As you consider the best way to sell a house, one thing to keep an eye on is the season. Depending on what time of year you choose to list your property, you may run into some unique challenges or opportunities, including some distinct concerns involving your staging and home decor. The fall season is a good example of this. Many homeowners deck their listings with pumpkins, scarecrows, and other seasonally festive ornamentation.
But it’s worth stepping back to ask whether fall decor actually helps you get the place sold, or whether it makes it harder to get a buyer on the line.
Considering Fall Decor
Ultimately, most staging experts agree that staging your listing with fall decor is valuable – as long as you do so judiciously. Remember that the point should be to make your property feel warm, cozy and inviting. If you decorate to the point that it feels cluttered or overwhelming, that’s when you’ve gone too far.
While the end of the year holidays are exciting for some, whether it's for the spookiness at Halloween or the family bonding at Thanksgiving, it’s always wise to consider that your prospective buyer may not share your enthusiasm for the season, even if your decor depicts more of a general harvest scene than alluding to any particular holiday.
You don’t want your autumn decorations to be the focus, or to distract attention from the best selling points of your house. Instead, you want them to accentuate the space and help house hunters see your home’s possibility and charm. To that end, a “less is more” approach is usually the right way to go as you decorate for the season but also prioritize getting your home sold.
Here are some additional tips for staging your home in fall decor:
- Think about a fresh coat of paint.
- Get the lighting right.
- Emphasize coziness.
- Accentuate the fireplace.
- Don't forget seasonal scents.
- Remember that curb appeal matters, too.
- Don't go too far.
Think About a Fresh Coat of Paint
Take a look at your interior walls and ask yourself if they could benefit from some fresh new hues. You don’t ever want to do anything too garish, and neutrality is always recommended, but something rich and bright can really help the accent pieces, such as pillows and art, pop. Consider shades like light caramels or creams to establish a classy and upscale setting.
Get the Lighting Right
Another important aspect of seasonal staging is managing your natural light. During the autumn, as the days get a little shorter and a little darker, you’ll probably want to open up all the blinds, curtains and other window treatments, letting in as much natural illumination as possible.
When selling your home during fall, it’s generally wise to make your home feel as warm and comforting as possible. Create an atmosphere that feels cozy and accommodating – sometimes that’s as simple as using plenty of plush pillows and generous throw blankets in your home decor. Also, lighting some decorative candles is a great way to give the home a cozy ambiance.
Accentuate the Fireplace
Does your home have a fireplace or hearth area, perhaps in the living or family room? If so, make that a focal point of your decor. Surround the fireplace and mantel with some tasteful seasonal decor, subtly but unmistakably drawing the eye. When it comes to conjuring a home-like atmosphere, a clean fireplace can truly be a stirring sight.
Don’t Forget Seasonal Scents
Fall staging isn’t just about colors and furniture. Scents matter, too. During autumn, you’ll want to conjure pleasing, sentimental memories of home, something you can do by putting some apple cider on the stove or burning a cinnamon-scented candle. Even baking some cookies will do the trick. Whenever you can, opt for natural scents instead of artificial plug-ins – buyers can smell the difference.
Remember That Curb Appeal Matters, Too
Fall decor isn’t just a matter of what’s going on inside the home. The exterior of the home can also benefit from a seasonal touch-up. Make sure your landscaping is fall-ready, even if that’s as simple as removing old, dead plants, raking leaves and doing your best to keep the lawn edged and properly watered. Accentuate your front stoop with tasteful elements of autumnal decor, like a harvest-themed wreath or a nice pumpkin or two.
Don’t Go Too Far
Remember, your goal should always be to accentuate your space, and to help buyers imagine themselves making their home in it. You want to aim for cozy without ever teetering into busy or kitschy. Make sure you exercise some restraint in choosing fall-themed decor, and don’t ever invest in so much ornamental stuff that it makes the house feel too cluttered or claustrophobic.
The weather may be getting colder but that doesn't mean buyers' bids have to.
While spring may be the best time to put your home on the market, that’s not possible for every homeowner. If you missed out on the height of buying season, you can still sell your home for a good price in fall and even winter. But Scott McGillivray, real estate investor and host of the HGTV show “Income Property,” notes that selling a home during this time of year can be a whole new ball game. Here are 13 things you should know about putting your home on the market in fall and winter.Photos from spring look better.
Photos from spring look better.
It’s particularly beneficial to have marketing photos for the property done before the weather turns cold and trees go bare. Photos from spring or summer show a buyer what the home looks like in other seasons, when the exterior may appear more lush. “The last thing you want is no leaves on the trees or snow on the ground or dead grass [in the photos],” McGillivray says.Curb appeal still matters.
Curb appeal still matters.
While you can’t force the leaves to stay on the trees, it’s important to keep up on yard work while your home is on the market. “The grass should be mowed [and] there should be no leaves on the ground,” says Anslie Stokes, a Realtor at McEnearney Associates Inc., a real estate firm covering the District of Columbia metro area. Even if frost or other weather keeps you from planting colorful flowers or plants, a well-tended look will boost your curb appeal.There's little room for indoor maintenance mishaps.
