Donna Goings, who's sold homes since 1985, has a wide-angle view of the home-buying market. Thinking back, she says it's only been within the last 10 years that buyers have become acutely energy-conscious.
Due to increased environmental awareness, Goings, a realty company owner affiliated with the Council of Residential Specialists (www.crs.com), says, "There's more of a stigma on buying a large, energy-consumptive house."
Because of this new trend, Goings says it can be difficult to sell an exceptionally large property, one with more than 5,000 square feet, especially if it still has outdated heating and cooling systems or poor attic insulation.
Art Godi, a real estate broker and past president of the National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org), says Americans are increasingly ambivalent about ownership of large homes, given the high costs of maintaining them.
Energy costs aren't the only issue. It's also costly to keep a large property clean and in good repair. Then, too, there are major expenses to maintain the elaborate landscaping that typically surrounds many McMansions.
Sid Davis, a veteran real estate broker and author of "A Survival Guide to Selling a Home," advises sellers of very large houses of the importance of setting a realistic list price, which could mean asking less per square foot than for a smaller property in the same area. It's also important that you market the place strategically.
Here are a few pointers for home sellers:
-- Consider the international market for your large property.
One way to widen the pool of prospective buyers for a large, upscale home is to consider potential purchasers from abroad who have the means to buy and maintain an expensive property.
"The Web has made selling property to foreign nationals a lot more realistic. Real estate investment has gone global. For example, there are now many Chinese, Canadian and Latin American buyers searching for homes in the U.S.," Davis says.
Of course, not every neighborhood can attract well-to-do buyers from other countries. Could your large place have international appeal? That's plausible if you're located within or near a cosmopolitan city, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York or Miami. It could also be viable if it's set in an area with great scenery and beach views, like La Jolla, Calif.
Though an increasing number of listing agents are now aware of the overseas market, few have been specially trained to sell homes to this category of purchasers.
"It's important that you find an agent with experience dealing with foreign buyers," Davis says.
As the market globalizes, there's increased interest in the field within the membership of the National Association of Realtors. By going to the organization's website, you can find agents in your area who've earned the designation of "Certified International Property Specialist."
-- Ask your listing agent to create a website for your house.
Those seeking to market a very spacious house are often well advised to obtain a professionally designed website for the place -- one that showcases the property to the well-heeled buyers who can afford it.
"Face the fact that it can cost money to market your home to discerning buyers. It's not enough for the listing to simply appear on your agent's website. You need your own online presence," Davis says.
Once your website is live, how do you attract traffic to it? Davis recommends that you and your agent invest in classy advertising in newspapers and magazines that target upscale audiences.
-- Promote the energy-saving features built into your place.
Does your large house have features such as a "zoned" heating and cooling system, which permits sections of the property to be shut off when not in use? Does it also have energy-efficient appliances, including a state-of-the-art refrigerator that will convey in the sale?
If so, Godi says these features should be promoted in your marketing materials.
Besides the use of online and print marketing materials, Godi suggests you advertise your energy-smart house with a rider attached to your For Sale sign.
-- Seek out contractors' estimates for energy-saving improvements.
Was your jumbo-sized house constructed with little attention to energy efficiency, and there's little you're willing to do to upgrade it before it hits the market? In that case, how can you allay the worries of potential purchasers who fear jumbo-sized utility bills?
Goings suggests you call in contractors for bids on energy-saving work, such as attic insulation and new windows. Then give these bids to prospects, so they'll know how much it would cost to redo your place to save energy. Also, give them copies of your recent utility bills.
"It always helps when buyers see the numbers. That way they won't be in the dark about the cost of all the changes they'll want and need to do to your house," Goings says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)