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RISMEDIA, Jan. 22, 2007-(MCT)-Marsha and Chuck Ware put their four-bedroom Cape Cod in Lewisville on the market for $379,900 in early November, expecting it to sell right away.

After all, the waterfront property on Riverwood Drive in the Shallowford Lake subdivision has a great view and curb appeal, the Wares said.

But the couple moved out in mid-December to a new house on a much bigger lake, Lasater Lake in Clemmons, so now there's more urgency to sell.

The Wares are using their own ideas and many from their real-estate agent, Angela Kalamaras, a broker for Coldwell Banker Triad, Realtors, to help attract a buyer.
At every showing of the house on Riverwood Drive, Marsha Ware sets out cookies and coffee.

"It's trying to get people to try to feel comfortable while they are walking around," Kalamaras said. "It's amazing, when I get feedback, how many of the agents say, 'Please tell your seller thank-you so much for the refreshments.'"

Marsha Ware said she decided to leave the treats after thinking about what she would want when she walked into a house.

"When I decorate my houses, my goal is always for people to feel like they just want to curl up on a couch and read a good book," she said.

Unlike once-red-hot markets around the country where home sales have declined significantly, the Triad market is holding steady overall. But there are pockets where sales have slowed, and with winter typically harder to sell in than other seasons, real-estate agents in Winston-Salem said that a bit of extra effort to attract buyers should help.
Mary Preston Yates, a broker for Prudential Carolinas Realty, said that homeowners should get an updated market analysis, almost monthly, from their agent to have an accurate idea of pricing.

The market analysis should give sellers information about recent competition-the pricing of properties that have come on the market since their houses went on the market and what houses have sold during that same period.

Sellers need to check the condition of their property, and make improvements where needed.

Yates said that the property should be show-ready and in tip-top condition so that when consumers walk through the front door, there is a lasting, good impression.

Jodi Tate, the general manager for Coldwell Banker Triad, Realtors, said that sellers need to consider how a house shows or presents itself to potential buyers, including how it looks, smells and feels.

A strong marketing plan is also important.

Pam Boyle, a broker for RE/MAX Realty Consultants Inc., suggested advertising and promoting homes in real-estate publications and having "open houses."

More buyers are using the Internet as well, so listing agents should have a strong presence there.

Boyle often recommends that sellers offer incentives such as paying for a club membership for a year.

Sellers should start with a realistic price, and some agents said that the price should be in line with the condition of the property.

Tate said that pricing a property appropriately means that it could be priced at market value, but in some instances it may have to be priced lower than market value because it requires more work.

Agents recommended staging a house and making sure that it has curb appeal.

"Staging is all about maximizing space, creating flow in the house and maximizing light so that when someone comes into the house, they can actually envision something that they feel like they fit in," Tate said.

Sue Myers, a broker for Allen Tate Realtors, suggested using a professional to stage a home, which could mean they'll bring their own tables, lamps, or throw pillows when a house is vacant.

She recommended that people pick up clutter, paint in neutral colors, put children's toys in the playroom where they belong, put new towels in bathrooms and use a professional to clean the house inside and out.

Lights should be on everywhere in a house even when it's vacant.

"Even on the brightest, sunniest day, every single light in the house should be on because it just brings out corners," Myers said.

Myers also advised cleaning cabinets and storing away items. Rather than offer an allowance for such items as carpet, she prefers that sellers do the improvements.

Leonard Ryden Burr Real Estate recently listed a nearly $1 million home in Winston-Salem that had previously been handled by another company for six months.

The homeowner decided to tear out the kitchen after feedback from prospective buyers that the house needed a better kitchen for such an upscale-priced home, said Curtis Leonard, an owner of Leonard Ryden Burr.

Since then a prospective buyer has looked at the house and liked the idea of being able to put in a kitchen of his choice.

Houses really need curb appeal to get people in the door, so it's important to have a well-landscaped yard, said Brent Bruner, the owner of RE/MAX Realty Consultants.

"Sometimes people will pull up and look at the house and go, 'I don't think so,'" Bruner said. "It might have been the nicest house in the world inside, but you never got them inside."

Tate suggested that sellers have their houses show-ready every time they walk out the door and that they leave their homes during showings so that prospective buyers are comfortable with looking in closets and peeking in areas they may consider private.

"The other side of that coin is that often times when homeowners stay in the house, they might potentially damage their own negotiating on that property by giving away too much information," she said.

Before the Wares moved out of their Lewisville house, they had a daily routine to spruce things up. "You get up in the morning, take a shower and brush your teeth," Chuck Ware said. "Then you wipe the sinks and every thing out. You wipe the shower down."

The Wares are optimistic that their home will sell soon, especially with the good news they're getting from their agent. "The market has really picked up, particularly in the past couple of weeks," Kalamaras said.

Copyright © 2007, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.