How to Beat the Bursting Housing Bubble

Many say that the housing bubble has burst and it's very difficult for people to sell their homes. Housing sales have decreased dramatically the past few months, and housing prices are falling all across the country. Many homeowners are still holding on to unrealistic expectations and many would-be buyers are making ludicrous lowball offers, so the market is basically at a stalemate. As inventories jump, prices will have to plummet. Many don't expect it to get better until at least 2008.

Last year and part of this year, home prices skyrocketed to ridiculous levels. And now, no one wants to be the last person to have paid way too much to buy a house.

If you own your house and waited too long to sell, I've got a few tips to help get your home off your back:

1 - Start with your Real Estate Agent - Make sure your current agent has a ton of experience. Used to be you could hire any agent, with only 2 months on the job, and the house would sell before her or she pounded the "For Sale" sign into the ground. No more. Get someone with experience, name recognition in the community, and superior sales skills.

2 - A Proactive Agent - Get an agent that will truly "pound the pavement" for your listing. You need a proactive agent that will be out there, moving and grooving on your property. Many of the newbie agents that got into the biz over the last two years will be in "career change" mode in the next few months. The real agents who know how to work will be the ones who survive this cycle. Find one who will work for you!

3 - Know an Agent's Quality - A great agent will guarantee his or her service in writing. A bad one would run for the hills from a guarantee. A great agent will not make you sign a long term listing agreement. A bad agent will freak out if you won't sign a fat contract. If it's not working out, you need to be able to cut the cord.

4 - All the World's a Stage! - Hire a "stager" to go through your house and make your house sellable. Many people wrongly think staging is too expensive. Not true. It's about being creative, not spending money. It's actually possible to sell your home "as is" (and not stage) and lose money.

5 - Realistic Pricing Plans - You're not going to get the big profit you thought you would. Plan accordingly for a much more stingy market. Let your agent do the research on the right price for your home, in your neighborhood. I would recommend not leaving your house on the market too long (and expect some really low lowball offers.) If you've already moved and cannot sell, consider renting the house out at a reasonable rate to help provide some relief.

6 - Self Staging - You're a Do-It-Yourselfer, huh? Okay. Know this - any wild and crazy decorations, furniture, fixtures, colors, and designs in your house will turn off the average John Q. Public homebuyer. You might have the most clever and eclectic taste on the planet. Your artsy friends think your house is "to die for!" But dark, rich colors on the walls and ultra-modern furniture can turn off today's picky buyer.

- To save money, make sure you have Curb Appeal: manicure the front lawn, add some colorful flowers, paint the shutters, trim bushes, paint the front door a nice neutral color, brush falling leaves off the roof, etc. Lay down sod if the summer beat up your grass. Add a new doormat.

- Is any room in your house red? Blue? Bright green? School bus yellow? Paint it. Creams, whites, pale yellows, coffees, and light earthy greens. With white trim around the doors. Use an eggshell paint to keep off fingerprints and make it easy to clean before an Open House.

- Declutter. Remove those piles of books, magazines, and newspapers. Less is always more. Remove anything and everything knick-knacky. Take out all your family photos. They want to picture themselves living there. Again, less is more. Makes the house look and feel bigger.

- Check under your 70's orange shag rug and pray someone put hardwood floors there. Pull it up, rent a buffer (or hire someone to simply re-finish the floor), and you've got an inexpensive way to add home value.

- Turn cluttered kid's rooms into a guest bedroom. Not everyone has or likes kids. It could turn them off to see a pink bedroom with ponies and stuffed animals.

- Steam clean the carpets. Remove pets to the Mother-in-Law's house (you might be used to the odors, but...) if you have them. Use new fresh towels, candles, and flowers during an Open House.

- Replace blinds. Keep curtains open during showings - natural light sells.

- Make sure the house has "feature cards" in every major room (sell features, such as 'air conditioning', 'new water heater', 'finished basement') for showings.

- Get rid of dirty clothes, trash in waste baskets, mail on counters, make it look like no one lives there. Or a photo layout in "Metropolitan Homes.

Good luck in selling your house!