This has been a strange year for real estate. The selling season began early and with full force, with homes being offered and sold at a healthy clip. But then someone hit the brakes and by May, which is usually a busy month, sales slowed considerably. We can argue about and analyze what happened in the spring of 2019, but the fact is that a good number of homes remained unsold, leading to a buyer’s market.

So let’s say that you’re one of the unfortunate sellers whose home is one of many still for sale in the township, all fairly priced and competing for the same dwindling number of available buyers. What do you do? How do you make sure that yours is one of the homes that will attract one or more good offers and you can move on with your life?

Sure, there are a number of things that can be done: lower your asking price; offer to contribute to the buyer’s closing costs; drive around at night and steal all the other For Sale signs. Just kidding about that last one. But one factor that will improve your chances of selling is to make your home the Shiny Penny.

The name comes from a simple psychological fact: Offer someone a handful of pennies and tell them they can take and keep one. Roughly 100% of the time your friend will choose the shiny penny you included in the batch. Why? They’re all pennies, right? All worth the same, no? That’s the point. If all the choices are the same, a person choosing will go for the Shiny Penny every time—the brightest and freshest-looking one, be it an actual penny, a piece of fruit, a merry-go-round horse or a house for sale.

So how do you make your house the Shiny Penny? It’s pretty straightforward: Fix it up. De-clutter it. Clean it up. Paint it. Make it look fresh, inviting and move-in ready. Buyers will no doubt be looking at homes that are similar to yours and in the same price range. They can choose something that will need TLC or cosmetic upgrades, or they can choose your home, the Shiny Penny. Guess who has a better chance of selling at a good price?

You can spend a good amount of money upgrading your house to sell it, which will definitely help you. But you can also do what’s within a more modest budget by following some practical painting tips and guidelines to make your home stand out in a good way. Do what you can, but do it. You can bet that someone else who’s selling won’t be, and you want to eat their lunch.

Bo Twerdowsky

Real estate agent, self-professed computer geek, grammar policeman, proud father of two. Opinionated, questioning, intolerant of stuffy sorts devoid of a sense of humor.