Jenn Carr Elmas and her husband, Ish Elmas, listed their Colonial-style home in Vienna, Va., this month, and they’re interested in selling it fast.
But now it’s summer, and they know that’s when the real estate market slows considerably. Listings tend to languish as many buyers turn their attention from interest rates and open houses to cookouts and lounging on the beach.
So the Elmases aren’t taking any chances. They’re attempting to ratchet up their home’s appeal.
They’re making their already lavish backyard — which has a swimming pool, a pond with a fountain, an outdoor bar and kitchen, and several patios — even more appealing to potential buyers.
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“We’re power-washing everything, including the retaining walls and the patios, and we’ve added an outdoor TV to the bar,” Carr Elmas says. “Besides putting out all the umbrellas and cushions for the chairs, we’re putting potted flowers on the tables to match the cushions, and we placed some potted hibiscus trees around the pool. We’ve got a drinks setup on the bar and added throw pillows to the outdoor couch.”
Generally, home sales peak in spring, with a second rush of sales in the fall. Selling in summer requires a slightly different strategy, experts say.
“August is the slowest of the summer months in real estate because people take family vacations — even the president goes on vacation,” says Barbara Ciment, an associate broker with Long & Foster Real Estate in North Bethesda, Md.
Michelle Morris, a real estate agent with Re/Max Gateway in Chantilly, Va., says seasonal market shifts are more pronounced in the suburbs, because parents tend to be sensitive to the school calendar.
“Parents want to make sure their kids are settled into their new home before school starts, so they try to find a home in the spring and move in the summer,” Morris says. “At the very least, parents want to have a home under contract before July Fourth, which means that sellers have a very short window of time for a summer sale.”
A slower market isn’t the only challenge that homeowners are likely to face if they want to sell in the summertime.
“If you have kids, then the reality is that there are more bodies in the house more often than during the school year,” says Laura McCaffrey, an agent with Evers & Co. Real Estate in Bethesda, Md. “Even if your kids are in camp, they tend to get home a little earlier than during the school year, and your schedule is more complicated.”
Morris says that in the summertime, kids tend to sleep later, and the home may get messier because they are around more.
“You need to create a game plan with your kids,” Morris says. “Show them the photos of the house the way it looks on your listing and tell them that’s what it needs to look like every day. They need to make their beds and pick up their clothes. If you have to, buy them something or promise a trip to an amusement park to get their cooperation.”
Morris says kids, even teenagers, shouldn’t be left in the home when buyers are visiting. She suggests sending the kids to visit grandparents for a week or two when the home first goes on the market and has the most visitors.
Morris also counsels buyers to resist the temptation to shut out the sun. “Even though you may want to close the drapes to keep the sun from heating up your home, you should open them to let as much natural light in as possible,” she says.
And Ciment points out that it’s especially important to keep your windows clean in the summer when the light is brighter. She adds this advice: “If you have heavy drapes, take them down and leave the windows bare if you can. Pack away your winter clothes, along with your drapes, so your closets look as large as possible.”
Take advantage of the summer season by having bowls of fresh fruit on the counter, Ciment says. Consider having chilled bottled water or fresh lemonade available for prospective buyers, too.
Although curb appeal is always important, during the summer, potential buyers are more likely to linger outside and pay more attention to outdoor living spaces.
McCaffrey says sellers need to keep their plants watered and alive without letting them become overgrown. Buyers, he says, will look at exterior maintenance as an indication of how well the home has been cared for inside.