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For home sellers, steps to take to avoid turning off buyers; Advice includes getting rid of clutter

Home sellers find interest heats up in the spring as many families look to get settled in a new place before the school year starts in August.

But the traditional March-through-May buying season can be a dud for sellers who don't deliver what they promise or who stand over buyers as they open cupboards and peek in bedrooms.

"Some sellers are their own worst enemies," said Michael Citron, an agent for RE/MAX ParkCreek in Broward County, Fla.

Here are five things that turn off prospective buyers:

*A cluttered house or one that smells. When sellers have too many possessions, buyers have a hard time imagining themselves living there. Sellers should put their stuff in storage -- or move out altogether, if possible.

Pet odors also are a big turn-off, as is a house that reeks of cigarette or cigar smoke. "If buyers smell smoke, they'll walk out immediately," said Jon Klein, an agent for Real Living 1st Choice Realty in Coral Springs, Fla.

*False or misleading advertising. Sellers and their agents stretch the truth by claiming a home has four bedrooms, but the fourth room isn't a bedroom because it doesn't have a window and closet.

Joanne Caouette, a Canadian looking to buy in Broward, said one home was advertised as waterfront but only had a water view. "It's a waste of our time," she said.

*Sellers not committed to selling. Some sellers want to test the market, then waffle when buyers show serious interest. Others ignore offers or are insulted by what they consider low bids.

"No offer is insulting," said Bob Melzer, an agent for the Keyes Co. in Boynton Beach, Fla. "It's a point to begin."

Wishy-washy sellers don't use lock boxes that give agents quick access, or they're not accommodating when it comes to scheduling the homes for showings.

"If you want to sell your house, there should be very few times when you can't show it," said Cathy Prenner, an agent for Campbell & Rosemurgy in northeast Broward.

*Overpricing the house. Many sellers are too attached to their homes and think they're worth more than they are, agents say.

Even though prices are beginning to stabilize, a seller who misses the target likely won't generate much interest.

Before hiring an agent, interview several. They almost certainly will have documentation that shows what comparable homes in the neighborhood are selling for.

*Sellers who stay for the showing. This is a pet peeve of buyers and agents, who say sellers should be long gone when prospective buyers show up.

The buyers want to be free to tour the homes without the owners present. They don't want to carry on a conversation or listen to why the sellers think they should buy the house.