Summertime, and selling a home isn't easy

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Generally, home sales peak in spring, with a second rush of sales in the fall. Although sales may not be quite as slow in summer as in the doldrums of January and February, typically fewer homes go under contract in July and August than in the spring.

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." said 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., said 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," said Laura McCaffrey, an agent with Evers & Co. Real Estate in Bethesda, Md.

Morris said 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 said. "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."

Morris said kids, even teenagers, shouldn't be left in the home when buyers are visiting. She suggested sending the kids to visit grandparents for a week or two when the home first goes on the market and has the most visitors.

Another challenge is the heat and humidity of summer.

"Make sure your air conditioning is working really well," said Brandon Green, founder of Brandon Green Cos. in Washington, who is affiliated with Keller Williams Capital Properties. "You need to set the temperature lower than usual to give a good impression to buyers and to make it refreshing. Also, do what you can to even out the temperature differences between different levels of your home because that's even more noticeable in the summer."

Ciment acknowledged that it's tempting to turn up the thermostat when you leave for work, but she said a cool house is inviting to prospective buyers.

"Don't think twice about your electric bill when you're selling your home," McCaffrey said. "It's a huge turnoff to buyers if they go to the third floor of your house and it's stuffy."

A hot house will also make odors, particularly pet odors, even worse, Morris said. She said sellers need to be extra conscientious about taking the garbage out and keeping it tightly sealed because even in the garage, it can smell terrible in summer.

Morris also said buyers should 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," Morris said.

And Ciment pointed out that it's especially important to keep your windows clean in the summer when the light is brighter. She added: "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.

"Hopefully, you started working on your lawn in the spring so it looks lush in the summer," said Adam Gallegos, a broker with Arbour Realty in Arlington, Va. "It helps to pick the right flowers, too, that will be in bloom right around the time you're selling your home."

Gallegos recommended keeping your lawn mowed and the edges trimmed so it looks manicured. "You should stage the outside of your house as an extension of your indoor space," Gallegos said. "Even if you own a condo and just have a balcony, make sure your blinds are open and you have a chair or a potted plant to make it look inviting outside."

Tips for selling a home in the slow summer months

. Keep the air conditioning running to ensure that the house is cooler than normal, especially on the upper floors, which tend to be warmer.

. With kids out of school, keeping the home clean is more of a challenge. Try to send the children to camp or to stay with grandparents during the first few weeks of a summer listing.

. Prevent the accumulation of odors inside the house, which can be pronounced in the summer. Eliminate pet odors and keep the garbage outdoors.

. Keep drapes open (or even remove them) to let in as much natural light as possible, and keep windows clean.

. Pack away winter clothing to make more room in your closets.

. Have fresh fruit and chilled water or lemonade on hand for prospective buyers.

. Keep the lawn manicured and plant colorful flowers to enhance curb appeal.

. Stage the outside of the home to simulate preparations for an outdoor gathering.

. Enhance the atmosphere of a back yard or a terrace with a trickling fountain.

. Strategically leave lights on in the evening to make the house seem inviting.

Michele Lerner,

Special to the Washington Post

Summertime, and selling a home isn't easy 08/08/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 8, 2013 5:56pm]

    

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