It’s common knowledge that spring is the peak real estate season and the best time of year to sell a house. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sell (and make a profit) during other times of the year, including the fall.
What is the market like for fall real estate?
While it’s true that housing inventory (the number of homes on the market) is lower in the fall than in the spring and summer, it’s also true that buyers who are shopping in the fall are likely to be serious about buying. Fall buyers may be moving because of a job relocation or change in family situation, so they’re often eager to close a deal. The hotter your local real estate market, the less significant a role seasonality plays.
What months are in the fall?
To clarify the part of the year we’re talking about, fall includes dates between September 1 and November 30. In most of the country, this time of year is marked by cooler weather, shorter days, and falling leaves — think picking apples, carving pumpkins, and enjoying turkey dinners. Holidays that fall within this period include Labor Day, Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving.
Pros and cons of selling in the fall:
Advantages of selling a house in the fall
- Serious buyers are motivated to purchase quickly, before the busy holiday season and bad weather set in.
- The seasonal atmosphere makes your home feel warm and welcoming.
- It’s a misconception that the vast majority of buyers are shopping to fit their kids’ school year schedules. In fact, more than half of buyers don’t have kids under 18 at home, so the fall is as good a time as any.
- In early fall, it’s typically light enough to do weeknight showings, in addition to weekend open houses.
Challenges of selling a house in the fall
- Since it’s an off-peak season, there are simply fewer buyers than there are in spring.
- Worsening weather can make showings difficult, and falling leaves make it hard to keep up with autumn curb appeal.
- The 44 percent of buyers who do have kids generally prefer to be settled in a new home before the school year starts.
- Busy work and school schedules and holiday plans can make it hard to schedule showings.
Selling a house: Tips for selling in the fall real estate market
Overcome the challenges of selling your house in autumn with these tips.
It’s much easier to sell in the fall than in December and January, when bad weather, holiday schedules, and travel plans limit the availability of buyers, agents, lenders, and real estate attorneys. So, once you’ve decided to sell, work as quickly as possible to prepare your home for listing.
Photograph the property ASAP
Have your professional real estate pictures taken as soon as possible. The earlier in the fall they’re taken, the better the natural light will be and the nicer your outdoor space will look. Even better, if you know you’ll be selling next fall, take your pictures ahead of time, in picture-perfect spring.
Hire a professional agent
When you’re selling in a slower market, it’s important to hire a real estate agent 😉 who knows what they’re doing. When you interview agents, ask for their strategies for selling in an off-peak season.
What makes your home, your neighborhood, or your area unique? For example, if you live in a location that attracts winter residents, market to those snowbirds just before winter weather arrives.
Price your property to sell
Use neighborhood comps (also called CMAs) and your agent’s expertise to find the right list price for your home, keeping in mind that your pricing strategy may vary in the fall versus the spring.
You shouldn’t expect a multiple-offer situation that drives the price up above the asking, so make sure you’re comfortable with the list price. Don’t feel obligated to accept low-ball offers.
Preparing your home for sale
Get your home open house ready with some simple repair work, maintenance and sprucing up.
Inspect and repair
Make sure you’ve addressed any major issues that would be red flags in an inspection, including water damage, roof repairs, or HVAC system problems. When the real estate market is slower, buyers have more negotiating power, and you don’t want to give them any additional leverage — or opportunities to lower their offer price.
Complete indoor maintenance
Savvy home buyers notice the small details, and certain flaws show up more in the colder fall months. Consider tackling the following to-do list before your first showing:
- Insulate around windows and doors — drafts are more noticeable in the fall.
- Dust and remove cobwebs, which tend to accumulate this time of year.
- Address any eyesores. Potential buyers are going to spend more time indoors during a showing in the fall, so things like touched-up paint and fresh caulking in the bathrooms and kitchen can make a big difference.
- Replace air filters. As you start cranking up the heat in the fall, new furnace filters will ensure you don’t push stale smells or excessive dust throughout the house.
Improve fall curb appeal
Even though your flowers might not be in bloom, curb appeal is still important in the fall. Cross these yard maintenance items off your list:
- Do some basic yard cleanup — mow the lawn, rake up the leaves, cut back branches, and add mulch for a fresh look.
- Clean the gutters.
- Add some fall flowers, like chrysanthemums or marigolds.
- Sweep or blow walkways before every tour.
- Add a clean doormat for wet shoes.
Fall real estate staging tips
Consider these seasonally inspired staging tips that can help you turn fall listing negatives into positives.
Clean and declutter
Doing a deep clean of your home and clearing out the clutter is always a good idea when you’re selling your home. But, when you’re selling to super-motivated fall buyers, streamlining your stuff ahead of time will allow you to accommodate a quick closing if needed.
Fall means shorter days, with evening light disappearing more and more each night. So, it’s important to brighten up your house. Not only will it help buyers see all your home’s great features, but it’ll make it look inviting from the street:
- Clean windows and screens, so you can let in as much light as possible.
- Add lamps. Bringing in extra floor or table lamps is an easy (and temporary) way to add light. You might also consider simply swapping bulbs for higher wattage, up to each fixture’s recommended maximum.
- Refresh interior paint. It’s well known that light, neutral paint colors appeal to the broadest group of buyers, but during the darkening fall days, they also reflect more light.
Play up the coziness
The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping, and people start spending more time snuggled up inside. Give your home that warm, inviting fall feel buyers are sure to love:
- If you have a gas or electric fireplace, turn it on for showings and open houses.
- Add seasonal accents, like fall-colored pillows and throws and unscented candles.
- Limit holiday decorations. Don’t go overboard with the autumn décor. You want to make sure buyers can picture your home as a year-round property, so lose the Halloween decorations in exchange for a modest autumn leaf wreath on the front door.
- Set conversational seating arrangements. One staging tip for selling your home you’ll often hear is to rearrange your furniture to make the most of each room (and yes, this might mean removing the flat-screen TV to encourage face-to-face seating arrangements). You want shoppers to visualize entertaining their friends and family in the space.
- Offer festive treats. The cherry on top, seasonal goodies like hot cider on the stove or pumpkin cookies can make your home stand out during a fall open house.