Dallas real-estate agent Lydia Player hopes her bright-red convertible will turn a few heads. The new car is a snazzy perk for whoever buys...

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DALLAS — Dallas real-estate agent Lydia Player hopes her bright-red convertible will turn a few heads. The new car is a snazzy perk for whoever buys a North Dallas home that Player has on the market.

“If they don’t like red, we’ll give them another color,” said Player, who’s offering a string of incentives to lure buyers to houses she’s trying to sell.

With the housing market under a cloud, offering freebies to potential buyers is a way for sellers and their agents to spotlight a property.

Almost 40 percent of sellers now offer some kind of incentive to get their property moved, according to a 2008 survey by the National Association of Realtors. Usually, the come-along is help paying for closing costs, repairs or a warranty.

But increasingly, sellers are offering freebies such as cars, flat-screen TVs or trips to get a contract.

“New-home builders in suburban developments have been doing incentives for years — free appliances, a new pool, etc.,” said Player, with Virginia Cook Realtors. “But you don’t see it much in the existing neighborhoods closer to the city center.”

That’s why Player decided to offer a new Mazda convertible to the buyer of her $1.299 million listing in North Dallas. The five-bedroom, 4.5-bath house is on the market at $400,000 below its tax-appraised value.

“Buyers’ incentives like this will draw attention to the property. And if the buyers don’t want the car, we’ll gladly give them a discount in the same amount on the house,” she said. “If the Mrs. doesn’t like the kitchen cabinets or the backyard, maybe a new car (valued at $35,000) will warm her to the house.”

Town North Mazda of Richardson’s president, Max Wedell, agreed to provide the car at cost for the promotion. “They are holding the car for us, or the buyer may select something else for the same amount,” Player said.

Player is offering swag including a gift card and paid moving expenses on two other listings.

“The sellers pay for the incentives offered to buyers,” she said. “I think a home-warranty policy is a great item to give, but it is so common now for sellers to do this, that it isn’t really a perk.”

In really distressed housing markets in Florida, Arizona and Nevada, some sellers will throw in a Lamborghini or a condo time share just to move a property.

Dallas agent Ben Jones, of Allie Beth Allman Realtors, is proffering free trips to Austria for buyers of his multimillion-dollar listings in the Park Cities.

“I have a friend that owns a hotel in Austria,” Jones said. “It was actually King Ludwig’s hunting lodge. … I wanted to get attention to my properties, and it definitely has done that.”

Builders have been using the same tricks to sell their excess inventory for years.

“The goal of these incentives is to increase buyer traffic and ultimately sales,” said housing analyst Ted Wilson, of Residential Strategies. “Generally, there is an aversion to discounting the house price; however, in these challenging times, many buyers have demanded discounts.”

Dallas real-estate agent Charles Gregory is offering a $40,000 car-purchase credit for anyone who buys a new University Park home he’s selling.

Gregory arranged the credit with Platinum Motorcars, a high-end auto-sales firm on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas. The buyer can decide which vehicle to put the money toward.

Does that mean he thinks the buyer of a $1.995 million house will make the decision based on a free car?

“Of course not — I’m just trying to get attention,” said Gregory, who’s with Dave Perry-Miller & Associates. “We thought it might make the property stand out.”

Built in 2007, the five-bedroom, 6,600-square-foot house has never been lived in.

“It’s a wonderful house, and there’s no reason it hasn’t sold,” Gregory said.