Here’s a sure giveaway that a home has been lingering, unwanted, on the market for an uncomfortable amount of time: At the height of summer, the exterior photo — taken when the house was first listed for sale — shows snow on the ground.
Seasonality counts in marketing a home, and it’s especially true now, in the fall.
Five things to keep in mind if you’re trying to find a buyer when autumn leaves begin to fall:
1. Those annuals and perennials might have looked glorious in July, but now they’re reduced to ragged brown stems and a few clingy leaves — and they all have to go. Melody Herr, who is president of Selling Impressions in Farmington Hills, Mich., and is the Michigan state president of the Real Estate Staging Association, a trade group, recommends not only a thorough clean-out of last summer’s blooms, but replacing them with a few chrysanthemums in order to add brightness to the yard.
And need we mention raking leaves? It might take repeated efforts to keep up with the leaves, but the yard will show better without them, she said.
2. Holiday decorations are always an issue in home staging, but usually the argument revolves around not overdoing the Christmas spirit. Fall has its own issues, Herr said.
"Halloween is great for kids, but I would limit it," she said. "If it’s done in moderation, it’s all right. It can be overwhelming" to buyers, who might find too many goblins around the house to be distracting or even disturbing.
Thanksgiving is less an issue, Herr said, because it’s a "neutral" holiday, with limited decoration.
3. The days are getting shorter and your rooms are getting darker — and darker rooms don’t show well, she said.
The simplest fix is to turn on more lights, and Herr suggested swapping out the lightbulbs to ones that project a warmer rather than a cooler light.
A more labor-intensive solution: "If a house is dark inside, we might recommend lightening up the paint colors for fall," she said.
Also, consider how clean the windows look if the house has been listed for some time and you haven’t taken a close look at them lately, she said.
"Make sure you do a good fall cleaning," Herr said. "People think of cleaning in the spring, not necessarily in the fall."
4. Fire up the hearth. Although buyers traditionally love fireplaces, they might be more attuned to their charms at this time of year, when a chill is in the air.
Of course, lighting the fire would have to be timed carefully to coincide with a scheduled showing, she said, and there are obvious safety considerations if no one will be in the home until the agent and buyers arrive.
But — this goes back to pointer No. 3 — fireplace ashes are a no-no for showings. If you’re using your fireplace for any reason this season, you’ll have to stay on top of the ashes.
5. Get a new set of listing photos — showing off those mums and that leaf-free yard — if your for-sale sign has been there for months.
"You really want to keep those pictures as current as possible," Herr said. "And if your house isn’t for sale but you’re thinking about putting it on the market next year, take pictures throughout the seasons" that are available for buyers to peruse.
"You may put it on the market in winter, and buyers can’t always visualize what it would look like in the summer months," she said.