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Selling Second Home

By Robert Irwin
How easy or difficult is it for an owner to directly sell a second home? Is there a better time to sell? Other techniques?
The process of selling a second home does not differ from selling your main residence. Both can be sold successfully by an owner. However, with a second home there are a number of new hurdles that you must jump over:
Showing The Home - In a second home, by definition, you're not going to be there most of the time. Typically we're talking about a vacation property that might be in or near a recreational area. You visit it on weekends or holidays. But, you're not there day in and day out. And therein lies the problem. How will you show the property? Remember, it must be available whenever buyers want to see it, if you want to sell.
One answer is to move into the second home, at least until it's sold. You can do your newspaper and Internet advertising and other marketing and be there to handle buyers. The problem, of course, is that most of us don't have the time for this.
Another alternative is to have a neighbor or friend who lives nearby be on hand to open the property for buyers. The problem, here, is that this just means opening it - no promoting its features, selling the buyer on the property and so on. Plus, you must be careful that the friend doesn't perform the duties of an agent without a license, lest you get in trouble with state regulatory agencies.
Finally, some areas have discount brokers who will take over the basic exposure of the home for a reduced commission. This is a compromise, but might be the best solution for some sellers.
Seasonality - Some properties are mainly used in winter, others in summer. Some are perfect for fall or spring. But, often second homes don't have year-round functionality.
That means that you probably won't be able to attract buyers during the off-season. Rather, you'll have to wait until the season is in full swing before buyers will look at your property. Thus, unlike a main house which, presumably, can be sold almost anytime, you'll have to pick and choose when during the year to offer the property for sale.
Market Cycles - Finally, all homes are affected by cycles in the real estate market. However, recreational property more so than any others.
While it might just be more difficult to sell a conventionally located home during a down cycle, it can be virtually impossible to sell a recreational home during such a period. The reason is that second homes are considered strictly optional.
When the economy's doing well and everyone has jobs, they seem like a terrific idea. On the other hand, when there's a recession, the first thing people cut back on are second homes. I once had a second home that I couldn't sell for nearly eight years during the recession of the '90s. After the turn of the century, however, it sold overnight (and I could have sold a dozen more if I had them!).
Second homes present special challenges to sellers. Yes, you can be successful. But, you must be creative and often, wait till the time is just right.
Bare land is a different story. Here there's not usually the problem of showing the property. Presumably, it's a lot that's easily accessed by almost anyone - after all, there's nothing on it! Would-be buyers can tramp all over sizing it up.
You can hang a "For Sale" sign on a tree or post with your phone number, web listing address and price and chances are, no matter how far away it is, someone who's interested will give you a call. The only caveat is that it often takes time to sell bare land. Waiting 6 months to two years or more for a buyer to come along would not be unusual. The good news is that buyers who do contact you about your lot are usually quite at ease buying directly from a seller.
Robert Irwin is the most prolific real estate writer in America having produced over 100 published books in the field. His TIPS & TRAPS McGraw-Hill series has sold well over a million copies and his FOR SALE BY OWNER KIT and FIND IT, BUY IT, FIX IT and other books have been strong sellers for Dearborn.
In addition Irwin writes a regular real estate column for The Wall Street Journal online and is introducing a new weekly column
Irwin has sold his own property "by owner" and during over 30 years in the business has been a broker and consultant to lenders, agents, buyers and sellers.
He can be reached through his website

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