FRESNO, Calif. – Sept. 19, 2008 – In a climate where foreclosures are a big presence on the real estate markers, traditional home sellers can face stiff competition.
"Sellers are frustrated," said Greg Kosareff of Realty World Strachan Gamber in Fresno. "They are not getting the traffic. There are so many (foreclosures), and they don't want to compete with their pricing."
Often, bank-owned houses carry deeply discounted prices and receive multiple offers from buyers hoping to snag a bargain.
But there are things homeowners can do - especially since, real estate agents point out, many purchasers aren't interested in bank-owned properties, which can be in poor condition.
"Put it up for sale," said Joan Jolly of Coldwell Banker Premiere Real Estate in Fresno.
"I have buyers who do not even want to look at a foreclosure or a short sale. A short sale can take so long, and foreclosures are not always a good deal. Hidden problems can come up afterward."
Jolly and other agents offered some tips to help traditional sellers compete. Much of the advice is real estate 101, but is relevant in today's market. Sellers and agents were able to ignore the basics during the real estate boom that ended in 2006.
"Fresh paint, declutter and clean," Jolly said.
Most houses have too much furniture, so she recommended moving much of it out. Family portraits on the wall are lovely to have - except when trying to sell the house.
"You don't want the rooms to look crowded," Jolly said. "Move the family pictures and wedding pictures. ... Move them out so the eye won't be drawn to them. Go visit a couple model homes, and you'll get an idea how sparsely decorated it should be."
Nancy Riggs, a real estate broker in Visalia, Calif., said a manicured front yard is an enticement.
"Street appeal is extremely important," she said. "The front door and trim should be painted. You want a garden with flowers. You want it very inviting from the front."
Riggs said homeowners should consider hiring a professional "stager" to make the interior presentable. A stager will bring in or take out furniture and accessories to make the property more attractive.
A clean and attractive house will often net a higher price. "Someone will walk into the home that has been staged and fall in love with it," Riggs said.
Professional stager Pam Milam of Reinvented Rooms in Fresno said prospective buyers will often linger longer in a house that is specially prepared. "Make it appeal to those not willing to buy a fixer-upper," she said. "You want to justify the price difference because your house is ideally turn-key."
Milam acknowledged that homeowners must weigh the cost of paying for the staging - which can range from a $300 consultation to a couple thousand dollars - against the potential reward. It's tough for some sellers to part with the extra money when houses are declining in value.
"They should consider staging in whatever form makes financial sense," Milam said. "It takes every trick in the book in the book right now to get a house to sell."
There is also remodeling - upgrading all-important kitchens and bathrooms and repairing anything that would turn off a prospective buyer. But this can be costly. The owners of a Fresno home Kosareff represents spent about $12,000 getting it ready for scrutiny.
However, some homes may need too much work or would fetch too little.
Terance Frazier, a foreclosure expert who works with investors, suggested that people hold off selling their houses.
He said he believes bank-owned properties will be nearly 70 percent of the market in a year.
"The average homeowner would be foolish to try and compete for a sale in this type of market unless there is absolutely no choice," he said.
And sometimes bank-owned houses are without major problems. The best way to be sure, Kosareff said, is to pay for a home inspection.
In many cases, the foreclosures carry discounted prices because lenders are eager to sell them. And people are eager to buy them.
Kosareff recently negotiated a deal where a two-year-old house with an original purchase price of $536,000 was sold out of foreclosure for $259,900.
The house in northwest Fresno had granite counter tops, upgraded appliances and received 13 offers. Kosareff's clients got it because they put 20 percent down and didn't ask the lender for any concessions.
Yet, those kinds of opportunities have helped boost overall sales, which have grown each month since January
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