When the custodial company manager and his schoolteacher wife put their ranch-style house on the market, the place was completely prepped: clean carpets, new kitchen cabinets and fresh paint throughout. Still, the sellers fretted.
"Just one day into the listing, I got a call from the sellers saying they were losing lots of sleep. Right out of the gate, they were frantic their house wouldn't sell and they couldn't contain their anxiety," recalls Sid Davis, the real estate broker who listed the property.
Davis says the couple's worries were baseless. Year after year, houses sell well in their coveted, middle-income neighborhood. Given the strong schools in the area and the excellent condition of their property, Davis knew the couple would also do well on the sale of their place -- a solid 1970s-era three-bedroom house with a big family room and a sizeable backyard.
As it turned out, the couple didn't have long to worry. Their house sold in just two weeks and for nearly their full asking price, allowing them to move forward with their dream move.
Davis, the author of "A Survival Guide to Selling a Home," says it's common for home-sellers to worry and that anxiety is prevalent in strong real estate markets as well as weak.
Real estate prices are rebounding in many communities, and inventories are shrinking. Logically, such positives should help calm sellers' nerves. But many anxious sellers still call their listing agent several times a day in search of reassurance.
Davis says sellers caught in a web of worry only make it tougher to deal with the selling process.
"Fear can make it much harder for you -- not to mention your agent -- to get your home sold," he says.
Here are several pointers for sellers:
-- Resist the urge to pressure your listing agent.
In the early days after his family's ranch-style house went up for sale, the Davis' custodial manager fretted that he should have made more improvements to the property.
"He kept asking me if he should have replaced his carport with a two-car garage, because many neighbors' houses had garages. But I told him he would have recovered only 60 percent of his investment in the garage. Unfortunately, this was just one of his many queries," Davis recalls.
Putting pressure on your listing agent might seem helpful at the time. But it can backfire if the agent feels harassed and starts to resent your non-stop calls and emails, Davis says.
-- Don't view open houses as a panacea.
The longer a home stays on the market, the more likely it is that the owners will ask the listing agent to conduct repeated open houses.
But many real estate pros, such as Dorcas Helfant, a former president of the National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org), say that open houses provide little benefit.
Instead of pressing your listing agent to conduct more open houses, Helfant says you might consider asking for an "office caravan" to gain tips on making your place more saleable. During such an event, a number of agents from the same office will come through to critique the property and offer low-cost ideas for a better presentation.
Davis says the reason it's rare for homes to sell during a public open house is that few who visit are serious buyers.
"Lots of these folks are just 'looky-loos.' They're curious neighbors or, believe it or not, they're people who make a hobby out of going to open houses every weekend," he says.
-- Face the reality that asking too much is a self-defeating strategy.
Prices are rising currently in many neighborhoods. But Davis says some owners -- who've been sitting on the sidelines waiting to sell for several years -- are now tempted to overprice. This is especially likely if their home has been "underwater," meaning they owe more on the mortgage than the home is worth.
"They get excited and go overboard on price. They think it's a good idea to test the market. But they go too far, and it backfires," Davis says.
Pricing correctly has always been difficult, particularly in neighborhoods where values are changing rapidly. In such areas, a careful review of very recent sales of similar properties -- known as "comparables" -- is all the more important.
"Remembering the economic downturn, buyers are still worried they'll overpay. They're very educated on home values, so you can't trick them into overpaying. If you ask too much, they'll just ignore you and never make an offer," Davis says.
-- Let go of stress with a cleaning blitz.
Davis has sold property since 1984, and during that time he's observed a gradual decline in the cleanliness of homes shown for sale. His explanation? There are more single-parent and dual-income families who are too busy to keep up with housework. Yet more than ever, current buyers want a property that's exceptionally clean and free of clutter.
Homeowners who are anxious their property won't sell would do well to channel some of their nervous energy into an old-fashioned cleaning blitz that covers every inch of their property, according to Davis. That's because showing a home in sparkling condition can give you a competitive edge over less-tidy properties in the same area.
"You get a huge return on your time when you do the work to ensure your home is spotless. Believe me, you'll stand out if your house is super clean," Davis says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)