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My Two Cents

Home-Sale Secrets

Insider advice on selling your home in a down market

En español | Dear Liz: We've been trying to sell our home for months, without success. How can we find a buyer and get the best price in a slow market?

Liz Pulliam Weston

Liz Weston is author of Your Credit Score: Your Money and What's at Stake. — Art Streiber

First, set a realistic price — probably lower than you'd like, given that home sales in July had their sharpest drop in 40 years — and then create a clever marketing plan. For both tasks, hire an aggressive, experienced agent who can push your property online. Interview local agents who've sold the most homes over the past six months, and offer some incentive to the buyer's agent: say, a bonus of 1 percent of the purchase price to the one who nails a sale.

Set your price by using comparable sales from the past 90 days, including foreclosures and short sales from owners trying to avoid foreclosure. "Homes priced too high are taking seven months or longer to sell," says Ilyce Glink, author of Buy, Close, Move In!

Think of your house as a brand: Ask your agent to set up a website with your home's address as the URL, such as 201MainStreet.com. Post a virtual tour with 360-degree views. Also, promote the house at sites frequented by prospective buyers, such as zillow.com and craigslist.org. Finally, market your house on Facebook and Twitter — and ask your friends to spread the word.

Fix-ups That Make it Sell
Sprucing up your house can help it sell, but don't go overboard. Most major home improvements — including kitchen and bath remodels — don't pay for themselves: These days, for every dollar you spend remodeling, your average return is just 64 percent. Go for inexpensive fixes, such as new paint in a neutral tone, carpet cleaning, and a little fresh landscaping. Bring in light by washing your windows, removing heavy drapes, and cutting back on vegetation. Then pack or store up to half your possessions to make rooms and closets appear as large as possible.

3 Smart Moves to Find Buyers
1. Showcase your home with an ad you create at postlets.com or vflyer.com.

2. Get an inspection; fix problems that could thwart a sale.

3. Snub an agent pitching a sky-high offer price. You won't get it.

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