Tips/Tricks to subconsiously sell my house!
September 25, 2008 7:16 AM   Subscribe

What are your offbeat tips for selling a home? Bonus points if they actually worked for you.

I have a townhouse in the NW suburbs of Chicago that's been on the market since Feb. of this year. I'm looking to move into the city(where my fiance lives) and it would be much less complicated if my place sold before we got married(Feb. of 2009).

I've done all the "normal" stuff. I recently painted, I have an agent, my place has been staged, and has good pictures on one or more websites.

So, hit me with all the other stuff. Superstitious, silly, obscure, whatever. I just want to sell this place, without losing money on the deal. I'm willing to try silly and/or superstitious. Personal experiences are definitely welcome.
posted by specialnobodie to Home & Garden (44 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I've been told that listing with a very specific asking prices make a difference. Like $214,316.83 instead of $214,500. I'm not sure of the exact reasoning, but seems to me like it conveys an eagerness to sell in that you have an exact number you need to get for your place. No clue if it actually works, but I'm planning to try it when we sell next year. Couldn't hurt, right?
posted by jtfowl0 at 7:29 AM on September 25, 2008

Well, if you're really looking for the superstitious, bury a statue of St. Joseph in the yard. (Assuming you have a yard, of course.) It "worked" for a friend, in that they sold their house.
posted by inigo2 at 7:32 AM on September 25, 2008

I was going to suggest the burying of St. Joseph as well. For some reason, I thought you were supposed to bury him upside down, and then rightside up at your new house, but I might be confusing my superstitions.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:34 AM on September 25, 2008

Including a flat screen TV can make a home more attractive to potential buyers. Also, have your agent offer a higher commission split (somewhere like 3% with a bonus anywhere from $1000 to $2000) that will increase activity from other agents who will persuade their buyers to make offers.

Maybe I'm not being silly enough?

Good luck!
posted by ginagina at 7:52 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have cookies baking whenever there's a showing. Just buy the frozen cookie dough i suppose to make it easy.

Supposedly the "homey" smell makes people more likely to buy.
posted by Penelope at 7:59 AM on September 25, 2008

My wife and I just bought a home yesterday and a huge selling point for us was exactly what jtfowl0 said. We offered exactly that.

We were the 1st to see the home and the first to bid and the first to sign and we got the home. Now oddly enough a huge thing for us was te home came with washer and dryer and a bunch of kinda pointless extras (like a greenhouse in the back) but all these little things added up make us very aggressive about this. So, I would recommend, since we just did this, to add really random little things.

If I found out that there was a statue of a catholic saint in the front, I would have dug it up and trashed it, so, dont waste your time honestly.
I like the flat screen tv idea though, and maybe if you get it mounted that would add a little extra charm, not a bad idea at all.
posted by TeachTheDead at 8:00 AM on September 25, 2008

Don't list a horribly specific asking price. List a quasi specific, but still rather gerneal one, such as $214,000. Then, after an offer or two is made, rebute with the very specific numer (for example, $209,894.52). It will make it see like you have calculated a break even point you are not letting yourself go beneath.
posted by warriorengineer at 8:06 AM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

I sold my house (quickly and surprisingly over the holiday season) and always had a fire going when it was being shown. For ease, I just used a Duraflame log. Granted, I had a really cool fireplace in the middle of the room (kind of like a ski lodge). This idea it goes along with the homey feel of cookies baking.
posted by murrey at 8:07 AM on September 25, 2008

Hm, there's a townhouse for sale next to us and we live in the NW suburbs of Chicago. Could it be??

Anyway, if you are my neighbor, my specific advice would be to put the sign in a much more visible location (right now it's in the upstairs window and we didn't even notice it for awhile though we live right next door). It's rare that anyone besides residents drive through the neighborhood, so put a sign at the entrance to the neighborhood (right by the gazebo, if you're my neighbor you'll know what I mean). Do some landscaping - there is NOTHING outside the front window and it looks kind of abandoned. We're quiet and the neighbor on the other side of this place is quiet, so that is a selling point. Our neighbors are very observant and deter crime. You can have pets in our complex and many people have dogs (yet I rarely hear barking). Pimp the area - there are a lot of nice, scenic drives around here.
posted by desjardins at 8:11 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Drop the price below the other townhomes in the market. Ta da!
posted by unixrat at 8:12 AM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

My own advice:

Have cookies baking whenever there's a showing. Just buy the frozen cookie dough i suppose to make it easy.

