Making a home sale has never been a lot of fun but in this economy, it's even worse.
If you've followed the usual chestnuts about boosting curb appeal and staging your living room properly, but still aren't getting any bites, there are other ways to help catch a buyer's eye.
First, get an appraisal. Knowing what a professional appraiser believes your house is worth is a good reality check on a couple of fronts.
It gives you a realistic target price that can be factored in with recent comparable sales. It also gives you an idea of what sort of home loan a buyer can get.
"It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the price," says Naomi Brodbar, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Princeton Junction, N.J. "You can take any figures in the market and make them work to your advantage. With this, you know if you're in the right ballpark."
You'll likely pay $300 to $400 for the report.
Next, pre-inspect before listing. Buyers want to see that you've cared for the home during your time there. An indisputable way to showcase that is to hire a home inspector to go through the house with a fine-toothed comb and rectify any major issues the inspector finds.
Of course, the buyer is going to hire his or her own inspector -- but this helps convince the buyer that the home has been kept up well. It also prevents the buyer from issuing a laundry list of demanded fixes, which some buyers do in an effort to further lower the sales price after their offer is accepted.
Offer a home warranty. Everyone likes a security blanket. Home warranties give buyers an assurance that if something goes wrong with any of the major appliances, plumbing or electrical systems in the house, they won't have to shell out a lot to get them fixed.
As the seller, you'll also reap some of the benefits, as many plans provide additional coverage for when your house is on the market. This can be particularly beneficial when you go through the inspection process after you've accepted an offer.
Plans generally cost between $300 and $450, with extra charges for some appliances (such as your washer or dryer) and a pool or hot tub.
Then, consider cash incentives. No matter how perfect you think your house is, the new owners will want to change something about it. It could be the paint, landscaping or even the front door.
Acknowledging this upfront and offering a cash incentive to pay for those improvements could make your house stand out from the competition.
It also gives you the upper hand. Because you're setting the amount of the incentive -- say, $1,000 or so -- you can work that into your house's asking price to recoup the outlay.
Take care of post-move expenses. Moving is tough for everyone, so consider making the buyer's life easier by contracting a service to mow the yard through the summer. Taking care of the tab for pool cleaning is another type of incentive that you can work back into the price.
Remain flexible on the price. Many buyers offer their home with a floor price in mind -- one they're absolutely not willing to go below. It becomes a point of pride in what can be an emotional process. That can be dangerous.
In the long run, an extra $1,000 (or even $3,000) is a drop in the bucket -- and it's not worth fighting over, even if it's below your floor price. But what about an offer that's $5,000 or even $10,000 below what you were hoping to get?
"Buyers don't care what your minimum price is," says Leslie Nichols, a broker for Nichols & Associates Real Estate in Houston. "Price is the most important thing. ... Price will overcome location. Price will overcome condition. Price will overcome everything else."