There's little room for indoor maintenance mishaps.
You’ll need to be even more proactive with maintenance inside the home. Before the weather turns cold, make sure your boiler and other heating systems are functioning properly; most homeowners don’t discover heating problems until the weather prompts them to turn these systems on. “If you happen to have a showing on the first cold day and the boiler goes out, that’s not a good situation,” Stokes says.The more light, the better.
The more light, the better.
As the U.S. inches closer to winter the days continue to get shorter – and the end of daylight saving time (Nov. 6, 2016) means the sun sets even earlier, which can wreak havoc on showings to potential buyers. “It’s really hard to sell a house that’s dark,” says Eric Boyenga, who leads the Boyenga Team with his wife for Keller Williams Realty in the San Francisco Bay Area. He often brings additional floor lamps into homes he’s listing, and he recommends sellers install landscape lighting around the yard if it’s not there already.There will be fewer showings.
There will be fewer showings.
The market is always hottest in spring, so you shouldn’t expect the same foot traffic at an open house in October as in May. Boyenga says listings will typically see half or even a third as many showings in fall, but that doesn’t mean the homebuyers who do come aren’t ready to make a deal. “Though it’s tougher for sellers in the sense that there’s less of a buyer’s pool, the buyers who are out there tend to be the ones that are showing up and are serious and are pretty motivated,” Boyenga says.Marketing may need a further reach.
Marketing may need a further reach.
To help widen your pool of potential buyers, McGillivray recommends targeting people relocating to your area for work or those looking to have a second home in a different climate. If you live in a southern state, for example, market your home to appeal to snowbirds from northern states looking for a winter getaway, he says. McGillivray also notes businesses commonly relocate employees during the fall, so reaching out to relocation specialists or major employers in the area could give you some leads.Flexibility helps.
Winter can create additional obstacles for buyers, from kids' sports and clubs taking up evening and weekend hours to surprise storms that can throw off a scheduled meeting. It helps to be flexible when setting a closing date, which can range from taking four months to seal the deal to the buyer needing the home as quickly as possible. “I’ve seen as fast as a 20-day closing for someone who’s in a rush,” McGillivray says. The more flexible you are, the easier it is for everyone involved.Don't expect a price explosion.
Don't expect a price explosion.
As a seller you shouldn’t have to settle for less than the home is worth just because you’re marketing it in the fall, but be prepared for a little less fire behind the offers. Boyenga notes that fall listings are “still getting multiple offers, they just don’t necessarily go over asking [price].” Some buyers may think they can submit lowball offers because of the late season, but Boyenga says those aren’t offers worth taking unless you’re desperate to sell.Taking on more responsibility may make things easier.
Taking on more responsibility may make things easier.
Fall is a busy time for everyone, not just homebuyers. McGillivray notes your listing agent is likely to have personal commitments like kids’ football or soccer games, which can complicate showing your home or holding an open house. He says taking on some additional showing tasks or forgoing a real estate agent and selling the home yourself may help to avoid scheduling problems.Too much seasonal decor can be a turnoff.
Too much seasonal decor can be a turnoff.
Fall and winter are prime time for holiday decorations, and while a nod to the season can often work in your favor, Boyenga and Stokes stress avoiding religious themes or distracting decorations. Effective staging will “follow the holiday spirit or the wintertime spirit,” Boyenga says, with garlands or place settings made to look like the home is ready to host Thanksgiving dinner. A Christmas tree in the living room might work, but nativity scenes or menorahs are likely best put away before anyone tours the home. Pumpkins work for Halloween, but McGillivray warns against “spray painting spider webs” all over the front of your house.Highlight seasonal pluses.
Highlight seasonal pluses.
To push your home’s wintertime appeal, highlight rooms and features that serve as a great place to hang out while you’re stuck inside for the colder months. Stokes says a lit fireplace during a house showing on a cold day helps to create a cozy atmosphere, and a finished basement showcases room for kids to play when their outside activity is limited. “You want buyers to go down in the basement and say this would be a great play space,” she says.There's a point where you might want to hold off.
There's a point where you might want to hold off.
As we go deeper and deeper into fall, buyers actively searching for homes become fewer and fewer. And once it gets to Thanksgiving, it’s often wise to pull your home off the market or wait to list your property until after the new year because the number of buyers drops off during the major holidays. “Unless you really have to sell, we recommend waiting until … late January before [putting] it on the market,” Boyenga says.There are some local market exceptions.
There are some local market exceptions.
If you live in an especially hot neighborhood of a particularly hot market, the time of year may take second fiddle to the number of people vying to own on your street. Stokes uses the District of Columbia's Mount Pleasant neighborhood as an example: “There has been such a lack of inventory that everything that comes on the market has multiple offers.” The buyers who lose out in a bidding war are likely to jump at any chance to get the right house in the right neighborhood, it doesn’t matter if it’s the day after Christmas.Read More
Haas’ team advises homebuyers and sellers on how to make the most of their experience by connecting them with the optimal agent partner for their needs. With over 10 years of experience in the real estate industry, including previous roles at Zillow and Auction.com, Haas is an expert on the ins and outs of home sales.