Also consider bread as it has a thicker smell.

If you have an online listing (always a great idea) review and re-review your listing and make sure you're putting your best foot forward. I cannot believe some of the crap MLS listings I've seen over the years, and I'm not even talking foreclosures.

If you're a botanist/naturist sort and have an acre or more, tack little wooden plaques to the trees with the tree type and Latin name etched in. You can get all this at Hobby Lobby for less than $20.

If you're the White House Plumbers type, I know someone who left microphones near the entertainment center and let the VCR record an audio track of the buyers' walkthrough while said owners were gone. Hearing the comments between the husband and wife gave some leverage for the dealings afterward. I would guess this is legal but IANAL and all that.

By the looks of the It's Lovely I'll Take It blog, you'll probably be doing better than 90% of the competing houses out there if you just clean up a little and give some thought to what people see.
posted by crapmatic at 8:31 AM on September 25, 2008

Well, if you're really looking for the superstitious, bury a statue of St. Joseph in the yard. (Assuming you have a yard, of course.) It "worked" for a friend, in that they sold their house.

This "worked" for my parents, too. And I, too, believe it should be upside-down. My mom had to search a bit to find a Joseph without a baby Jesus. And this makes sense, because the baby Jesus would, of course, not stay buried.
posted by Airhen at 8:50 AM on September 25, 2008 [8 favorites]

One of the greatest helps that we had when we sold our home was that whenever a realtor did a walk-through with potential buyers, they always left their business card (on the counter, kitchen table). We then emailed the realtor's information to our realtor, who in return contacted the other realtor and asked how the walk-through went. It was wonderful getting feedback. We often heard things like, "the house is too close to a main road," or "the clients did not like the layout - the stairs were too close to the entry door." Those were things that we could not change. We also heard things like "the house was immaculate," etc. Getting that feedback is really important because you get an honest observation on how your home may be falling short and then you can address those issues.

Also - de-clutter. Then, once you have de-cluttered, de-clutter again. Keep your house in pristine condition at all times.

Another thing that really helped - no matter how inconvenient you've gotta show your place when someone wants to see it. Don't be picky. I got a call a few hours after I returned home from the hospital after having our third child asking if someone could show the house. I said yes and quickly tidied up the place (bent over in pain, mind you). Those people that saw the house actually bought the house! Don't turn anyone away!!

Lastly, lower your price. Keep an eye on comps in your neighborhood and if you are really anxious to sell, then price lower than comps. And keep keeping an eye on things and adjust your price accordingly.

Best of luck!!
posted by Sassyfras at 8:59 AM on September 25, 2008

If you mount a flat-screen TV on the wall, be careful when you're doing the paperwork to actually sell your house. There have been questions around here before where wall-mounted speakers became a point of contention after closing because the buyers thought they were included as fixtures, while the sellers were planning to take them. A flat-screen TV would be an expensive thing to lose in that kind of nit-picking shuffle.

I've heard that an onion in the oven will make it smell like you've been cooking amazing food all day, but maybe bread or cookies is more appropriate. That said, I'm cynical enough that the smell of fresh cookies in a for-sale house would just make me roll my eyes. I'd wonder why the homeowners were trying so hard, and spend extra time looking for defects in the house.
posted by vytae at 9:25 AM on September 25, 2008

I noted it on the green before, but having an experienced agent who knows how to sell in a slumping market is essential. An agent who's only sold houses during the boom times isn't always an asset. Here is what I learned from the extremely experienced agent who sold my house:

- Be careful with smells. Cookie and bread are good, scented candles and air fresheners are not. Some people have allergies; some people will wonder what smell you're trying to cover.

- Lubricate every stuck hinge and sliding door. When you live there you don't notice those things, but you do when you're looking at a house. It makes the potential buyer think you didn't take care of the place. (Worked for me.)

- Remove heavy drapes. Unless you've got a really unappealing outside view, make the house look more light and open with lighter window coverings. For evening showings, up the wattage on your light bulbs. (Worked for me.)

- Put dimmer switches on installed light fixtures. People love to play with dimming the hall lights or dining room chandelier. (Worked for me.)

