When it comes to getting a house ready for the busy fall market, brokers have plenty of advice. From getting a jump on the competition to repainting, staging or doing a more elaborate redesign, the key is to not wait.
Getting a jump on the season is crucial, according to Hillary Ryan, a Napa Valley, California-based broker with Pacific Union International. The window for fall sales, particularly in the United States, is short, she said, so it’s best to get things ready in August.
“It’s ideal to begin preparing for the fall selling season now and have the property ready to market immediately after Labor Day,” she said. “Buyers’ attention moves to the holidays in mid-November, so it’s best to move quickly so the property hits the market at the beginning of the fall.”
September home sales in 2017 rose .7% from the previous month, which was the first increase in three months, and an additional 2% in October 2017, according to the National Association of Realtors. August is one of the slowest months of the year in many markets, brokers explained.
In September, there are generally fewer buyers than the busy spring season, brokers said, but they are often more motivated. Some could be scrambling to get settled, especially those with school-age children who are likely already back to class. Others may be looking to get the deal done before the end of the year.
That won’t necessarily result in a higher price, however. Prices in September and October are generally on par with those of the summer, according to CoreLogic, a Irvine, California-based data company. Homes sold in September 2017 were just .4% more than those sold in August, whereas there was a 1.16% bump in March 2018 compared to February.
“The fall market is typically not as strong as the spring market,” said Emily Sachs Wong, an agent at Chicago-based @properties.“It is also much shorter,” she added, with the start of schools, Halloween and two big Jewish holidays taking many out of the market.
Then, with Thanksgiving and the December holiday season looming, things really start to slow down.
“It can be challenging to bring a property to market in November,” Ms. Ryan said, adding that November, December and January are typically quiet.
For those who need to sell in that timeframe, she recommends listing the property “with a well-connected agent who can proactively reach out to agents and buyers in an off-market manner.” If it doesn’t sell by late February, that’s the time to market it more publicly and launch it on the MLS, she added.
In some areas, like southern Florida, there isn’t much of a change of season, so brokers don’t necessarily see a boost in sales once September hits, according to Miami-based Compass broker Amit Bhuta.
“It’s really only slow here from November to March,” he said.
One caveat is if there has been a strong hurricane season, according to Adam Gurewicz, a Compass agent working in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, Florida. If second-home buyers see destruction in the Sunshine State, that could temporarily bring prices down for homes there, he said.
In London, meanwhile, fall is always busy, according to Becky Fatemi, director of London’s Rokstone brokerage. She said the changing season brings buyers back to open houses, and school and work changes can spur buyers in the new season.
In the past, the December holidays marked a pause for the selling season in London, but the end of 2017 was busy until the new year, Ms. Fatemi said. Part of that had to do with pent-up uncertainty about Brexit, as well as the need to get deals completed by the time the ball dropped on Dec. 31.
But, regardless of the season, “people will always need homes,” she said.
When Getting a Home Ready
The key is to create a space where a buyer can see themselves and their family living happily—at least for the moment, if not forever.
“The quicker you can make someone feel comfortable, the more likely you are to sell the home,” according to Adam Gurewicz, a Compass agent working in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, Florida. “You want to make it fit their lifestyle goal.”
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That is especially true on the high end, he said. “For $3 million-plus homes, people want it to look like it’s out of a magazine.”
Ms. Sachs Wong agreed.
“Make your house as perfect and immaculate as possible,” she said. “Few people want to do work, so make your house feel like it needs as little as possible.”
Mr. Gurewicz recommends bringing in professionals, like an interior designer or a landscape architect, to help redesign homes and give them a fresh look. Even relatively recent builds may still need major attention. Homes that are seven to 10 years old are “already outdated,” he said.
Although some of the homes may eventually become teardowns, Mr. Gurewicz still thinks an overhaul can be worth it. A high-end renovation will make the home sell more quickly, and for a higher price. “It’s all about the return on the investment,” he added.
As the weather changes and the days get shorter, it’s also important to capture the light and add warmth to the home.
If it’s chilly, “make sure the heating is on so buyers come in from the cold into the warmth,” said Ms. Fatemi. “Candles are a lovely touch; choose a fall scent.”
Also, the outside of a home is just as important as the inside, so don’t neglect the landscaping.
“In California and especially, in the Napa Valley, the weather tends to be beautiful in the fall, so it is important to focus on the exterior staging and landscaping,” Ms. Ryan of Pacific Union said. “Buyers are seeking homes where they can live an indoor-outdoor lifestyle.”
Inside, buyers are looking for more pop than they have in the past, brokers said.
“Color is back,” she said. “People are getting tired of gray and white and they want style and a lot of wow.”
But don’t use traditional fall colors like deep red or orange, she said, as they may look dated if the house is still showing in the spring. Accent walls or accessories are a good way to get an updated look without doing anything permanent.
“If you make your place feel exciting and hip, it will sell,” Ms. Sachs Wong said. “Don’t take on the attitude that you don’t want to do anything for fear of someone not liking it. Do something high quality and on trend—not overly trendy—and buyers will love it.”