PhotoLettiann Southerland is a Kansas City area real estate agent and a foodie. Despite the fact those two things have little in common, she has combined them in a new book, "Homes that Cook: Best Kept Secrets for Buying, Selling and Creating a Home."

The book offers tips for selling your home but also includes more than 100 pages of recipes and cooking tips.

"I have taken two very happy areas of my life and combined them in a book of real estate buying and selling tips along with delicious family recipes, with the hope that they will enrich people's lives and their quest for a home that cooks," Southerland said.

Recipes are fine but for someone hoping to sell their home this spring the part dealing with real estate will probably be more useful.

There are tips you may have heard before – things like having the closets half empty and changing to higher wattage light bulbs.

On the other hand, there are probably some that could be new to you. Several have to do with holding an open house, a staple of real estate marketing.

Open house dos and don'ts

For example, don't attend your open house. Most Realtors will suggest the same thing for a very good reason. When you are looking at real estate you don't want to worry about offending the owner with very pointed and critical questions. But if you're going to buy the house, those questions have to be asked.

Don't hang around your open house pretending to be a potential buyer. Southerland calls that “crazy behavior” that will likely drive away people who might actually make an offer. If you want feedback, ask your agent.

Schedule your open house at a normal time. In most markets, that's Sunday afternoon. Southerland says there is something to be gained by scheduling your open house when other houses will be open. People who go to open houses usually like to visit several.

Your neighbors are curious and may want to see your house. Instead of contemptuously dismissing them as “Lookie Lous,” Southerland says you should embrace them. Your neighbors can be good assets because they may know people who want to live in the neighborhood and can tell their friends about your property. Invite them to your open houses and offer flyers they can pass along.

You can provide hospitality for your open house visitors but Southerland says going over-the-top could end up detracting from the event. After all, people are there to see real estate.

Still, she says there's no harm in providing cool drinks on a hot day to make buyers more comfortable. It could actually motivate them to stay longer and see more of the house.


When considering when it put your home on the market, consider seasons. What time of year will highlight its best features?

A roaring fireplace in winter or beautiful spring blooms may help you get a better offer.

When your property is being shown the showing agent should have full access to the property, including outbuildings. Unless safety is an issue, Southerland says you should not make any rooms, closets, or areas off limits to potential buyers.

Finally, the most important tip has to do with price. All other things being equal, if the price is too high the home will sit on the market.

If you want the home to move quickly, Southerland suggests having an appraisal to determine the market value of the home, then pricing it 15% to 20% below that.

This may sound counterintuitive, but in many markets this will likely cause a bidding war between potential buyers that may drive the price up even higher than it's worth.

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