- At the open house have a bin with small water bottles on ice. Definitely do this for the Realtor caravan. (Worked ON me.)

- St Joseph. (Worked for me.)

Another piece of advice...and ask your Realtor about it before you do it. Your home has been on the market awhile and it's not in anyone's fresh listings. Before your next price drop, take it off the market and get some new photos. Then re-list it so that people see it fresh; also have a second caravan showing.
posted by 26.2 at 9:31 AM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

There have been questions around here before where wall-mounted speakers became a point of contention after closing because the buyers thought they were included as fixtures, while the sellers were planning to take them. A flat-screen TV would be an expensive thing to lose in that kind of nit-picking shuffle.

heh, this is going to be covered in my real estate class today. The general rule in sales is apparently that the BUYERS get the benefit of the doubt as to what is a fixture vs. what is the personal property of the seller.
posted by troy at 9:40 AM on September 25, 2008

If all of your walls aren't Neutral McNeutral, think about painting them. I know someone who almost missed a sale because the buyer thought green was a color for money, not bedroom walls.

Advice to buyers: Regardless of your religious beliefs, do not trash things in the yards of other people's homes.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:42 AM on September 25, 2008

I just want to sell this place, without losing money on the deal.

This is a good way to lose a LOT of money on the deal.

Real Estate is an investment, and investments do not have guaranteed returns.
posted by troy at 9:43 AM on September 25, 2008

One of the big things Realtors talk about WRT the attractiveness of your home is how well a potential buyer can picture yourself inhabiting the space. For this reason, empty houses tend to sell better than houses being lived in, because all of the people stuff we have creates a barrier to that perception. Since you most likely have to live in this house until you sell it, the best way to reduce this barrier is to not only declutter, but also to reduce the number of personal effects you have on display. Take all of your family photos, vacation curios, cute drawings your kids did in 2nd grade, etc., box them all up, and store it (garage, friend's basement, storage locker, etc). Make sure you wash your walls and shelves and such after, so you don't have those picture-shaped light patches on your walls. You can even get rid of extraneous furniture, since this will give the impression of larger interior spaces. It makes it less comfortable for you to live in, but you don't want to be living there that much longer anyway and it'll save you a step when you pack up later. Making your space as impersonal as possible makes it that much easier for prospective buyers to picture their stuff in it.

Offering a bonus to the buyer's agent isn't a bad idea, but it's an incentive that benefits the buyer's agent, who is not ultimately buying the house. Is there an area that's been consistently identified as being slightly lacking in showing feedback, such as the kitchen, countertops, flooring in a certain area, etc.? If so, talk to your broker about adding an allowance for that item to your listing-- essentially you're going to provide $X,000 to the buyers out of the sales price for them to spend on that specific improvement. That way the buyer's agent, when showing the house, can say, "The countertops need some improvements, but the owners are offering a $3,000 countertop allowance for a successful closing."

Ask your agent if your listing on is a Showcase- if not, your listing is only showing a front exterior shot and your interior spaces aren't being featured at all. Ask the broker what you need to do to get a Showcase. Showcase listings are also the only listings that can have extended text descriptions, up to 2500 characters- if you're a showcase but don't have an extended description, write one yourself or ask your agent do it. Avoid language like "Must see", "priced to sell", "this one won't last long", "motivated seller", etc.- everybody uses these terms and they don't stand out very well. Also avoid excessively over-the-top adjectives- most people roll their eyes when they see stuff like "Elegant, luxuriant, refined open spaces dominate the interior, with soaring 12-foot ceilings".

Talk to your broker about the possibility of a reduced commission on their end. Buyers are getting harder and harder to come by, and many Realtors are accepting reduced commissions in order to lower the price ceiling. Being able to lower your price by even 1% will give you a competitive advantage, especially in the townhouse market, where the relative homogeneity of available properties means price determines sales more than anything. Try to emphasize the features of your specific unit, but don't overemphasize them...I once had someone call and complain about what a bad job we were doing of marketing their condo and how few showing requests they were getting- I asked them if they realized that there were condos in their building priced $30,000 less than theirs, and they insisted that their price was justified because their unit had the best view of the ocean. Nobody in today's market is actually going to pay $30,000 for a view.

Make sure you don't have any blackout times in your showing schedule. If you've designated a certain time period is being unavailable for showings, well, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take". Often Realtors are unwilling to schedule around difficult homeowners.

