Like most real estate agents these days, Lori McGuire has had to step it up a bit to get buyers to sign a contract. A Realtor in Orange County, Calif., McGuire is working with three different builders in Covenant Hills, a gated community in the master planned development of Ladera Ranch. Prices start at about $3 million.

“Some of the things we do have to do with the financial part,” she says. “We introduced a price range instead of a set price. If the buyer pays at the top end, you pay their mortgage for six months, or give them a lease on a Lamborghini, or a decorating package.”

Wait a minute. Did she say a lease on a Lamborghini?

Most builders haven't gone to that extreme, and we'd really like to keep it that way.

But whether it's the result of overbuilding spec homes or a deal that falls through at the last minute, just about every builder is going to have some finished houses to move at some time or another. What can a builder do to help sell his standing inventory, without slashing the price or piling on the incentives? We talked to builders and sales pros from across the country for some advice. Here's what they recommend:

MAKE A CLEAN SWEEP When was the last time you were inside your inventory homes? Do you know how they look? How they smell? What's been left behind?

“The water in the toilets gets nasty, someone leaves a window open. It just doesn't smell as fresh,” says Bryan Lendry, president of Brylen Homes in Jacksonville, Fla. “Check the house at least once a day.”

First thing, before you start thinking about spending money on new paint, flooring, lighting, or landscaping, start at the curb and look at the house like a drill sergeant doing a barracks inspection before handing out weekend passes.

You are looking for:

  • Stains on the driveway.
  • Weeds in the flower beds and the yard, especially near the sidewalk approaching the front door.
  • Bare spots in the lawn or dead plants.
  • Trash or debris in the yard or the house. Don't forget to check the garage, closets, drawers, and inside cabinets and appliances.
  • Peeling paint or major dings in the walls.
  • Dirty toilets, sinks, tubs, and showers.
  • Dirty floors.
  • Cobwebs, spiderwebs, wasp or hornet's nests, fire ant mounds, roach droppings—any evidence of an insect infestation. If you don't think it matters, the No. 1 phobia—more than heights, enclosed spaces, thunder and lightning, or even death—is spiders.
  • While you're at it, do the same kind of inspection of your entrance, your signage, your sales center, and your models.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.