- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

Your first home may be your palace, but the first-time seller or any seller should keep many things in mind if someone else is going to buy it.
Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District are experiencing a real-estate boom as demand for housing outweighs the supply. Sellers, however, still must put some effort into making their homes into showplaces someone else will want to buy.
"People used to want to buy fixer-uppers," says Maggie Britvech, an agent with Alexandria's Century 21 Quality Homes. "But they don't have the time anymore to put into fixing up a home that needs a lot of work."
To sell a home quickly, Mrs. Britvech, who has been an agent for six years, says a seller must walk through his home with a critical eye.
"You literally need to turn your home into a showplace," Mrs. Britvech says. "You have to make it appealing to another person or family."
Hope Peek, an agent with Re/Max Realty Services in Bethesda, says it is important to accentuate what made you interested in the home in the first place.
"You have to show off wonderful little details such as bay windows and that fantastic deck out back," she says. "You must show off the strong points of your home."
While you accentuate the positives, you also might want to consider a little spring cleaning, no matter what the time of year. "People walk through a house and aren't only looking at the home," Mrs. Britvech says. "They are looking at what you have done with it, what you have in it and how you are utilizing the space."
Mrs. Britvech and Mrs. Peek agree: Making the home seem open and airy by clearing away unnecessary clutter will help it sell.
"It is hard for a person to imagine themselves moving in a property that has papers strewn all over a work space, or dishes piled in the sink," Mrs. Peek says. "You only make a first impression on a potential buyer once. And, even though your home may be perfect for the person walking through, you could lose a deal because the way it looked turned the buyer off."
Mrs. Peek also suggests potential sellers organize their closets and clean out storage spaces.
"You don't want someone opening up the door to your closet and thinking, 'Wow, they obviously don't have enough closet space,' " she says. "By organizing and utilizing space wisely, a seller is saying the space is usable and adequate."
Also, freshly cleaned carpets and a new coat of paint can make a home fly off the market.
"You really don't have to repaint the entire home," says Mrs. Peek, who has been in real estate for 12 years. "By simply repainting the entry way or a foyer, one can really open up a space and fill it with light."
Other suggestions for cosmetic improvements include cleaning up the yard and adding some light landscaping, doing some long-overdue outside repairs, such as touching up exterior paint, and making sure the outside of the home is as clean as the inside.
"Some people may decide to drive right on by your property if the outside doesn't look maintained," Mrs. Peek says. "The outside of the home is just as important as the inside."
Under contract
Although a seller has many contractual obligations to a buyer once a deal is accepted, it takes some work to get to that point.
Sellers must make sure all the home's appliances work and repair any safety issues that may arise during home inspection.
"A seller is obligated to fix the major problems a home inspector may find," Mrs. Britvech says. "So it's better to go ahead and get these repairs out of the way before the inspector even looks at the home."
Mrs. Britvech suggests sellers replace old appliances, rather than having them repaired.
"Buyers don't like taking on other people's old stuff," she says. "By replacing old appliances, a seller is giving the home a sense of newness. People are really loaded down now with other projects; they need the home they are purchasing to be basically worry-free."
While today's demand for housing makes the asking price a starting point, it's important not to set the price too high, real estate experts say.
If the asking price is too hefty, the home may sit on the market because buyers may not be able to secure a loan many home loans are contingent on the asking price being equal to or less than the house's appraised worth. For a seller's price to be competitive, yet reasonable, it is important to research the asking prices of homes in the surrounding area.
"If an appraisal comes in way under the selling price, a buyer has to come up with the difference between the two if he still wants to buy the property," Mrs. Britvech says. "Most buyers aren't willing to do that. Sellers need to make sure their price is competitive and their property is truly worth what they are asking."
But when the price is right and an offer is made and accepted, a seller needs to make sure he knows where he's going to hang his hat.
"Sellers become buyers very quickly when their property sells," Mrs. Britvech says. "It's important to look ahead and make sure you know what you're going to do when your home sells."
Selling strategy
When looking at the bottom line and deciding it is time to sell a home, it might seem a seller would make more money pitching a "For Sale By Owner" sign in the front lawn. But the market proves homes listed with agents move quicker.
"A seller's resources are limited when it comes to really marketing the saleability of their home," Mrs. Peek says. "By enlisting a professional, a seller can be certain their best interests are at heart."
Mrs. Britvech says thousands and thousands of agents are able to pull up any given property's listing at a moment's notice when agents are used, regardless of the listing company or house's location.
"Your home is literally listed nationwide," she says.
Mrs. Peek also says using an agent eliminates liability a seller may face in a private deal.
"Selling and buying a home is a very emotionally charged event," she says. "By using an agent, a seller is actively involved, but doesn't really have one-on-one contact with the buyer. It really does make the deal go more smoothly when there is an objective party involved, such as a Realtor."
A wealth of agents is out there, but it is not always easy to find the one who is the most suitable. Mrs. Peek suggests interviewing several agents and finding one whose personality meshes well with yours.
"You need to be able to really talk through the process with the agent you chose," she says. "You also need to be able to tell that he or she is excited about selling your property."
Also, many agents only represent homes in certain towns or developments.
"These are agents who really know the area and are knowledgeable in that particular neighborhood," Mrs. Britvech says. "Just drive around your neighborhood and see if there is one agent representing the majority of the homes. If so, that's the agent you should probably go with."

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