Don't worry too much about signage, flyers, or open houses. These used to be effective tools when buyer's agents did a lot of drive-throughs in the buyers' target neighborhood, but $4/gal gas and the internet have effectively killed this marketing model. Realtors still do it because it's traditional, but there aren't many people driving around looking for houses with signs these days, simply because all the information they need is available online. To that end, in addition to the Showcase mentioned above, ask your broker to make sure you're listed on and Exposure counts. Ask them about getting a virtual tour. Consider paying someone to put together a custom website for your property, you can easily get a local high school student to put one together for less than $100.

As mentioned above, make sure your MLS listing looks great. Ask your broker to send you a PDF of the current listing, and make sure to get the AGENT VIEW. If they won't give it to you (some won't, or are extremely reluctant to do so) call their broker/office manager and raise some hell. Make sure you have the maximum # of photos allowable, and make sure they all look good- they should be well-lit and feature your spaces well. It's a good idea to update your front exterior shot seasonally. Make sure you don't focus too much on one space that you think is the best in your house; instead, balance the presentation so the whole house gets good representation. I've seen listings where 4/10 photos were of the master bathroom. Don't make this mistake. Conventional wisdom is that your photo order should be something like: Outside front, kitchen, living spaces, bedrooms, a bathroom (you don't necessarily need to show every bathroom in the house, especially if it's a half bath), and yard shots. Make sure your description is attractive and avoids the language mentioned above, and ensure that the features and amenities are correctly identified and listed. Check the phone number that your broker lists as the showing contact number- is it the broker's cell phone, office number, or a scheduling service? Showing scheduling services are really popular for agents because it makes things nice and easy for the buyer's agent, since they don't have to screw around with voicemails, callbacks, etc. They just call the scheduling service, give them their agent ID and the showing time, and you get an e-mail notification confirming the showing time. I'd be surprised if your broker isn't using a scheduling service, but if they aren't ask them to get it set up for your listing.

You're in a tough market, and a tough segment of the market (townhouses). A lot of your primary traffic will be first time buyers, so try to make the property as attractive to them as possible. I wish you the best of luck.

I am not a Realtor, but I used to work for one.
posted by baphomet at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2008 [11 favorites]

When we sold our home, I asked the agent if I could produce the sales sheets myself. She was happy to have me do it. I then took the pictures, invested a small amount of time in layout and design and had a supply printed in full-color. Our agent spread them around and said they were key in drawing realtors to an open house and when buyers came in the sheets disappeared like hotcakes. I'm convinced that buyers go to a number of houses in a day then spread all these sheets out in front of them on a table. I'm sure ours popped out. If you don't have the skills yourself, I'd consider spending a few bucks on someone who does.

Also, we went on vacation the week the house opened for sale. Our agent was able to waltz realtors and buyers in at will. The house essentially stayed in the perfect staging when we left. If you trust your realtor, it really helps to be out of the way. And I can truly endorse being able to make decisions on offers while relaxed, sitting on a deck and staring at the ocean.

We sold the house in five days.
posted by lpsguy at 9:52 AM on September 25, 2008

To go back to the "highly specific pricing" discussion above, the psychology goes like this: lots of real estate offerings are priced like gasoline, with 9000 as the last four digits: $239,000, $279,000, etc. That avoids the impact of the next higher $10,000 level--$239,000 in theory looks a lot cheaper than $240,000 at first glance. But the problem is that it also signals "I've pushed my asking price to the highest I dare ask" and therefore encourages buyers to come in with lower bids. A more specific price, and it doesn't have to go to pennies, is more likely to suggest that the seller feels this is the real value. I would round it to 100s, myself--something like $236,800.
posted by beagle at 9:54 AM on September 25, 2008

We sold our last home for the full asking price on day 6 after listing it. It sold for over $10,000 more than any home in our medium sized subdivision had up to that point, and it wasn't the largest or nicest one of the bunch.

I'm a professional photographer and I shoot a lot of interiors, so we had great pictures which stood out considerably from the other comparable homes on the market. We had around a dozen photos available on our agent's web site. As a personal aside, if I were someone else hiring an agent, I'd absolutely insist that my home's listing photos be of professional quality, especially in today's slow housing market. You'd be amazed at how spacious and bright I can make a 10x12 bedroom look with the right photographic technique.

