Sold! — Lawrence housing market has some success stories

When Sarah Stirn put her house up for sale and received a bid three days later, she had one word to describe her feelings: ecstatic.

Never mind that the offer was $10,000 less than she and her husband, Jarvis, originally asked for. Given the slumping housing market, Stirn was relieved to sell her house at all.

“I was nervous,” Stirn says. “It can be very stressful. You have to make lots of decisions in what feels like a very short amount of time.”

But Stirn’s ecstasy was far from over. Her real estate agent knew of other home shoppers who were interested in the house, located in the 900 block of Tennessee Street. Before the Stirns accepted the first offer, she made some calls.

The next day, four days after she put her house on the market, Sarah received a full-price offer.

In this tough economic climate, selling a house in a reasonable amount of time can seem impossible. However, experts indicate that the housing market is improving, and the National Association of Realtors recently reported that pending sales of houses rose 6.7 percent nationwide in April, the largest increase in six years. Selling a house doesn’t have to be a challenge if you remember some simple steps.

Know when the time is right

The Stirns had practically given up searching for a new home when Jarvis found a house that suited their needs. Jarvis requires a wheelchair to get around, so the Stirns wanted a house that would not require major alterations to accommodate a wheelchair. When Jarvis found an affordable home with small ramps and wide hallways, the Stirns decided to put aside their apprehension and put their house on the market.

“We thought, now is the time,” Sarah says. “We had never seen a house that was so perfect for us.”

Jim Rome had been watching the housing market for approximately a year before he decided to sell his North Lawrence house, which he had lived in for 18 years.

“It seemed like the market was moving along pretty briskly,” Rome says.

But the market’s upturn wasn’t the reason Rome chose to sell. He finally found a West Lawrence house worth giving up his old home for.

“We didn’t know what it was going to sell for, if it was going to be hard or easy,” Rome says. “We had to get over that.”

Rome was pleasantly surprised when each of the first two people who looked at his house made offers. Rome accepted the higher offer and sold his home in four days.

Cut out the clutter

The most important thing to remember when selling your house is to keep it clean and organized, says Tanya Kulaga, who was the real estate agent for Rome and Stirns. Even simple things like rearranging furniture or painting can dramatically increase a house’s appeal to prospective buyers.

Both Rome and Stirn attribute their home-selling successes to removing clutter from their houses.

Rome moved items from his house to the garage to make the home appear roomier. Similarly, Stirn pulled furniture out of her home to maximize floor space. Stirn also applied some touch-up paint to the house.

“We didn’t do any major cosmetic work at all,” Stirn says. “It was mostly just straightening up.”

After going through a divorce, the burden of the cost forced Robert Janssen to sell his house in northwest Lawrence.

It took Janssen about a year and a half to get his house ready to sell. He cleaned, painted and made cosmetic changes, such as fixing trim around doors and repairing windowsills. He spent between $300 and $500 on fix-ups.

“That was one of the huge factors in selling the house so quickly,” Janssen says.

Janssen sold his home within 10 days of entering the market.

Listen to professionals

Janssen also believes his house sold quickly because of how his real estate agent marketed it. The real estate agent posted flattering pictures of the home on the Internet, Janssen says.

Getting advice from experts is important because they can offer objective opinions on what you should do to sell your house, Rome says.

“A lot of times people won’t listen,” he says. “They won’t de-clutter or they’ll price it too high. It blocks the sale.”

While Stirn agrees real estate agents can be helpful, she also warns sellers to feel comfortable with their decisions.

“You have to feel good about it,” she says. “Use them for advice, but ultimately do what feels good for yourself.”