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7 ways to doom your home sale

These days, there are few housing markets that have a well-balanced blend of homebuyers and sellers. Between low mortgage rates and cheap real estate prices, it's clearly evident that it's a buyer's market out there. Falling home prices have left many home sellers without the upper hand.

Yet just because buyers have more advantages afforded to them these days doesn't mean that sellers have no power at all. If you can avoid these major missteps before and while your home is on the market, you should be more likely to sell your house faster or for more money.

1. Hiring a lazy real estate agent: Hiring a real estate agent who isn't proactive means your home sale will go nowhere fast. Be choosy: Interview at least three real estate agents with experience in your neighborhood before deciding to hire one.

"Ask each agent about their marketing plan to see what they plan to do to showcase your home," says CJ Wright, a Realtor with ERA Dan Jones and Associates in Jacksonville, Fla. "Ask where they plan to advertise, if they will target their marketing and how many websites will it be on, then follow up and hold the agent you choose accountable."

Peggy Speaker, an associate broker with Long & Foster Real Estate in Washington, D.C., says homeowners should ask real estate agents if they will be paying extra to enhance their property's exposure on the Internet.

While you may be tempted to choose the agent who recommends the highest list price, Speaker says this is a bad idea. "Homeowners should never choose a real estate agent based on the price they suggest," says Speaker. "You need to avoid working with someone who is not being genuine with you."

2. Mispricing your property: Too high or too low--either way, you're shooting yourself in the foot. Speaker suggests asking three different real estate agents for a price estimate. A good broker can show you data about recent comparable sales and other homes on the market to properly calculate your price range.

"Don't layer your price with too much of a cushion for negotiation," says Speaker. "Most Internet search engines offer buyers a price range in $20,000 to $50,000 increments rather than a specific price when they want to browse for homes. So, if you price a property at $415,000, you may lose buyers looking at the $350,000 to $400,000 range of homes."

3. Ignoring curb appeal: Does your home look inviting to somebody who hasn't even gotten out of his or her car? If not, making the effort to spruce up the exterior of your home will at least get potential buyers in your home.

Wright says that buyers make a decision within seconds as to whether they even want to go inside a property just based on the exterior appearance, so make sure the front door is freshly painted, bushes are trimmed and the entrance is presentable.

"Selling your home in this market is both a beauty contest and a clearance sale," says Wright. "Your house needs to be the shiniest penny and priced right for the market."

Speaker echoes this advice. "Less is more," she advises. "Homeowners must remove as much as they can of their personal belongings, and they must make sure everything is sparkling clean. I recommend hiring a professional to clean the windows and the rest of the house if needed."

4. Taking amateur photos: Do the marketing photos of your home look like they were taken by your 10-year-old nephew who just got his first point-and-shoot? The National Association of Realtors says that 89 percent of buyers search primarily online for a home, so having an abundance of good-quality photos can attract prospective buyers, while poor-quality photos can have the opposite effect.

Speaker says that some sellers may need a home stager to remove or add furniture in order to improve the appearance of the property in the photos and in person.

5. Putting off necessary home repairs: Is your home in some dire need of TLC? Wright says, "Sometimes there's no choice but to spend money on a few repairs."

Then again, don't go overboard with home repairs, or you may be spending money unnecessarily. "The level of repairs to be done depends on the condition of the home and the seller's budget," says Wright. "But in general, it is best to do only the repairs required to attract a buyer, pass an inspection and achieve the appraisal price."

If you're not sure how many repairs to make, Wright suggests asking your experienced real estate agent.

6. Skipping a home inspection: Particularly if you are in a competitive neighborhood, a home in an unknown condition may not get the edge it needs. Getting an inspection before putting your home on the market can go a long way in making sure your sales goes off without a hitch.

Speaker says she may recommend an inspection if a home "clearly has a lot of deferred maintenance." Yet she also notes that this strategy can be a "double-edged sword."

"Once you have the knowledge of a defect, you must disclose it to buyers," she says. "If you have a presale inspection, you will have to fix things and sometimes the buyer's home inspector will find different things that will also need to be addressed."

7. Hanging around: Are you ready and willing to let your agent show your home to buyers at any time? If you have too many restrictions on when you make your home available, chances are you're probably missing out on some potential buyers entirely. Buyers have enough homes to choose between that they will simply skip a home that is not available when they want to see it rather than wait until the sellers are ready.

Wright says she refuses to list a home unless the homeowners agree to have their home available to buyers at all times (except for an emergency).

While selling in today's market can be challenging, homeowners who prepare their homes well, price them right and choose real estate agents who will aggressively market them can more easily achieve their goals.

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