The best money I ever spent was renting a 10x10 storage unit nearby and doing an industrial strength de-cluttering of our home prior to listing it. All that was left in my kids' bedrooms was a bed, a chair, and a chest in each. We just kept enough clothing in the closets to get them through the week. A four foot wide closet looks really big when there are only three items on hangars inside.

On the advice of our agent, we removed all personal photos and knick knacks. She told us our home should give potential buyers no indication at all of our race, religion, etc.

Mulch the front flower beds with fresh mulch.

As someone else pointed out, make sure that doors, windows, and cabinets all open and close without binding. Repairing things like even small tears in window screens, using a Magic Eraser to remove scuffs on walls, and making sure bathrooms are meticulously clean for each showing are important too.
posted by imjustsaying at 10:00 AM on September 25, 2008

Another thing - when showing your home - turn all the lights on in the house. That way, the potential buyer is always walking into a bright nicely lit room and they don't have the hassle of bumbling around in the dark trying to find the light switch. We always got rave reviews from the other realtors saying how nice it was that we had the lights on in the house.

imjustsaying has some incredible advice, especially the renting a storage unit. I once heard that living in a house and trying to sell a house are two different things. You will have to sacrifice in order to sell your home. You will have to empty your house considerably and just get by with the bare minimums. But it is worth it!
posted by Sassyfras at 10:12 AM on September 25, 2008

One of the big things Realtors talk about WRT the attractiveness of your home is how well a potential buyer can picture yourself inhabiting the space. For this reason, empty houses tend to sell better than houses being lived in, because all of the people stuff we have creates a barrier to that perception. Since you most likely have to live in this house until you sell it, the best way to reduce this barrier is to not only declutter, but also to reduce the number of personal effects you have on display. Take all of your family photos, vacation curios, cute drawings your kids did in 2nd grade, etc., box them all up, and store it (garage, friend's basement, storage locker, etc).

I am going to respectfully disagree with this and much of the other advice in this thread, all of which is based on the logic that you don't want your house to be too unusual or personal. We recently sold our house in a very tough, saturated market (Cleveland) by doing just the opposite. We had painted the walls funky colors (blue, saffron, brick red) and had some relatively unusual furniture and pieces of art. At first, we thought that we should paint over those colors in neutrals, remove the funky furniture and art, and generally make the place look as generic and impersonal as possible. But we decided that, in such a saturated market, buyers would be looking at dozens of homes with neutral beige walls, empty shelves, and cookies baking in the oven - and many of those homes had attributes that ours didn't have. So we decided to accentuate the personality of our home rather than play it down. We cleaned and touched up the paint, but didn't try to redo the paint to make it less singular; we decluttered, but not to the point of removing everything that was identifiable as ours. I think this worked for us - and it may not work in all cases - for the following reasons:

(1) We identified our potential market and sold to that demographic. In our case, we recognized that most people who would be turned off by blue walls would not even be looking at our house in the first place because of the location. So we specifically targeted younger, funkier types who would recognize our house's unique charm. Your house may have other specific appeals or charms that you can accentuate.

(2) We left enough personal items in place to make the house seem lived in. In this sense, we gambled that people would see the house (and our taste) and think "Wow, my life could be like this!" rather than "Yuck. I hate their taste." We had a number of people tell us that the house stuck in their mind precisely because of the interesting and unusual details that we left in place.

(3) We took really good pictures. I made it a point to wait for the ideal afternoon light, take long exposures, and make sure the photos had a lot of contrast and saturation. This really made them stand out from the thousands of photos that buyers scanned through, and got more than a few people in the door.

That is what worked for us, in part because of the peculiarities of us and our house. It may or may not work for you, but it might be worth considering.
posted by googly at 10:49 AM on September 25, 2008

I also recently sold a home in Chicago's North Side in a week. It was mostly my fiance that did it.

- Declutter: I thought we were done. She knew we were only half way there. You'll know you're there when your place isn't actually livable anymore ;-)
- Marketing: Signs, brochures, photos and website can all be ordered online. Our photos only cost a hundred dollars or so, and the photographer created the website from them. Then we created a sign and brochures online. The realtors that visited took us aside after their buyers left asking what services we used.
- List everywhere. List often. List on Craig's List.
- Do offer the 3%. If realtors can make more selling your place...
- Don't just sell your home. Sell your neighborhood. Tell realtors where to take buyers around the corner to grab that cup of coffee or whatever while thinking about your home.
- Do turn on all the lights in the house. Do add mirrors. Do add lights.
- Clean so that your place looks new.
- Invest in fresh flowers for showings. This also removes the need for cooking cookies or bread.

