The countdown begins!

You have researched the market, so you know that your property is competitively priced. You have completed all the necessary improvements and have made all the arrangements to handle the legal paperwork. Your fact sheet has been prepared and you are ready to sell. So now is the time to start "prospecting" for your "pot of gold" — a prospective buyer. Proper market exposure is the key to finding serious prospective buyers.

• Put up a "For Sale — Private" sign in your front yard. Place it at right angles to your house so that traffic from all directions can see it easily. Make sure that the telephone number is large and easy to read from a passing car. If you are not artistically inclined and cannot create a good-looking painted sign, we recommend that you buy a fluorescent one. Get a large size one. They cost very little but really are noticed.

•  Remember, the rule of thumb with signs is that they should stand out and the telephone number should be easy to read. Buyers usually drive around the areas in which they wish to buy a house, so the sign displaying your telephone number is the most important selling tool you have. The signs advertising your "open house" should be even larger.

•   Tell everyone that you are selling. You would be surprised how fast news travels. Many properties sell by "word of mouth", since prospective buyers are often delighted to move into a neighbourhood where they have friends already.

•  Advertise in your neighbourhood and city newspapers. Take time writing the advertisement. The headline should read "Private Sale" — this is a very important selling feature.

•   Mention the location, price, number of bedrooms and a couple of distinctive features, such as eat-in kitchen, main floor family room, pool-sized lot, fully updated, charming (older) or modern (see the example further down).

•   Make sure your advertisement can be seen among all the others. Tell the classified section of the newspaper to put a box around it or to do the heading in bold (heavy) type; these details cost a little more but it can pay off.

•   Look in the "Homes Wanted" section of your newspaper. There may be a prospect warming nicely on that back burner.

•   Advertise frequently, new people start to look in the paper at the beginning of each week. Newspapers give special rates for a full week's repeat advertising.

•  Put up notices in your supermarket, on the bulletin board at work, distribute flyers — in short, get the word out.

•  The telephone numbers (day and evening) you choose to give in your advertising must be answered. Keep a pad next to the telephone. If no one is available to answer calls, get an answering machine. Return calls promptly, if you don't show your interest you may lose a prospective buyer.

Sample Advertisement

FOR SALE — PRIVATE

Location. Style. Number of bedrooms. Number of bathrooms. Other exceptional features. Amenities.

$ Price                 Phone number

NO AGENTS PLEASE

 Keep a fact sheet beside the phone, so that you can refer to it when prospective buyers call. Having these facts set out in front of you will help you sound knowledgeable and calm especially if you are nervous.

•  During this initial contact, answer all questions precisely, but do not "oversell". Encourage callers to view the property. A home is never sold over the telephone.

•   Record all calls made about the house. If possible make appointments at the convenience of the caller. Always, make a note of their name and telephone number in case you have to change the appointment. Asking for names and telephone numbers helps to screen out "tire kickers" who might stand you up and waste your time.

•  Establish "telephone etiquette" for the duration of the sale. Never allow your small children to pick up the receiver. Dissuade your teenagers from frequent use. You might even offer the family car as a bribe to encourage them to go and visit their friends.

•  Hold "open houses". It's the part of house selling that most sellers dread — but they work. Many prospective purchasers will feel more comfortable taking a first look at a time when there is "safety in numbers". (See our pointers on how to manage open houses in Chapter 12: Showing Your House.)