When all the preliminary steps have been completed and a home is first offered for sale, sellers can expect responses from three separate groups: lookers, brokers and possible buyers.

Lookers are individuals who enter the real estate market for reasons other than the purchase of a home. Like many sellers and brokers, lookers may examine homes in a given area merely to check values. Some may make the rounds because of a fasciantion with interior design while others may view house touring as a form of entertainment, a way to relieve boredom on a Sunday afternoon.

Lookers will often state that they are indeed, "just looking." They rarely have questions of substance because lookers have not seriously considered the enormity of purchasing a home. Sellers who encounter lookers are best advised to practice their sales pitch. Lookers, after all, may have a friend who is a actively seeking a home.

Brokers will contact self-sellers for the central purpose of obtaining a listing agreement. Essentially, a listing agreement is a contract through which a broker secures the right to represent a property. There are different types of listing agreements, a subject to be discussed later.

The most basic, fundamental requirement for a broker entering a home is fair and open identification. Ethical brokers will immediately state who they are and ask permission to inspect the property.

In the case of an open house, brokers have the same right to visit a home as any member of the public. When a house is offered "by appointment only," brokers have a duty to state whether they wish to see the property as principals or as vendors offering a service.

While many brokers prefer not to approach self-sellers, others actively market their services to owners. Indeed, classes are offered to brokers which purpotedly explain how to get a listing agreement from a self-seller.

Owners should recognize that they have no compelling obligation to hear a sales pitch. But it should also be noted that many brokers offer constructive, intelligentadvice to self-sellers. Such brokers often operate under the theory that if the self-seller will not use their services perhaps they will at least recommend a broker with whom they have had good experiences to other owners.

After receiving hordes of lookers and brokers, sellers may begin to wonder if buyers should be classified among such mythical creatures as unicorns and forest devils. Take heart! Buyers do exist.

In may cases, buyers can be identified by the questions they ask. For a buyer, serious questions come easily. When was the roof last repaired? Where can I get financing? How close are the schools? Does the basement leak? Are there children of a certain age in the neigborhood? How long does it take to commute?

A seller should be able to answer such questions and to provide material evidence as well. Utility bills, tax receipts and area maps should be on hand. A well-prepared seller, like a well-prepared house, is a clear asset when your home is on the market.

Peter G. Miller teaches the course, "How to Sell Your House - With or Without a Broker," through the Consumer Information Institute in Washington.