Remember, there is ton of luck involved in selling your place. Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't sell immediately. We just worked hard and got lucky.
posted by xammerboy at 10:50 AM on September 25, 2008

Cold-call every Realtor you can find in the area.

Call large businesses in the area to see if they have anyone relocating to the Chicago area. Give them a discount from the list price.

Put up ads in all of the universities and colleges around the area, specifically in the graduate departments. This is great timing because you'll get all of the new grad students, profs, lecturers, etc. Give them a discount from the list price.

Go to hip college cafes and post the info there.

Good luck!
posted by sondrialiac at 10:57 AM on September 25, 2008

I caught a few minutes of some show where an REA offered potential clients who were decided between two or so houses to spend the night in the place so they can get a feel for it.
I don't know if that will work in your situation.
posted by twistedmetal at 10:57 AM on September 25, 2008

for showings: boil water on the stove, add in some aromatic spices (1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon works wonders!)
posted by alcopop at 11:00 AM on September 25, 2008

You can just toss a handful of cinnamon powder into the (hot) oven for a faster and less contrived-looking effect.
posted by rokusan at 11:01 AM on September 25, 2008

Also - de-clutter. Then, once you have de-cluttered, de-clutter again. Keep your house in pristine condition at all times.

I was coming here to emphasize this. When we decided to sell our Peekskill house, our agent (a great one, if anyone's in Peekskill and wants to sell/buy, write me and I'll give you her info) told me to get half my books out. I grumbled but put them in storage, and sure enough the place looked a lot lighter and airier. And it sold for our asking price, whereas an almost identical place nearby was still unsold weeks later—we went to an open house out of curiosity, and it turned out to be ridiculously cluttered, full of armoires and sofas and photos and knicknacks.

Also, everything 26.2 said, except for the St. Joseph. I mean, apologies if you believe in that stuff, but it's just silly. If it makes you feel better and more confident, though, go for it.
posted by languagehat at 11:08 AM on September 25, 2008

Wow, lots of good comments. As it happens, I've got a storage unit, have industrially decluttered, freshly painted, no personal items out, and leave the lights on whenever I know about a showing in advance. The photos on are better than any other units in the development, and my place is priced competitively relative to other units.

So, as far as I can tell, I'm doing all the right stuff. That's why I figured something crazy might put me over the top. Does it matter if I'm not Catholic for the statue thing? :)
posted by specialnobodie at 11:24 AM on September 25, 2008

It sounds like if it's been on the market this long (8 months!), it's really about price. I would go low in this market. It's hard for people to get a mortgage, they are skittish about getting upside on a house loan, and many people are waiting it out.

What is more important, getting out by February 2009 or the money? If it's time, I would price it as low as you can. Perhaps several percent less than the lowest town home on the market in your development (even if you loose money). Real estate is going down. You're facing the slowest season of the year for home sales, in a very tough economic market.

If you're willing to sit it out to not loose money, you could be sitting for quite some time. I would just take it off the market for now. Rent it.
posted by pokeedog at 11:52 AM on September 25, 2008

Two little things to add on to what's been said:

- The fresh flowers are *really* a good touch. We were always immediately in a good, optimistic mood to see the house if the first thing we saw were fresh flowers upon entering. Shows you care.

- If you're gonna bury St. Joseph, you're supposed to bury him upside down so he has a bigger incentive to want to get out. Then you're supposed to take him with you to your new home.

If you're into that. :]
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:01 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I sold a small bungalow fairly recently. After hearing some comments about how the place looked too small, I acted counter to the prevailing wisdom (i.e. people need to be shown how the place will function for them) and removed every stick of staging furniture in the house except for the dining table. The house sold in a week.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:25 PM on September 25, 2008

I love that show Flipping Out on Bravo - he buried one of those statues, which was the first time I had heard of doing that. I would give it a try.

