Selling a home while you’re living in it can be trying during any market. Today’s sellers are generally looking at a longer marketing time than was the case a few years ago. Appropriate pricing for this changing market can shorten the misery. So can taking a few precautions.

The houses that look the best are the ones that get serious attention from buyers. Preparing a house for sale is more important than ever. Keeping it in pristine condition can be a challenge, particularly for sellers with small children and pets.

One benefit of decluttering your home before you try to sell it is that you’ll have less to clean up before a showing. Some sellers find it helpful to keep everyday essentials like toothbrushes and children’s favorite toys in plastic tubs. These can be hidden in a closet, under a sink or under a bed and brought out when the public is not around. Before showings, the tubs can be quickly filled and stashed away.

Your house should look its best when a prospective buyer comes through, so set up a showing procedure that requires agents to call in advance to let you know when they’re coming. This way, you’ll have time to straighten up the house before it’s shown.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Don’t be too restrictive with showings. It’s difficult to sell a house that can’t be shown. You need to strike a balance between accommodating buyers and saving your sanity. If a buyer wants to come on short notice, at a time that’s inconvenient, ask if it’s possible to reschedule. But keep in mind that some of the best buyers are relocating from elsewhere and may not have much flexibility in their schedule.

Most experienced real estate agents advise sellers to leave their home when it’s being shown to prospective buyers. Sellers should also be absent during open houses. The reason for this is that a seller’s presence can stifle a showing.

Buyers need to critically examine a property before they can decide to buy it or not. This is an important part of the sale process. It’s difficult for most buyers to talk frankly with their agent about a listing if the seller is home.

There will be times when leaving the house is out of the question. In such cases, make yourself scarce. Take a walk in the neighborhood; take the dog with you; or work in your home office. Don’t follow the buyers around your house pointing out attractive features. Leave this work to the agents.

Even though you may enjoy entertaining, try to keep home life simple while your house is on the market. Don’t plan big events and children’s sleepovers at your home. Taking the family out for dinner can provide a nice break, especially if buyers want to see your house after work.

Agents should not show up unannounced if the showing instructions in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) indicate that agents are to call the sellers before showing the house. However, if this happens more than once or twice, one option is to ask your agent to remove the lock box and leave it with you to put out when an agent makes an appointment. You don’t need to let an agent in who hasn’t followed the MLS instructions.

THE CLOSING: For some properties, and in some areas, it’s appropriate for the listing agent to show the property to buyers and their agents. However, this can restrict showings. The buyers will not only need to coordinate their schedules with their agents’ schedules, they also need to find a time that works for the listing agent.

Dian Hymer is author of "House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide," Chronicle Books.


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