Home-Selling Secrets for Real Estate's Off-Season

outside christmas lights line...

By AJ Smith

It's been said that spring and early summer are the best times to
sell your house. Competition among buyers can be fierce during these warm months and for whatever reason, the data has consistently shown that homes sell for more in spring and early summer. Maybe there's something psychological to warm weather that entices buyers or maybe it has something to do with the fact that families want to settle in before the school year starts in the fall.

Either way, it's not always possible to choose when to put your home on the market. But while spring might be the busiest time of the year for real estate transactions, homes get bought and sold every season of the year. Here are some tips for selling your home in the off-season.

Staging for Snow: In many parts of the country it gets cold and snowy during the winter. If you live in a climate where snow is prevalent, make sure that you stage the outside of your home accordingly. Shovel the driveways and be sure to clear ice away from walkways and doors. Buyers want to feel safe and comfortable when they're looking around.

Just because your grass is brown or your house is covered in snow doesn't mean you can't stage it successfully. Try to highlight the house with tasteful winter-themed decorations like Christmas wreaths and aesthetically-pleasing lighting. Houses for sale in the winter tend to show especially well when they're decorated for the holidays.

Seeing decorations, lights and presents under a Christmas tree can create a warm feeling for buyers. And it might help your house seem even more attractive than it would be in the warmer months. Make sure that you choose tasteful decorations, though, that will appeal to a wide variety of buyers.

Leave the Lights On: Once daylight saving time ends, it can get dark pretty early. Consider putting your outdoor lights on a timer. That way, when prospective buyers show up, the house will look bright and cheery instead of dark and dreary.

You can apply the same idea to the inside of your house too. Make sure that the heat is on before buyers arrive and that the place is clean, smells fresh and is warm. First impressions are everything in real estate so you really want to "wow" buyers when they pull up to your house and walk inside.

Stand Out From the Competition: During the winter months, there may not be as many buyers but there also aren't as many sellers. Often times, off-season buyers need to move quickly, whether due to job relocation or major life changes, so be ready for them.

In order to make your property stand out, consider adding a video to your listing or creating a small website to showcase your home. When there's less competition out there, you can end up getting more for your property if you're willing to go that extra mile.

More about home selling and buying from Credit.com:
How to Search for Your Next Home
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Mortgage Refinancing Guidelines

Staging Your Home for Sale: Before and After
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Home-Selling Secrets for Real Estate's Off-Season

PROBLEM: Staging often requires returning rooms to their intended purpose, rather than reflecting the homeowners' living style. These Charlotte, N.C., homeowners used the living room as a home office, complete with a large desk, office equipment, and many, many books. Though functional for them, it failed to impress buyers.
See More Tips and Advice on Home Staging

SOLUTION: After stager Cheryl Cox moved the existing furniture to other rooms, she removed the dated wallpaper and painted in a neutral color. To call attention to the hardwood floors, she replaced the area rug with a smaller one.
Cost: $705
Stager: Cheryl Cox, StageCoach Home Staging and Design

PROBLEM: The wallpaper in this guest bedroom in a Lake Elsinore, Calif., home was very busy and reflected the homeowner's very specific and personal style. The empty room also didn't help buyers visualize how they could best use the space.
SOLUTION: To appeal to the widest range of buyers, stager Debbie Takahashi removed the wallpaper and painted the room in warm, neutral tones.
Cost: $800, plus furniture and accessories rental
Stager: Debbie Takahashi, Staged by Design, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
PROBLEM: The owners of this home in Sterling Heights, Mich., were updating their kitchen and dining room in preparation for sale. The large dining table with oversized chairs crowded the room and impeded traffic flow. The tile flooring was loose. The homeowners wanted to make the room seem larger and complement the new kitchen.
SOLUTION: Home stager Carolyn Stieger helped the homeowners select new floor tile for the kitchen and dining room, as well as a rich wooden dining table and four sleek chairs.
Cost: $141
Stager: Carolyn Stieger, Images of Elegance, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
PROBLEM: This Atlanta, Ga., home had been totally rehabbed, and the owner wanted it staged for sale. From the front door, buyers could look through the foyer and kitchen to this family room. Stager Jeanne Westmoreland wanted to create a strong focal point, using the fireplace, to pull buyers into the space.
SOLUTION: Westmoreland's strategy was threefold: She showcased the architectural focal points of the room, including the fireplace and the vaulted ceiling.
Cost: Approximately $1,500
Stager: Jeanne Westmoreland (with Arow Flemmer, Lisa Romans and Angel Walker), Staging by the Masters, StagingbytheMasters.com
PROBLEM: Left empty, this Bellevue, Wash., custom-built executive home felt cold and unappealing. The builder asked stager Dana Pedersen to highlight the expansive space and meticulous craftsmanship.
SOLUTION: Pedersen staged the space with natural earth tones and used accents of blues and greens to bring the outdoors inside. Potential buyers now notice the view of Lake Washington and admire the room's craftsmanship and architectural details.
Cost: $450
Stager: Dana Pedersen, Masterful Staging, Issaquah, Wash.
PROBLEM: Clutter obscured this dining room in a home in Surprise, Ariz., making a poor first impression as buyers entered the home.
SOLUTION: Stager Sherri Halvorsen enhanced the room's size by eliminating the clutter and removing the owner's china cabinet and two of the dining chairs.
Cost: $250
Stager: Sherri Halvorsen, Staged to Perfection, LLC
PROBLEM: Buyers found this stark family room in a Yorktown, Va., home unwelcoming and hard to envision living in. They were left wondering: How and where will our furnishings fit? How should the space flow? Will this family room be large enough for our family?
SOLUTION: Stager Therese Robinson created a warm and inviting family room that said to buyers, "Come in, sit down, relax, and enjoy family and friends."
Cost: $210 per month, including the stager's time and the cost of renting furniture and accessories
Stager: Therese Robinson, Staged 2 Sell, Poquoson, Va.
PROBLEM: This Ann Arbor, Mich., townhouse had been sitting on the market, vacant, for a year and a half. Because it was empty, buyers were keying in on small flaws, rather than looking at the property as a whole. They also had difficulty visualizing where they would dine.
LIVING ROOM AFTERSOLUTION: The stager warmed the space, creating strong emotional appeal, and also established two, clearly defined eating areas.Cost: $1,000 to stage the great room (shown), kitchen and two bathroomsStager: Kathi Presutti, RE:STYLE LLC, Brighton. Mich.
PROBLEM: This bathroom in a Charlotte, N.C., home lacked a focal point, balance and color.
SOLUTION: Stager Barb Schwarz, working with staging students, added greenery to frame the bath and splashes of color for a "Wow!" factor.Cost: This bathroom was staged as part of a class in staging, at no cost.Stager: Barb Schwarz, StagedHomes.com, Concord, Calif.

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