With fall marking its entrance, kids back in school, and the holidays just around the corner, home sales tend to slow down during this time of year. If you're selling, it means you need to take extra measures to make your house stand out above the others on the market in your neighborhood.
Sellers in some regions of the country will have to work harder than others.
"The market is somewhat neutral," said real estate agent John Savignano, of Southborough, Ma. "Market time is increasing while inventory is also creeping upward."
In areas like Sacramento, buyers are gaining the edge.
"Going into October, the Sacramento region is starting to see some price reductions," said Realtor Jimmy Castro, of Sacramento, Calif. "Buyers may have the greatest advantage by getting into a home in the next few months. As the price peak seems to be passing, now could be the best time to find a newer home at a reasonable price."
However, some regions are experiencing a strong sellers market.
"The Richmond Area real estate market remains to be a sellers' market," report Ed and Nancy Turner, Realtors in Richmond, Va. "The area has experienced phenomenal double digit growth for the last three years. There does appear to have been a slight up-tick in inventory and days on the market in parts of the Metro Area, however all indications are that the market continues to be healthy."
David Lereah, the National Association of Realtors' chief economist, said home sales remain in historic territory. "The level of existing-home sales in July was the third highest on record," he said. "
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $218,000 in July, up 14.1 percent from July 2004 when the median price was $191,000. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.
NAR President Al Mansell of Salt Lake City said the rate reflects supply and demand. "Housing inventory levels improved in July, but they're still quite lean by historic standards," he said. "If the supply of homes rises, it should reduce competition between buyers and take some of the pressure off of prices. Even so, we expect home price appreciation to remain above normal over the next year."
So, if you're preparing to sell your house this fall, think about:
* Curb appeal. Fall can make or break you when it comes to curb appeal and the all-important "first impression." Leaves turning shades of crimson and gold can add extra appeal to the total look of your home's exterior. On the other hand, leaves strewn about your front yard can decrease your home's visual appeal during that first impression.
* Celebrating the season. Add a fall wreath to the front door. Have a few huge pumpkins and fall display in your front area to welcome visitors (would-be buyers).
* Scents of the season. If you're a smoker or have pets, make sure the nose doesn't know. Eliminate all such offensive odors. If you're holding an open house, or know you'll have a lot of potential buyers looking on a particular day, bake an apple pie. Nothing is more inviting than the scent of apples and cinnamon wafting through the air.
* Letting the light in. A dark house is a big turn off. Open up the blinds, let the light in and turn on the lights during the day. And turn on all those accent lights and lamps.
* The fireplace. The hearth is still an important feature to most buyers, especially as days grow colder. Make sure yours is clean. Place a log in the fireplace. Or, consider placing an attractive candelabra or candle-holder that holds numerous candles in the fireplace for a decorator's touch.
* Hiring a home inspector. Once a buyer makes an offer, they will hire someone to conduct an in-depth inspection of the house. Some sellers like to do this before they put their house on the market so there are no surprises down the road. If anything comes up during the seller's inspection, the seller can get it taken care of before putting the house on the market. The American Society of Home Inspectors says a typical home inspection includes drainage conditions, exterior surfaces, decks, chimney, the roof, windows, doors, plumbing fixtures, furnace, air conditioner, insulation, ventilation, electrical, heating, and plumbing systems.
* Tidying up. If you have a lot of furniture or other "stuff," put some of it in storage. Put away all those knickknacks and paper piles.
* Allowances. If you have carpet, wood floors or cabinets that have seen better days, consider offering an allowance right off the bat. You'll want to discuss this with your real estate professional. There are pros and cons -- you don't get to have that "wow" first impression if you put in those floors or cabinets yourself before you sell. But you might be short on time and don't want to run into the holidays -- plus buyers may like the idea of picking out their own flooring.
* Your asking price. Don't insist on setting the price too high, especially if you're on a timeline. A house priced appropriately will be taken more seriously and will ultimately sell more quickly than one that's overpriced.
* Talk to the professionals. Now's also a good time to interview real estate professionals. Ask about their experience, find out how well they know the area you're eyeing, and talk to references. Once you have someone lined up you can follow his or her additional recommendations and begin the final phases of preparation before your house goes on the market.