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Selling

7 Ways to Get Top Dollar for Your Home During the Off-Season

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money-fanned-in-front-of-house (Ireneusz Skorupa - Ericsphotography)

After a record-setting summer selling season in many parts of the country, home sales have quieted down for the fall. If you're putting your home on the market, you might see that as an obstacle, but it can be an opportunity. Even if there is less traffic, there's less competition from other sellers. In a market where inventory is already tight, that gives you an even greater advantage.

Fall is a particularly good time to sell if you're marketing to retirees, millennials, or those with very young children -- they're less concerned about tying a purchase to the school calendar. Going into winter, you'll find that buyers who are willing to trudge through snow to see a home tend to be much more motivated to make a purchase than those who spend a sunny Saturday dropping into open houses.

If you're thinking of listing your home in the next few months, follow these steps to ensure a quick sale at a great price:

1. Skip the holiday dcor

Staging basics such as decluttering and depersonalizing still count during the holidays, so it's best to keep the inflatable Rudolph and the tinsel in storage.

"You never know who your potential buyer is," says David Peterson of Synergy Staging in Portland, OR. "We don't want to pigeonhole or potentially turn someone off."

2. Update your photos

Even without holiday decorations, photos can quickly look dated as the seasons change. It's fine to lead your listing right now with a gorgeous photo of crimson- and gold-leaved trees on the front lawn, but once the leaves have fallen, you'll want a new photo to keep the listing looking fresh, says Jan Niebauer of Niebauer Realty in Milford, MI. Try to snap photos on days when there's a blue sky, which will pop against a blanket of white snow.

3. Keep the outside neat

Curb appeal is just as important but slightly more difficult to achieve in fall and winter. A leaf- or snow-covered lawn can be beautiful, but it can also get messy quickly.

"Make sure it's neat and tidy," Peterson says.

Put an added focus on raking and removing leaves, and consider hiring a snow-removal service to be sure that your driveway and walkways are clear and safe for visitors at all times.

4. Clear the entryway

You'll want to make sure there's space for a few people (like a couple and their agent) to stand in the foyer, shed their winter clothes, and stomp off the debris on their shoes, Peterson says. Provide an umbrella stand and shoe covers to keep visitors from tracking mud and snow through your home.

5. Make it warm -- literally and figuratively

If you're going to be out of the house, be sure that your Realtor arrives early to crank up the thermostat before a showing (or leave it at a warmer temperature when you leave in the morning), which will help potential buyers feel more comfortable.

"It's vital that a house be warm," Peterson says, but "not too warm that people have to peel off all their clothes, but definitely not so cold that they want to get out as fast as possible."

If you have a gas fireplace, make sure it's lit, and enhance that warm, hospitable feeling with a tasteful throw blanket or area rug.

6. Be more flexible with showings

There are fewer hours of daylight, when your home looks its best, in the winter months, so try to accommodate potential buyers who want to come for daytime visits, Niebauer says.

7. Light it up

Even during the day, cloudy gray skies can make window-lined rooms feel gloomy. Adding floor lamps and turning on all the lights will make the property feel more welcoming.

"Light up every dark corner because they can make a room feel smaller than it is," Niebauer says. If visitors are coming at night, you'll want to turn on all your exterior lights as well.