Even in a good real estate market -- which this is not -- autumn is when buyers start to nod off before the deep sleep of winter. How does a seller combat the market doldrums this time of year?
Here are five tips for getting your house sold before real estate hibernation season sets in.
1. Determine if you really need to sell.
If you do, keep reading. If you don't, consider taking your house off the market until the spring. Traditionally -- and we admit there is nothing traditional about the current housing market -- buyers lose interest in the fall. Kids are settled in school, the holidays are approaching, and buyers' sense of urgency just evaporates.
In today's market, it's all that and more. As a seller, you are competing with foreclosures and short sales as well as standard sellers. Unless you really need to sell, consider delaying the listing of your house for a few months to avoid it sitting on the market and growing stale. If it makes you feel better, let a few agents know that you are still open to an offer and make it a pocket listing.
2. Update your listing photos, especially if you live in a four-season climate.
It just won't do to have photos of the trees in full bloom and the lawn nice and green when your house is in Minnesota and it's January. Yes, you
know your house has been on the market for six months, but why underscore that fact to prospective buyers with your photos?
By the way, don't be afraid of winter photos. House exteriors can look pretty in the snow, but do try and shoot it while the snow is fresh. For the interior photos, light the fire in the fireplace and make sure every room conveys warmth.
If you are shooting the photos with a cell phone camera -- and you shouldn't be -- make sure there is no date stamp.
It's important to change out the photos every season. It's easy enough to do and different photos "speak" to different buyers. Encourage your agent to update the remarks in the MLS listing as well. "Spend Christmas in front of this beautiful original stone fireplace" won't fly in February.
3. Know your potential buyers and speak directly to them.
Long gone are the days when buyers would get into bidding wars over houses. But what's not gone are the emotions that a home can evoke. It's your job to identify what makes your house a home, and zone in on that emotion -- and hire an agent smart enough to do the same. Before you list, ask prospective agents to describe the potential buyer of your house.
It's important that you and your agent know whether you are marketing to a family, a young professional, someone who wants a sophisticated urban loft. Once that's determined, think about where you find those people. What publications do they read, what websites do they visit? Where are they likely to look for the house of their dreams?
Los Angeles area agent Gary Harryman of Pritchett-Rapf
once listed a pyramid-shaped house in the Santa Monica Mountains. He envisioned his buyer to be a creative type who would appreciate the one-of-a-kind structure that even had a perfectly placed sundial on the floor. He also figured, because of the remoteness of the house, that its buyer would likely be someone who worked from home. Instead of advertising in the traditional outlets, he took out ads in a magazine for astronomers and in The Hollywood Reporter
. It sold.
For family homes, consider advertising in the local school bulletins or in the PTA newsletter. If your home is an equestrian property, try some of the horse publications -- or ask some of the local riding stables to post a flyer on their bulletin board. Are you close to public transportation, near the university with a converted garage that students are eager to rent, on a street filled with stay-at-home moms and a playground at the corner? Your selling point may not be a spectacular view, but if you market directly to your audience you may not need one.
4. Make it easy to buy your house.
The biggest obstacle that buyers have today is getting a loan. If you are in a position to, consider offering owner financing
. If not that, can you handle a lease-purchase option? Talk to not just a real estate agent, but also an accountant, and get creative. You might find that tax-wise, you are better off with something other than a sale involving a third-party lender.
How else can you help someone afford your home? Is there any room for rental income? Could your garage be converted into a rental unit? Is it set up for a work-from-home business?
Buyers today are shopping situations as much as they are houses. They want bargains and are more savvy than ever before about what homes are selling for. While those bargain-hunters may be drooling over foreclosures and short sales, the convenience and expediency of a standard sale has value.
5. Keep your house comfortable during showings.
In the winter, turn the heat on. In the spring, open the windows. In the summer, stage the patio furniture. And in autumn, rake the leaves, burn some spice candles and remember that the buyer pool has dwindled, so make each showing count.
Faked You Out! Prop Furniture Finds a Place on Home Stage
5 Staging Tricks for a Quick Sale
Latest Open House Bait: Botox and Thai Massages
More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
Find homes for sale in your area.
Find foreclosures in your area.
Finds homes for rent in your area.