How an Owner's Manual Can Help Your Home Sell

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – In today’s tough housing market, a seller is wise to take special care in selecting a real estate agent, such as interviewing top full-timers in the area, checking references, and making sure your pro has a personality buyers will respond to.

But no matter how good your agent may be, it can pay to get involved in the sales process yourself, either by being present for showings or by providing printed materials to help buyers visualize life in the home. Be careful, though, because even providing seemingly innocent details like the availability of playmates and churches could violate the anti-discrimination rules of the federal Fair Housing Act.

Why get so involved when you’ve got a pro working for you? Because once the home is listed, reality sets in: Most buyers have agents of their own, so a good number of showings will be conducted by strangers. On many of these visits, the prospective buyer's agent may be seeing the property for the first time. Some agents might even bad-mouth your home in the hope that their client will instead pick one of the agent’s own listings (so the buyer’s agent won’t have to split the commission with yours).

You could insist that your own agent be present for all showings, but that could reduce the number of showings because of schedule conflicts. So how do you make the best of the situation? Think about providing an "owner’s manual" that answers questions that buyers are likely to ask.

For instance, how long is the commute to town, or how far is the nearest train station or airport? An agent might provide a general idea, but you could print out routes from Google Maps. You can also answer basic questions like where to shop for food, where to go for entertainment, or any recommended plumber or lawn care firms nearby. Maybe you even have a list of doctors and babysitters, or people to maintain the furnace and air conditioning? Maybe you can offer tips for maintaining the garden, telling the prospective buyer what grows well and what doesn’t, and what fertilizer works best on the lawn.

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