By Jerry Kronenberg
Fall is second only to spring as the busiest time of the year for home sales -- and Idaho Realtor Gail Hartnett sees this autumn as an especially good time to have your property on the market.
"Inventory is low, so if you have your house on the market, and it is priced well, it's going to sell," says Hartnett, a National Association of Realtors regional vice president and an agent with Keller Williams Realty Boise.
Home sales in Idaho and many other U.S. locales are rebounding this fall as low prices, improved consumer confidence and rock-bottom mortgage rates bring buyers out. At the same time, many would-be sellers are either too discouraged to put homes on the market or are waiting for prices to rise, creating a shortage of available homes in much of the country.
Add in the fact that many people travel to their hometowns for Thanksgiving, football games and the like, and Hartnett believes it's a bad idea to keep your property off of the market this fall.
"People who've been thinking of moving back home will look at some houses when they come for a visit, and finding the perfect place will push them into action," she says. "But if your place isn't on the market, they won't see it."
Houses that boast green grass and lush gardens in the spring, though, look a lot less inviting during the fall.
Here are six things Hartnett recommends all would-be sellers do this autumn to adjust for that and get a home moving:
1. Give your home a cozy smell.
Fall brings back childhood memories of hayrides and Thanksgiving dinners for many, and Hartnett recommends maximizing your place's "homey" feeling this time of year.
The Realtor always has spiced cider, fresh-baked cookies or other warm and friendly fare cooking up during showings and open houses at properties she's listing.
"We take some big old pots and dump cider in them, then warm it up and the whole house smells good," Hartnett says. "It's just a warm, homey smell that makes people feel good when they enter."
She places cider and cookies ready for serving in a strategically out-of-the-way place visitors reach only after touring the house. That way Hartnett has a chance to "pitch" the house to buyers while they snack.
2. Rake up the leaves.
You don't have to remove every single leaf as soon as it falls in your home's yard, but you have to keep the property's exterior looking tidy and well-maintained.
"Leaves actually look nice as long as they have some color to them," Harnett says. "But you need to make sure that your walkways are swept clear for safety purposes."
3. Use seasonal decorations.
Homes in most parts of the country lack the blooming flowers and grass that make their yards look particularly nice during warmer months. Hartnett says you can give a property's exterior an attractive "harvest" feel by adding fall-themed decorations.
"You lose some of the curb appeal that goes along with [spring and summer's] nice landscaping, but something like a seasonal wreath on the door can bring some of it back," she says.
Also consider placing pumpkins and pots of mums on your home's front porch or portico.
4. Maximize lighting.
Shorter days and less-intense sunlight make good interior lighting more important than ever when showing a home during the fall.
Hartnett recommends opening all blinds and turning all lights on when you know a potential buyer plans to stop by -- even if you're leaving for work and the showing won't happen for hours.
"You have to make sure everything looks light and bright," she says.
Another tip: Make sure all windows are sparkling clean inside and out.
5. Hold earlier showings.
Hartnett doesn't bother at this time of year to schedule the evening open houses she often holds during spring and summer to catch house hunters on their way home from work.
Instead, she typically hosts open houses on Saturdays and Sundays between 2 and 4 p.m. -- but also keeps big sports contests and other autumn events in mind when setting times.
"This time of year, we schedule our open houses around Boise State football," she says. "We know what's going on in town and base our open-house times on when we think people will be around."
6. Provide warm-weather photos.
The beautiful grass and garden your home has in the spring might be long gone by the fall, but you still want would-be buyers to know it exists.
Hartnett suggests making spring and summer photos of your home's exterior available online, as well as putting out hard copies during showings.
But you don't want to use spring or summer photos exclusively with an autumn listing.
"There's nothing worse than looking at a home's listing in the fall and seeing photos from the spring," Hartnett says. "That immediately gets buyers thinking: 'Gosh, this home has been on the market forever.'"
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What Would You Give Up to Buy Your Dream Home?
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How to Do a Reverse Mortgage Right
By Jerry Kronenberg