Spring is in the air and homebuyers are coming out of hibernation. With the holidays over and the weather warming up, it’s the time of year that's typically considered a hot period for the housing market.
If you’ve considered selling your home, here's why spring is a great time to move forward with those plans:
- Warmer weather makes buyers active.
- The market is in the right place.
- There are plenty of buyers.
- You can get a head start.
Warmer Weather Makes Buyers Active
Spring is the undisputed champion of seasons for selling a home. Not only are flowers in bloom and the sky blue for some great marketing photos, but also people are chomping at the bit to start the closing process so they can move in and get settled before fall.
Homebuyers have a tendency to taper off in the winter, and not just in parts of the country that typically have frigid weather. A mixture of holiday obligations and kids in school lead to more homes coming off the market temporarily and buyers pressing pause on checking out new listings.
By the time spring hits, cabin fever has people anxious to start touring homes. Dina Gorrell, a real estate agent for Redfin focused on the northern Virginia area, says the first two weeks of April have been the busiest so far in 2019. "When the blossoms come out, everyone goes nuts for it," she says.
With work, school or family obligations at the end of summer, spring is the optimal time to take on house hunting and get moving on the purchase process. "We can see a clear indication that the market its turning back up," says Dario Cardile, vice president of growth at real estate brokerage Owners.com.
The Market Is in the Right Place
A combination of low interest rates and low single-family housing inventory means there are a lot of eager homebuyers forced to compete for what’s on the market.
After increasing interest rates to 2.5% in December 2018, the Federal Reserve has expressed plans to keep interest rates at the same level through 2021. While rising interest rates previously scared off unsure buyers, Cardile points out that the steady outlook for interest rates since December has encouraged more buyers to resume shopping for homes.
Mortgage News Daily reports the average interest rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is 4.34% as of April 16, 2019. The rate is a decrease of 0.16% compared to the year prior, and Mortgage News Daily shows the average mortgage rate has steadily declined since November 2018.
While housing has largely been in a seller's market over the last few years – meaning the seller has an upper hand since there are more buyers than homes available – the natural real estate cycle of indicates that's easing. Depending on where you live, there may be more new houses under construction to help ease demand or fewer active buyers.
Still, a softer market doesn't mean you won't be able to sell your house or that it's worth less. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, which measures price increases in single-family homes across the U.S., found home prices increased by 4.26% from January 2018 to January 2019 – and they have been steadily climbing since February 2012.
There Are Plenty of Buyers
Just a few years ago, millennials were brand-new to homebuying, but they've since become a staple demographic of the real estate market. With them, the real estate industry has evolved to better utilize technology and data to help home shoppers search for available homes. Now when a real estate agent lists a house on the local multiple listing service, it also gets picked up by consumer-facing portals like Zillow, realtor.com and Redfin to reach homebuyers directly.
Of course, this doesn't exclusively benefit millennial buyers. The National Association of Realtors’ 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports that first-time homebuyers made up 33% of the total share of homebuyers last year, with a median age of 32. The median age for all homebuyers, however, was 47, indicating that new home purchases certainly aren't limited to first-time buyers or millennials.
Additionally, the move-in ready expectation that accompanied the rise of the millennial homebuyer is now widely embraced. To make your home as marketable as possible to all potential buyers, you should update key rooms like the kitchen and master bathroom, which are known to get a lot of attention from homebuyers. Consider replacing major appliances or systems that have reached the end of their life, such as the water heater or roof, since being able to say they're brand-new can add value to the house. Selling your home "as-is" promises quite a bit more work than a first-time buyer is willing to take on.
[Read: How to Find a Real Estate Agent]
You Can Get a Head Start
There’s still time to get your home on the market this spring to take advantage of the growing number of interested buyers, but successfully reaching potential buyers requires a bit more work than just an online listing, and it’s best to get started sooner rather than later. Gorrell recommends reaching out to an agent at least a few weeks before you'd like to put the house on the market to know what you need to do early on, so you can avoid a time crunch.
“It's smart to have a Realtor come and look through the house room by room and make suggestions,” Gorrell says.
Selling your home also likely means you'll be buying a new one, and the earlier you start on one the sooner you can make moves on the other. Cardile encourages home sellers to be active in the homebuying process at the same time. Especially if you need to be moved in before the end of summer, it's best to tour houses and have a head start on house hunting, even if you don't want to make an offer until your own home is under contract.
Here are four tips for taking advantage of the springtime homebuying surge:
- Prep your home. It’s a year-round rule that you should be putting your home’s best face forward, from planting flowers along the walkway to updating appliances in the kitchen or bathroom. While an interested buyer may be competitive about bidding on a home, he or she will also be well-informed, and prepping your home is imperative to getting the highest possible return on your investment. Staging is also a key component, Cardile says: "If you stage correctly, you have the right light, the right environment ... you showcase the house at its best."
