- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2004

As you place your home on the market, don’t forget to look at the competition in your

marketplace to help determine price. Some home sellers have found that just-built homes have created havoc with the sale of their “previously owned” models.

This is especially true for those who live near a development under construction and in a community where the economy is slipping.

One such case came to my in-box the other day. The owner in Charlotte, N.C., had already moved and now faced selling her town house. Her home was now on the market for 5 percent less than what she had paid for it six years earlier.

Now she’s wondering whether to keep the house on the market longer at the asking price or drop the price.

First, home sellers need to analyze what’s going on in both the resale and new-home markets.

Whether it’s a hot or cold market, the properties in pristine condition will always sell more quickly and for the highest dollar. It’s just common sense and human nature. If offered a $5 bill fresh off the press or one that is mutilated, muddy and ink-stained, most people will go for the new dollar bill instead.

If you find yourself up against new properties, look at these steps to maximize your selling possibilities:

• Check out the condition of the new house. What you find may either depress you or stimulate you to action. New carpet, freshly painted interiors and impeccable decorating are what you’ll find and have to take into account when preparing your home for sale. Come back to your house and walk through it as you just did at the new home development.

Where should you start? Get to painting, replacing old flooring and decorating down (meaning making it more vanilla) so buyers can visualize how they would decorate the home if they owned it.

• What terms are you up against? Is the builder offering decoration choices? Free finished basement or deck? How can you compete with that? Can you offer up front a decoration allowance of $5,000? This might be more advantageous than dropping the price outright.

Hang on to your price, but give the buyer an incentive to work with you in decorating the house the way they want it.

• Get serious about the trends in your marketplace. Your local real estate market is exactly that — a market. The Realtors don’t control the prices; the buyers and sellers do. If home prices are falling, it means the buyers are holding off on the higher prices they face. If the prices are escalating, it means there’s not enough inventory for the demand and buyers are willing to move up on the offer.

Although you may have done a lot to your house, those hours of labor and tender care rarely mean more money. It’s primarily what the buyer is willing to pay for it, regardless of the amenities.

• Check out the curb appeal. What can you do to seriously spruce up your exterior? A lot of buyers simply drive by and get the brochure out of the sign box if the house doesn’t wow them right from the start. Builders know this and have the model with all the upgrades outside — flowering plants, fresh mulch, great facades, good-looking grass.

Always remember: Buyers want new, clean, fresh and unstained. For the highest price and best terms possible, give them what they want.

M. Anthony Carr is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple.” Post questions at his Web log (http://commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com).

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