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Beating Those Holiday Blues

By Kathryn Holzka
For the Journal
          Homeowners trying to sell their homes in the upcoming holiday season, take heart.
        While it's a traditional time for a slowdown in sales, there are still good prospects for owners willing to take an active role in marketing their homes.
        The success formula? Work in conjunction with your real estate broker by telling everybody you know — from next door neighbors to fellow shoppers in the supermarket — that your home is for sale. And declutter, depersonalize and "stage" your home to present its best features to prospective buyers.
        Highlight potential
        "Attractive decorations keyed to the appropriate holiday can really help buyers see the house as their potential home," said Kate Southard, of Kate Southard Real Estate in Albuquerque.
        Southard said the first-time buyer's stimulus, which ends Nov. 30, has been a boost to sales in all price ranges but that the end of the program could adversely affect sales as we enter the usually slower sales market from November to February.
        The upside of the equation, however, is that sellers willing to take an active role in marketing their homes can see to it that their house is a standout among comparable homes on the market.
        "I tell my clients to take heart because buyers house hunting in these holiday months are usually very serious and will buy when they see the home they want, so it is worth the extra effort and perhaps some inconvenience to leave the house on the market during the holidays," she said.
        Talia Freedman of Signature Southwest Properties in Albuquerque agreed. "I tell my clients that regardless of the time of year, the best house still sells when it is priced appropriately and presented really well to show off its most interesting facets," she said.
        The right pricing and location are still the big motivators, she said, "but the visual impact your home makes is also a key factor in a successful sale."
        Consider staging
        Freedman said her best advice to sellers is to view their homes, both inside and out, as objectively as possible and to pay attention to the entire experience the buyer will have when seeing the home for the first time.
        Both real estate brokers said they frequently utilize the services of a professional stager to help homeowners declutter, depersonalize and rearrange their homes for maximum eye appeal and visual impact of the home's best features.
        Staging a home for sale doesn't have to be pricey. Often it can cost well under $500.
        Professional stagers work with homes in all price ranges and can often help close the sale in a shorter time, said Crissi Letherer, a stager and owner of Bow Wow Blues, a country pet supply store in Albuquerque.
        "Homeowners stop seeing their home objectively because they live there all the time," she said. "A stager has a lot less emotional attachment to 'their things' and can rearrange rooms for more visual appeal."
        Decluttering is often the biggest problem, especially in a home for sale while the family is still trying to live a normal life, she said.
        Seek to stand out
        Whether you use a stager or want to try your own hand at it, the thing to remember is that as a seller, your objective it to make your house stand out from all the other comparable homes for sale.
        Becca Groves, a professional stager based in Albuquerque, emphasized that stagers are not home decorators: "Our objective is to not distract the prospective buyer with your stuff but to allow them to see the home as the right place for their stuff. You want to draw the eye into the room, so often we ask homeowners to store a lot of their stuff to declutter the house, then rearrange what's kept for display for maximum visual appeal.
        "The idea is to find that fine line between not being too austere and not looking like a decorator just came through it. If you're successful, that fine line is where buyers will see your home as their home, and that means a successful sale," she said.
        The importance of staging, says stager Hazel Thornton of Albuquerque, is to show off your home's best features, which are too often lost in the owner's personalized decorating scheme, especially during the holidays.
        "If buyers come into your home and feel like they're visiting instead of house hunting, they're not seeing the home's best assets, the features that they are looking for in their future home," she said.
        "You have to really step back and distance yourself from sometimes strong emotional attachments to all your things," she said. This means stowing a lot of the furniture, art and prized decorations you might have.

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