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Tips from the pros... selling your house in a soft market-Interiors

It's no secret that the housing market has softened - gone are the days of simply sticking a sign in the front yard and waiting for numerous offers. However, it's also no secret that Southern

Oregon has some of the most desirable property in the country.

So how do homeowners maximize the efficiency of the sale of their home and get the best price possible? Through footwork and finding a knowledgeable real estate agent. To make the most of the professional relationship between seller and agent, a seller should fully disclose their financial situation, motivation and needs regarding the

sale of their house. This allows the real estate agent to make an educated suggestion about price.

"Pricing correctly in the current market is a big factor in determining if any particular home will sell," says Jack Latvala, broker at Star Properties in Talent. "But as important is how the home looks - you need something to set your home apart from others on

the market."

A team consisting of real estate agent, interior designer or home stager and homeowner should meet well in advance to create lists of any repairs and cosmetic enhancements that will help bring a timely sale.

Before investing in major upgrades, the team should check the neighborhood for like houses that are for sale. Compare prices, square footage, year built and upgrades.

If the situation warrants improvements, start at least four months before listing.

Here's a helpful guideline that Homelife has put together with tips and suggestions from local professionals to help you sell your home.

Updated kitchens and bathrooms nearly always add value; national real estate experts show returns of 80 to 105 percent on these investments. Good kitchen improvements include energy efficient appliances, stainless steel, new countertops, sink, paint and flooring. In the bath, choose new fixtures and tub and install double sinks, if possible. Recessed lighting will also catch a buyer's eye.

Replace outdated cabinets with neutral ones that complement the house design, upgrading hardware as well. If existing cabinets are decent enough to paint, ask a designer to help choose the right color.

"Upgrade to whatever's relevant at the time," says Chris Celine, owner of Medford Interiors. "That might mean natural stone if it fits the house and granite countertops." (But don't add granite unless other nearby houses have it; otherwise, you may be out-pricing your house - ask your real estate agent first.)

Start moving out. "Find a storage unit if you will still be occupying the house when it's listed," counsels broker Marie Donovan of Ashland Homes Real Estate. "This is for storing all the items removed for showings."

To make the house appear bigger and more inviting, brush on new paint. Carry a warm, neutral tone through every room.

Updating or adding crown mouldings and baseboards are affordable details. "Leave any good mouldings white to give the room some pop," Celine says.

Consider refinishing worn hardwood floors or modernizing the stain color. Carpets and tile need to be in good shape and very neutral in color and material. Replace anything bold, regardless of newness and value. Rip out flooring damaged by pets.

Finally, make sure walls and floors are consistent with the exterior. Don't surprise potential buyers with unexpected contrasts.

Declutter and depersonalize. Strip away family photos, personalized art and grooming accessories - just about everything personal needs to go. And remove at least half the furniture and knick-knacks. That's where the storage shed comes in handy.

"You are selling space, not your personal décor," says Colette Hokanson of Southern Oregon Staging in Medford. "Buyers are looking for a clean, peaceful house to make their own."

Remove anything that obstructs passageways. "Let's say a cabinet was put in front of a door, or someone used a room for other than what it was designed for," says Celine. "Take it back to its original use and flow."

Liberate all windows by moving away furniture and taking down heavy coverings.

Pay attention to details. "Have windows and carpets professionally cleaned, be sure all plumbing fixtures are in good working order and oil all hinges to get rid of creaks," says Donovan. "Remove and remedy all odor causing factors like smoking, kitty litter, pet dander and dead flowers or plants."

When showing the house, bake cookies, decorate with greenery and light lamps.

And remember: Don't get discouraged - there will always be buyers who want to live in beautiful Southern Oregon.

Home staging is the hands-on decluttering and rearranging of a home that's about to be put on the market.

"It makes your home warm and appealing so that potential buyers can imagine themselves living in your home," explains Colette Hokanson of Southern Oregon Staging in Medford.

Homeowners can either stage the house themselves or hire a professional. Doing the latter can help save time, frustration and even cost.

"Sometimes a homeowner will spend more time and money than they need to," says Chris Celine, owner of Medford Interiors. "A designer or stager can tell you what improvements to invest in and what to avoid. Clients often make back what it costs to hire a stager."

A professional home stager will provide tips on how to best ready the house for sale. With the homeowner, they will go room-to-room, making a list of things to fix, improve, replace, remove and obtain. They can also help arrange packing and set the house for optimum showing.

How can staging help a seller in a soft market? By quickening the sale and increasing the sale price of a home, says Hokanson.

"If potential buyers can imagine themselves in your space without all of the distractions of your life such as magazines, photos, clutter, dirt, they will be more likely to make an offer when compared to another similar home that is not depersonalized and cluttered," says the stager. "There are a lot of homes on the market. Staging helps your home stand out."

Tips from the pros... selling your house in a soft market-Interiors