5 Real Estate Mistakes to Avoid

We've been hearing for months that the housing market is lousy. There's 18 months worth of inventory out there and houses, depending on where they are, can sit on the market for as long as 8 months to a year, experts said.

Here's what some real estate agents identify as the five worst mistakes you can make in a declining market:

5: Not hiring a professional real estate agent. "Ninety-five percent of the people that are purchasing are working with a buyer's agent. If you do for sale by owner, by yourself you are eliminating that 95 percent of the market," said Artrice Clark, of Keller Williams Gold Coast. Citicondo.com's Patrick Schell said that only 2 percent of successful home sales are For Sale By Owner.  "It's a numbers game," he said.

4: Not maximizing your marketing -- particularly on the Internet. Eighty to 90 percent of buyers start their search online, according to Roger Lautt, of WeSellChicago.com.  Lautt -- a 25-year real estate veteran -- also stressed the use and quality of photos.  "I will not put something on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) until I have all the photos ... people love photos and a number of those people may not go back to look it up again because it has no photos."

3: Not making your home accessible.  When a seller has trouble making appointments, "there is so much more inventory we can look at," Schell said.   "If a property isn't accessible and somebody makes a request to see it, and you aren't able to show it to them, it's quite likely that they aren't going to come back," Lautt added.

2: Not considering your home's condition.  Declutter, depersonalize and fix any problems. A stager can be a big help, too. Frank Riordan, whose town home is at 2501 N. Wayne in Lincoln Park, didn't believe in staging at first, but changed his mind.  "It shows wonderfully, and the staging does help make it look better," he said.  Rita Rodgers, at 2825 N. Mozart in Logan Square, focused on the decluttering project her agent Roger Lautt recommended.  She boxed her personal items and stored them in her basement. She also spent $15,000 on fix-ups including a major overhaul to her hallway entry. "Roger said to me you have a real problem with your hallway. People make up their minds in the first 30 seconds, and I was stunned! So I had the whole hallway re-done," Rodgers said.

1: Not making sure the price is right.  If your property is overpriced, you'll drive away buyers -- some may not even come and take a look, realtors said.  "The market is determined by what people have paid for similar houses like yours within that last 3- to 6- month period," Artrice Clark said.  Frank Riordan thought he'd priced his townhouse correctly, but it's been on the market now since last March. Now, after several price reductions, he feels he's really learned a real estate lesson the hard way. "I really wish that we had dropped the price quicker, " he said. "I hope that we are at the point where it is aggressive enough for the market to sell."

As an incentive, Riordon is including a 50-inch flat screen TV with the purchase price. His agent Patrick Schell is offering the buyer's agents a cruise.

It's a great time to be a buyer.

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