5 Tricky Ways to Sell Your Home

Trying odd things might even the odds when it comes to selling a home these days.

Some homeowners and real estate agents are thinking beyond price, condition and location to get buyers in the door and make a sale.

Michael Travis, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Portsmouth, N.H., equates it to being noticed among potential daters on a dating Web site.

"You have to stand out," he says.

Here are five offbeat ways to sell a home, and they might inspire you to think outside the box.

1. Let them sleep over

Some builders and sellers are offering prospective buyers a chance to stay in the home for a night. They're even welcoming folks with bottles of wine and other goodies to make their stay comfortable.

5 odd ways to get noticed
  1. Let them sleep over
  2. Hire housesitters
  3. Offer incentives, incentives and more incentives
  4. Swap lives
  5. Sell to a builder

The tactic has been featured on TV, with shows such as HGTV's "Sleep On It," which depicts buyers spending the night in homes and even throwing dinner parties.

"This is a pretty 'out there' concept," says Benita Carswell, principal and broker with Atlanta-based Bo Bridgeport Brokers.

Atlanta buyers Tim and Kimberly Miller were considering a new home but wanted to know if the street in front of it was too noisy. The builders let them bring air mattresses, and the couple set up camp for the night.

The Millers woke up the next morning, satisfied with what they didn’t hear, and put a contract on the new home, which they moved into in December 2008.

"It was really what kind of helped close the deal," Tim Miller says.

Carswell, who was the Millers' agent, says the sleepover gave them "the experience of that home."

"It was like being out in the front porch in the evening and being able to see how the traffic was or the noise level in the neighborhood," she says. "That final thing really confirmed it for them."

On second thought: Set some rules for what potential buyers can do in the house. If they decide to have a party, it could get out of hand and possibly damage the home or furniture, says Dorcas Helfant-Browning, past president of the National Association of Realtors. Also, it's not a risk-free move because the more time a potential buyer stays in a home, the more things they could question or dislike, Carswell says.

2. Hire housesitters

Staging is becoming more common, but some absent owners are taking it to the next level by hiring housesitters. Buyers also get the chance to buy the home fully furnished.

Getting a housesitter is something to consider in areas where there have been many vacancies and where you want buyers to have a sense of the neighborhood and someone occupying the home for security, Helfant-Browning says.

"People want to live in neighborhoods because there are people there," she says. "Not only does it help the property that’s being sold, it really is a benefit to the neighborhood."

Professional stager Barb Schwarz, chairwoman of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals and CEO of StagedHomes.com, says having someone live in the home adds another challenge to the staging process. She says another gimmick she heard being used in Florida involved hiring actors to "live" in a community during open houses.

"When the buyer comes in, you want the buyer doing one thing: to mentally move into a space. That's what staging does," says Schwarz, author of "Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money." "What we don't want are people in the way. It's about setting the scene and doing it in a way that features the space."

On second thought: Choose the housesitter wisely. You want someone who lives neatly and who will allow buyers into the home whenever they want to visit.

3. Offer incentives, incentives and more incentives

Builders continue to chip away at prices with special deals, some of which have taken $100,000 or more off the price of a home. But individual sellers also should consider price and other incentives that could entice a buyer to take a look.

"You have to attract their attention somehow," Travis says. "You want to create the buzz."

Travis' sellers have offered gas cards when prices skyrocketed or offered to pay for a year's worth of propane for an old house. He's sold condos in which the seller has paid for a year's worth of expensive homeowners fees.

Travis' most unusual sale happened when he advertised a free lakefront house with the purchase of a $405,000 pontoon boat that he says was "beat to hell." Travis says he was having a hard time selling the home, even though it was lakefront on a 300-acre New Hampshire lake, because it was on a cove lot without any beachfront.

When he advertised the house as free with the purchase of the boat, potential buyers came out just to see what was going on. The house eventually was sold, but the boat was turned down.

These and other incentives -- some sellers have offered free vacations and spa trips and boat and car leases for a year -- can get traffic through your door, Travis says.

Sometimes people see the concessions and realize the sellers are willing to work with them. "They realize they have a little more negotiating room," he says.

On second thought: Don't include items, such as lawn or recreational equipment, in the ad for the home. But during negotiations, you might want to throw in the pool table or lawn mower to help seal the deal.

4. Swap lives

Finding strangers with the same housing preferences and the desire to change homes might seem difficult, but it's happening, with some transactions aided by Web sites such as goswap.org and onlinehousetrading.com.

The chances are slim that you'll find a match of two perfectly equal homes in different locations, says Helfant-Browning, principal broker with Coldwell Banker Professional Realtors in Virginia Beach, Va. But, she says, the idea often works when one person with a lot of equity in a home wants to move up and the homeowner in the biggest house is willing to downsize.

"It's sound for someone with a large home who may be looking to move down and the move down isn't the home of their dreams, but it might make economic (sense)," she says.

On second thought: This could be the chance for an investment. Some people improve the smaller residence to sell when the market rebounds, or to rent it to generate extra income.

5. Sell to a builder

This is a version of the swapping idea, with the builder willing to buy your residence if you put a contract on one of the builder's new homes.

It's an investment decision on the part of a builder, who must decide how much it will cost the company to renovate and pay the mortgage, Helfant-Browning says.

Sellers shouldn't expect to make a hefty profit with this strategy. The builder typically will take it below the asking price because of the risk involved.

On second thought: If the buyer is "upside down" in the home -- they owe more than the home is worth -- it's more difficult to trade, Helfant-Browning says.

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