- Price it right the first time. If your home is priced too high, it’s much harder to bring back the homebuyers who moved on to other listings because the asking price was out of their range. Redfin reports that as of mid-February, more than 1 in 5 homes for sale on the site have undergone a price drop, an increase of about 3.5% of homes seeing price drops around the same time 2018.
- Aim for a Thursday. A separate Redfin study reveals homes listed on a Thursday are more likely to sell above list price and find a buyer faster than homes put on the market any other day of the week. "Thursdays are perfect because it gives people a chance to look at what's coming and make their plans for the weekend," Gorrell says.
- Stay competitive. Even in a seller’s market, there’s no guarantee your home will be scooped up quickly – or even scooped up at all. It’s important to pay attention to homes going on the market in your area and to emphasize the particular strengths of your home. And while many markets are heating up or hot already, it’s important to keep in mind that a jump in home values in one area doesn’t promise high home values anywhere else.
Get the right energy to sell.
Whether it takes a kitchen cabinet update or extensive home staging, a little extra work from a home seller can go a long way toward attracting more buyers who are willing to put up more money. The secret to optimally staging your home may be what you least expect: the art of feng shui. The ancient Chinese practice meant to bring balance and harmony with the natural world indoors isn’t just about properly aligning energy – or chi – but it can ensure you’re not accidentally turning off buyers. A 2015 Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and Asian Real Estate Association America survey of more than 500 Chinese-Americans found 86 percent of respondents plan to factor in feng shui for future homebuying decisions. To avoid unintentionally sending a fair share of potential homebuyers away from your property, it’s important to consider the basics of feng shui as you prepare your home for the market.Get familiar with the bagua map.
Get familiar with the bagua map.
A key concept of feng shui is use of the bagua map, which assigns energies and purpose to various parts of the house. These include career, knowledge and cultivation, family health, wealth, fame and reputation, relationships, children and creativity, and helpful people and travel. To determine which part of the house is suited to each focus, there are two schools of thought: the classic compass bagua, which uses a magnetic compass and assigns a direction to each focus, and the three-door gate of chi bagua, which places the entry to the home in either knowledge and cultivation, career or helpful people and travel sectors.Use the bagua to encourage a good deal.
Use the bagua to encourage a good deal.
Depending on the school of thought you prefer, you can play up certain colors, materials and themes to help provide the right energy for each space. Focusing on certain areas you’d like to improve in your life – or your home – can help you achieve your goals. “When you’re selling, focus on the helpful people sector – those are the people that are going to buy your house,” says Jennifer A. Emmer, a feng shui master and interior designer, and owner of Feng Shui Style, a company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The helpful people sector is a good place to express gratitude for the people and things that have helped you succeed in life through art or photos, as well as playing up the use of metal and silver or gray colors, per the bagua recommendations.Make the front door appealing.
Make the front door appealing.
Regardless of where your house’s entrance may fall on the bagua map, you want to focus on curb appeal to attract buyers. Feng shui calls for a clear path to the entrance, a well-lit front door and an easily identifiable home – so make sure it’s easy to read the house number from the street. Flowers and plants are always a welcome addition, but they should be healthy. Dead plants on the front step should be removed. “It may seem obvious, but people do overlook them,” Emmer says.Keep the windows clean.
Keep the windows clean.
Cleaning is a must when it comes to preparing your home for market, but it may be a good idea to place an emphasis on clean windows. Carol Olmstead, owner of Feng Shui for Real Life and author of “Feng Shui Quick Guide for Home and Office: Secrets for Attracting Wealth, Harmony and Love,” explains that feng shui considers windows the eyes to the home, and dirty windows can make your goals for the home difficult to envision. “If you have clear windows, you have a clear vision of what’s going to happen with this house,” she says.Put a table in the entryway.
Put a table in the entryway.
Just past the front door, the entryway to the home is also important. Renae Jensen, founder of the Conscious Design Institute, says the entryway is the space where a visitor steps from a public space to a private one, so it’s important to ensure that transition is positive. She recommends placing a small side table beside of the door: “It’s important that there’s a small table there – it’s called a compassion area. It shows that you’re a compassionate person, and it allows the person to pause.” It's also a good place for your real estate agent to leave business cards, Jensen notes.Strategically place mirrors throughout the home.
Strategically place mirrors throughout the home.
