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SELLERS LOOKING for an edge to grab the eyes and checkbooks of buyers in today's market have various incentive options available.

Low price is one alternative, although no one likes taking potential money out of his or her pocket. Picking up a portion or all of the buyer's closing costs can be a major incentive -- especially for first-time purchasers who generally have been forced to raid the piggybank to pay the upfront costs.

Tangible objects many times are included in a deal. A seller may agree to leave certain appliances, carpeting or a dining room chandelier, reasoning that if it makes the deal go, it's easy to pick up another refrigerator.

Appliances, paying closing costs and lowering the sales price are the usual come-ons to potential buyers. But what about offering as an enticement a Mercedes Benz coupe?

Would tooling around town this summer in a Mercedes be incentive enough to get you to sign papers for a home purchase? Apparently, a homeowner in Amherst thinks so. Stovroff & Herman Realtors recently advertised a $340,000 large, all-brick, custom home, with a package of amenities, including an in-ground swimming pool, marble foyer, circular staircase and that famous German-made automobile.

The "buy-a-house, get-a-car" incentive is more attuned to the West Coast or Florida, where million-dollar properties and multiple stimuli are a way of life. But Buffalo? And a Mercedes?

"Incentives are relatively rare in this area," said David Eckel, a partner in Stovroff & Herman. "Usually, you see incentives with new construction, where if you buy by a certain date, you get something."

Most local real estate experts felt that incentives of some kind have been part of the Buffalo market for many years. But market conditions generally dictate the kind and extent of what sellers are willing to offer to entice buyers.

"We see a lot of positive benefits from offering incentives," said Peter Hunt, president of the residential real estate division of Hunt Real Estate. "Buying a home is a very emotional experience for most people, and they like to be able to point to concrete things which they were able to get for their money. They'll say 'I bought a home and got X with it.' "

How long homes remain on the market can dictate how far sellers are willing to differentiate their three-bedroom, two-story Colonial from the 20 similar homes on the multiple listing system. Interest rates also have a large influence on incentives.

As does the time of the year. Extras offered in the winter can entice buyers out into the cold, said Thomas Doran, president of Potter Realtors.

"Incentives are more likely when rates go up," said Adele Littlefield, director of training and public relations for Century 21's Buffalo regional office. "Many times, when a person must leave the area quickly due to a job change, incentives are used."

"Market conditions dictate incentives," said Jerry Thompson, owner of Century 21 Marshall-Thompson Real Estate in East Aurora. "Higher commissions to agents, sales-price reductions and sellers paying partial or all of a buyer's closing costs generally are offered."

Kitchen appliances many times are made part of a home deal package. Also, curtains, drapes, furniture or a riding lawn mower to handle that large piece of property are thrown in as part of the final negotiations.

"Very often a buyer sees a home as it is and falls in love with it," said Frank Pack, a Buffalo real estate attorney. "Then you take all of the furniture out and they hate the house. It's better to leave the items because most of the time the appliances, the furniture won't fit into the new home."

But sellers must be careful in how much personal
property is included in a sale. A property must substantiate its value on its own, matching its appraisal, without add-ons like rooms of furniture or kitchens full of appliances.

Price reductions and sellers picking up closing costs may become more common incentives due to current market conditions, Thompson said.

"This area is now becoming a buyer's market; you should see more and more sellers willing to pay closing costs," Thompson said.

Or perhaps another Mercedes could hit the market, complete with built-in garage. Stovroff's Eckel said that the Amherst property offering the car has had good activity since advertising began. The sellers are willing to let the car go for $25,000 -- with the house available with or without the wheels.

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