Smart Moves by Ellen James Martin

Rushed Selling With Minimal Stress

A couple in their late 30s knew they were headed for divorce. But not long after the husband moved out, he shocked his ex by announcing he'd hired a real estate agent to sell their colonial house and that she'd have to prep the place for showings within a week.

"This created one of the most stressful situations in her life," says Abigail Wurf, the life coach who helped the woman navigate the crisis.

In this case, the move was all the more challenging because the couple's large, expensive home was packed with excess belongings that the homemaker and her two young children had stockpiled. The decluttering process alone which wound up taking a month.

"It took a lot of friends, a big Dumpster and a rented storage unit to clear out that place," Wurf says.

A life coach since 2009, Wurf specializes in helping clients, including those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, to work their way through crisis situations. But she says many of the same tips that help her ADHD clients handle a sudden move are generally applicable.

"Setting priorities and writing down all the steps, so you don't forget the details, helps everyone who has to move," says Wurf, the author of "Forget Perfect: How to Succeed in Your Profession and Personal Life Even in You Have ADHD."

Here a few other pointers for hurry-up home sellers:

-- Locate an assertive listing agent to represent you.

Wurf recommends you search for an agent with extensive experience selling properties in your particular community. Another key is to rely heavily on referrals from family members and friends who've sold in the same area.

Don't know anyone from whom to seek referrals? Another approach is to call the managing broker of a major real estate office in your area. Ask the broker to refer you to a veteran agent with a substantial track record selling homes similar to yours in your price bracket.

-- Survey the competition before pricing your property.

Before your home is listed and available to the public, your agent will undoubtedly suggest an asking price. But Eric Tyson, a personal finance expert and co-author of "House Selling For Dummies" says that prior to accepting any pricing recommendation, all sellers should do at least a nominal amount of research.

"Ask your agent for a list of properties near your home that have sold recently. Then get in your car and drive by these homes, noticing how they compare with your own," Tyson says.

If your drive-by tour raises questions in your mind about your agent's recommended listing price for your house, request a justification for it.

"At the end of the day, it's the owners, not the agent, who have the final say on pricing," Tyson says.

-- Ponder the idea of pricing a tad below rival properties.

Surprisingly, sellers in a desirable area can often receive more for their property if they price it just slightly below its apparent market value.

"Pricing a little lower than the competition can generate excitement. More people are likely to bid if they perceive the property to be a good value. And this can create an auction effect that could help you at the bottom line," Tyson says.

-- Seek to delegate much of the work of preparing your home for sale.

If you're selling during a crisis time of your life, chances are you'll have no more than a few weeks to get the home in showing condition.

One obvious way to cut back on your home preparation time is to hire contractors for work you might normally do yourself. Tyson says that sellers working against a tight deadline can get a lot more accomplished in a shorter time if they delegate.

"If you're short on money, it's understandable you'd resist paying people to do work you could do yourself, like painting and cleaning carpets. But if you're in a rush and your place must be sold quickly, it still makes a lot of financial sense," Tyson says.

-- Develop a contingency plan for your property's sale.

Sometimes even a home that's in good condition and correctly priced will fail to sell quickly for reasons hard to determine.

To avoid panic in this situation, Tyson recommends that people who must sell in a hurry due to a personal crisis develop a "Plan B" if they must move before their place is sold.

Perhaps you'll arrange for a trusted sibling to take responsibility for your home sale. Or maybe you'll want to "buy time" by renting out the house for six months or so.

Tyson says that developing a backup plan can help you avoid worst-case scenarios and let you focus more attention on the crisis you're facing.

"You've got to look at the big picture. What matters is not only your financial well-being, but also your emotional health," he says.

(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at ellenjamesmartin@gmail.com.)