Mirrors hold a lot of power in feng shui because they reflect energy, which can be a good or bad thing depending on what they capture. “Watch what your mirror is reflecting,” Jensen says. “If it’s reflecting clutter or garbage, it’s going to double it.” But when placed in the proper spot, a mirror can help harness the energy of the space and increase it positively. Emmer says she previously helped stage a home featured on an episode of HGTV's "Flip It to Win It," where the master bedroom was in the wealth sector of the bagua map – a part of the home that, when focused on, can help encourage your personal wealth. At Emmer's suggestion, the property owners used the reds, blues and purples that are best for that section, and she placed an octagonal mirror – a powerful shape in feng shui, as it’s the shape of the classic bagua map – above the bed. Emmer says the home sold for almost 40 percent over asking price.Use color according to a room's bagua alignment.
Use color according to a room's bagua alignment.
As with the wealth section, there are colors that best play into each part of the bagua map. If you’re looking to add a fresh coat of paint to the interior parts of your home, you may as well play off the recommendations that best harness the chi in each space. “Paint the front door an appropriate color based on the sector,” Emmer recommends. For example, a front door in the career section of the home could be best improved if painted blue or black, while a room in the love and relationships section can become a shade of red, white or pink.Declutter your home.
Declutter your home.
Regardless of whether you want to embrace feng shui, you should declutter your home before displaying it for potential buyers – and the reason is the same both in and out of the design practice. “Clutter is about procrastination [and] depression. It will show you are blocking life, and it will … make people feel overwhelmed,” Jensen says. Plus, no one can decide whether they like a room if it’s stuffed with furniture and feels small.Depersonalize the space.
Depersonalize the space.
Like decluttering, it’s important to remove images of yourself, your family and your friends. These photos not only make it hard for a buyer to picture himself or herself in the home, they also give off an energy that you’re not ready to leave yet, Jensen says. Packing up those photos and other mementos that hold a lot of personal value but aren’t important for staging “allows the seller to make a physical, emotional move,” she says.Pack a few boxes.
Pack a few boxes.
Since you’re already packing up some of your more personal pieces of décor, you should also take a few items that help symbolize to you that you’re ready to move on to a new home. Olmstead tells her clients to pack five of their prized possessions in boxes to “show they are ready and willing to go.” It not only helps you prepare to start new elsewhere, but when potential buyers see a few boxes off to the side or in the garage, they can sense you’re ready to go and the house is ready for new memories.Incorporate images of nature.
Incorporate images of nature.
When it comes to displaying art in the home, Jensen recommends images of nature because they often appeal to everyone. She recalls working with a senior living facility that had artwork throughout the property featuring women on their own. “I told them, ‘One of an older adult’s fears is being alone, and you have single pictures [showing that] all over,’” she says. Colorful images of trees or flowers are far more likely to help incorporate cheer rather than play into someone’s subconscious fears.Bring in fresh plants and flowers.
Bring in fresh plants and flowers.
Flowers and a houseplant or two can be solid additions to any staged room. Plus, by bringing nature indoors, you’re creating the balance you’re looking for. “It’s important to see something alive in the house,” Emmer says. It also hearkens back to the primary goal of feng shui: to harness the balance we get in the natural world and achieve that same feeling indoors. As Olmstead explains: “Feng shui principles give us a way of making our indoor flow, and make it feel the way we feel when we’re outdoors.”Keep scent in mind.
Keep scent in mind.
No one wants to walk into a house and smell garbage, stale air or an overwhelming chemical scent. A person’s sense of smell is also important in harnessing a positive energy with feng shui. “Smell is almost more powerful than visual,” Jensen says. Fresh flowers and plants can certainly help, as well as scented candles and general cleanliness. You want your house to both look and smell inviting.Don't block a room's pathways with furniture.
Don't block a room's pathways with furniture.
Promoting the right energy in a space also comes from allowing it to flow freely around the room, so don’t block natural pathways in your home with furniture. Jensen particularly notes that seeing the back of a couch when a person walks in the room gives a closed-off feeling that can turn off potential buyers. “It’s like the house is saying, ‘I really don’t want you here,’” she says.Know when you've got bad feng shui.
Know when you've got bad feng shui.
There are some things about a house that just doesn’t give off a good energy that followers of feng shui will likely notice. A property that stands at the end of a T intersection, for example, has too much energy pushed toward it all the time. An irregularly shaped lot can also be problematic, Emmer says: “A triangular plot represents fire,” which can make it difficult for those inside the house to feel positive energy. While those features may serve as red flags to devout feng shui fans, you can use the principles of feng shui to repair the problems and appeal to other buyers with the right focus and energy.Read More
Updated on April 17, 2019: This story was originally published on April 28, 2016, and has been updated with new information.
Corrected on April 18, 2019: A previous version of this article failed to note that Owners.com is a real estate brokerage.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.