He also had someone come through to cleanse the negative energy. Maybe you could do your own cleansing ritual type thing?
posted by KAS at 12:55 PM on September 25, 2008

Sounds like you're doing everything right. You say you are priced competitively for the market in your area. If you want to get this place sold, stop competing and be the clear winner by lowering your price significantly. Take it off the market, re-price and re-list it. Those other units in your area won't have a chance.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:04 PM on September 25, 2008

Hire a professional home stager to come in.
posted by yohko at 1:38 PM on September 25, 2008

and when all else fails . . . pray?
posted by Sassyfras at 2:17 PM on September 25, 2008

Advice depends on whether the problem is getting people in to see your house, or whether it's getting them to make an offer once they're there... Two very different problems.

If the former, then maybe get some new pictures / new descriptions up with your agents, especially if the house has been on the market for some time. Suggestions about adjusting your asking price may help - you're not in a great market at the moment, so this may be the difference between selling now at a lower price than you'd like, and selling in 6 months at a much lower price than you'd like.

If the latter, then there's a bit more you can do.

- Pretend to be a buyer - register with some other local agents and go and see some houses similar to yours. See what the agents say about prices, see how others present similar properties, see what your house's strengths and weaknesses are.
- Be there for viewings - helpful and friendly but unobtrusive is the way to go. Chat to them at the start and then leave them to explore at their leisure. Agents get paid to do this, but they're all the same and buyers see right through the patter.
- Sell the area, sell your neighbours, explain why you're leaving the area (be sad about it!), make them like you.
- Show an interest in them - ask them lifestyle questions like "where do you work?" and "do you have kids?" and then tell them how their commute would work, or that the family next door have kids too.
- I'm with googly on the "don't depersonalise too much" - if you know what your target market is, making it easier for them to see how your house could meet their requirements isn't a bad thing. It's a fine balance...

Or, as pokeedog has suggested, renting may be a good medium term option if you don't need the equity straight away.

Good luck!
posted by finding.perdita at 2:54 PM on September 25, 2008

OK, given all that you say you've done, your home is simply priced too high.

This is not the housing market of one year ago, six months ago, or even a week ago.

The home we sold in August 2005 (see my earlier post in this thread) went for $349,900. The buyer paid full price and had a 40 year, zero down, ARM mortgage. Prior to settlement, we saw a financial statement from these folks. I looked t the numbers and literally told my wife that there was no way in hell these people were going to be able to do it over the long hall.

The settlement did go down without a hitch.

Six months ago this same home was auctioned off at the county courthouse steps with a reserve price of $160,000. It did not sell.

Last week, somebody (or some entity) bought it for $180.000.

This is not your father's mortgage market.
posted by imjustsaying at 5:41 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have other units in your area been selling?

Have you taken it down and then "re-listed" it, so that it's not obvious on the websites that it has been on the market for so long? When something's been sitting so long, buyers may wonder what's wrong with it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:22 PM on September 25, 2008

- Be there for viewings - helpful and friendly but unobtrusive is the way to go. Chat to them at the start and then leave them to explore at their leisure. Agents get paid to do this, but they're all the same and buyers see right through the patter.

With respect, DO NOT DO THIS. DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT. Studies over the past 25 years have consistently shown that unattended properties show and sell better than properties attended by the seller at showing. The reason? If the seller sees you they immediately assume they're imposing on your time, and rush the showing. They get nervous and want to get in and out as quickly as possible, rather than taking their time to really evaluate the property. Ask any Realtor- buyer's agent's absolutely hate it when a seller insists on being present for a showing, because they know how much it negatively affects their ability to successfully show and sell the house. Even if you tell them it's no trouble, take your time, etc. they're still going to be in that imposition mindset and as such they're going to rush. You want them to take the time to take a good, long look at the house, and if you're home they won't. You don't want to be anywhere near the place when the showing is going down. I'm sure the poster meant well, but this is really bad real estate advice.
posted by baphomet at 11:01 AM on September 26, 2008

Fresh flowers in several rooms; the flowers can point out areas that are especially nice. Baking bread or cookies, and leaving a plate of cookies. Minimal clutter, no personalization. A takeaway sheet with the sales pitch. A personal statement, i.e.," This was our 1st home, and we have fond memories of planting the garden. There are great bagels up the road at Bagels-R-Us, etc."

And put it on Craigslist and any other sites. That's where I found my house.
posted by theora55 at 2:56 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

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