trudel, an agent for Balistreri Realty in Lighthouse Point, Fla. "Clean and crisp sells."

Sandra Holmes, a professional home stager in Weston, Fla., said properties should be "Q-tip clean" and free of smoking or pet odors. "If you can smell it, you can't sell it," she said.

A paint job freshens up a room, and it doesn't cost a lot. Even replacing a light bulb to improve a room's brightness can make a difference to a skeptical buyer, agents say.

"When a buyer goes in and flips on the light switch and it doesn't work, they think there's an electrical problem," Rill said.

Spruce up the landscaping

Planting fresh flowers, laying mulch and keeping the hedges trimmed will make a solid first impression on a buyer.

"When buyers walk up to a house that's (in poor shape) - even if it's just the landscaping - there's going to be a sense that the seller doesn't care about it," said Ron Rosen, an agent in Broward. "And the buyers will think that they can really lower their offer or they just won't be interested at all."

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