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What You Need to Know to Sell Your Home in Spring 2013

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Daylight savings time is here and the evenings are longer, we're having some warm days, and the daffodils are poking through the soil. Spring is coming and it's time to get your home on the market, which will entail some critical decisions about your online ad.

About 90% of homebuyers shop online, even though most also use a real estate agent. A sloppy ad prepared by you or your agent can prevent you from reaching hour hottest prospects, or land your home on agents' unofficial blacklists.

Among the common online mistakes, says HSH Associates, the real estate data firm: a price that will eliminate your home from some buyers' searches.

A seller who wants to ask $300,000, for instance, may set a price of $299,900, following a time-honored strategy to make an item look cheaper. But that would eliminate the home from searches specifying a minimum price of $300,000.

It could also backfire if you hoped to get $300,000 but listed at $310,000 on the chance of getting a few thousand more. You'd be filtered out of all searches specifying a maximum price of $300,000.

In the old days, this wasn't as problem, because the agent would likely bring a home to the buyer's attention even if the price was just outside the buyer's range. Online search functions aren't that smart.

Next, look at a few online listings at well-known sites such as Realtor.com, Zillow.com or Trulia.com. You'll see immediately that the best listings have 20 or more photographs. Listings with only one or two -- or none -- look half-hearted. The shopper is likely to pass them by.

So it's worth paying extra for a good battery of photos, preferably taken on a sunny day. And if you have to take them in the winter, replace them as soon as possible with more colorful spring shots showing leaves and flowers.

Also, clear the clutter and have the furniture in order before snapping your shots. Though buyers know an unmade bed in a photo shouldn't be important, things such as this are a turn-off that could cost you a sale. Buying a home is an emotional process.

Keep in mind that no one buys a home online. Your pictures are meant to generate in-person traffic, and they should conform to what buyers and agents will see when they come. Photos that carefully conceal damage or a neighbor's home that intrudes on backyard privacy will infuriate anyone who learns the truth on a visit. Though you might assume that luring many shoppers will enhance your sale prospects, the strategy could backfire if agents feel you've wasted their time and badmouth the property to their clients. The ad's pictures and written description should be honest.

Finally, in preparing an online ad or reviewing one done by your agent, look carefully at the search criteria buyers can use to filter out properties that don't fit their requirements; an online search is a process of elimination, not inclusion. On many sites, the full list of criteria is found by clicking the button labeled "advanced search," "filter" or "more search options."

So if your property has a view, be sure to check that box or say so in keywords window. If the community has a pool and tennis courts, note that too. Put in the acreage and square footage, and if your home could be considered a farm or ranch, be sure to say so.

And make sure you haven't inadvertently checked the wrong box -- calling your dream house a mobile home when it's not.

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