What You Should Do Now If You Plan On Selling This Fall

Home sales during the fall are traditionally a bit slower than the frenzied spring and summer months. But fall can be a good time to sell because there are (usually) fewer houses on the market - meaning less competition - and buyers typically want to buy quickly before winter and the holidays set in.

"Homes that are in the more sought-after areas, in good condition and priced well tend to sell very quickly for full or near full price," said Leanne Valdes, a Realtor in Plantation, Fla.

And this fall could signal the continuation of many sellers' markets throughout the country as interest rates slowly creep up and the fear of additional increases looms.

Home buying activity has also been spurred by the fear of many potential homebuyers that this may be the last time they see interest rates this low for some time to come.

If you plan on selling this fall, you'll want to do everything in your power to attract would-be homebuyers.

One of the first things you should do is examine, and if needed, repair any major structural systems. If you're unaware of any, you may want to hire a professional home inspector. Chances are a potential buyer will hire an inspector to examine the house, so you might as well save yourself any surprises down the road.

The American Society of Home Inspectors says a typical home inspection includes drainage conditions, exterior surfaces, decks, chimney, the roof, windows, doors, plumbing fixtures, furnace, air conditioner, insulation, ventilation, electrical, heating, and plumbing systems.

Once that's done, you should make you don't have any loose shingles. Repair and paint your gutters, if needed. Once the structural systems are repaired or given the thumbs-up, then you should turn to appearance.

And when it comes to looks, if you're selling in the fall, there are many things to consider, including:

Curb appeal. In other words, the way your house looks from the street - the roof's condition, how the paint is holding up, whether the windows are sparkling, the lawn is mowed, the landscape is attractive and not buried beneath a peppering of fall leaves, and the driveway and walkways are free from toys and clutter.

Entering the house. Your front door should be in good condition. Usually when the real estate professional is busy retrieving the key from the lock box, the potential buyers are standing by with nothing else to look at but the front door. Does it need painting or staining? Also, new hardware will make it stand out, and why not adorn it with a seasonal fall wreath?

Once inside your house, the two things that immediately turn off prospective buyers are dingy walls and dirty, ill-colored, outdated, or shabby carpet. Sometimes it's hard to be objective about the condition of your own house because you see it every day, so ask a friend, neighbor, or your real estate agent to give it a look and give you their honest opinion. Fresh paint can do wonders. Keep the colors neutral. And while you can offer buyers a carpet allowance to compensate for bad carpet, replacing it before selling really boosts that first impression and makes the house more appealing and worth more in the buyer's mind.

Clear the clutter. If you have too much furniture, put some of it in storage. Fewer pieces of furniture will make the room seem larger and more open. Also, clear counters in the kitchen and bathrooms. Make sure closets are clean. Pack up some of your clothes now. Fewer hanging clothes in the closet will make the closet appear bigger.

Talk to the professionals. Now's also a good time to interview real estate professionals. Ask about their experience, find out how well they know the area you're eyeing, and talk to references. Once you have someone lined up you can follow his or her additional recommendations and begin the final phases of preparation before your house goes on the market.
Finally, you should be mindful of setting a competitive price. Many agents will begin by conducting a competitive market analysis of your house and give you an estimate of the fair market value of your home, which is a range that will fluctuate depending on the housing market in your area and how much similar homes in your neighborhood are selling for.

Don't insist on setting the price too high, especially if you're on a timeline. A house priced appropriately will be taken more seriously and will ultimately sell more quickly than one that's overpriced.