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By Sean Adkins

RISMEDIA, Oct. 27, 2008-(MCT)-The downturn in the local real estate market has not only affected agents, but also the professionals that help them sell homes.

Recently, local agents have requested Beth Fowler, owner of Home Presentation in Springettsbury Township, to stage more vacant properties than she has in the past.

“That makes sense if houses aren’t selling,” she said. “People have to leave them behind and go on. I bring in props like curtains, rugs, small furniture and decorations.”

Fowler stages for-sale houses to appear more like model homes than lived-in havens.

Between July 1 and Sept. 30, the number of homes sold in York County fell 31% from 1,506 properties in 2007 to 1,045 in 2008, according to data released by the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties on Wednesday.

During that time, the local median sale price of a York County home dropped 4% from $175,000 in 2007 to $168,000 this year.

“The economic news doesn’t paint a beautiful picture,” said Steve Snell, executive director of the association. “However, if someone is seriously looking to purchase a home and has a decent credit rating, this is a perfect time to buy a home. There are lending opportunities available and the selection of homes remains very high.”

While sellers continue to struggle to offload their homes, Fowler does offer some advice that might speed up the process.

“I tell my clients there are four keys to a good sale,” she said. “The first one is not staging, it’s price. If I have $200,000 to spend on a house, I won’t look at something priced at $100,000 and I won’t look at something priced at $300,000. If I look at the $200,000 house, I don’t want to see something that is priced wrong.”

Next, sellers should make sure that the area outside their home is well-maintained and check on the condition of the grass and trees, she said.

“I tell my clients to think of their home as a product,” Fowler said. “There are many products sitting on the shelf of a store and people are going to buy the one that looks the freshest. Realtors that I meet are telling me that staging is more important then ever before.”

A house on the market should appear as if someone can move in immediately, she said.

“That means that they won’t have to clean the grease off the stove or paint a wall that is painted some odd color,” Fowler said.

Copyright © 2008, York Daily Record, Pa.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.