Give your home an edge in the market

Special To The Washington PostJuly 17, 2013 

Jenn Carr Elmas and her husband, Ish Elmas, listed their Colonial-style home in Vienna, Va., recently, and they’re interested in selling it fast.

But capturing buyers’ attention can be more challenging as summer wears on and buyers turn their attention from interest rates and open houses to vacations and back to school.

So the Elmases aren’t taking any chances. They’re attempting to ratchet up their home’s appeal.

They’re making their already lavish back yard — which has a swimming pool, a pond with a fountain, an outdoor bar and kitchen, and several patios — even more appealing to the dwindling supply of buyers.

“We’re power-washing everything, including the retaining walls and the patios, and we’ve added an outdoor TV to the bar,” Carr Elmas says. “Besides putting out all the umbrellas and cushions for the chairs, we’re putting potted flowers on the tables to match the cushions, and we placed some potted hibiscus trees around the pool. We’ve got a drinks setup on the bar and added throw pillows to the outdoor couch.”

Generally, home sales peak in spring, with a second rush of sales in the fall. While summer is better for sales than the doldrums of January and February, typically there is somewhat of a lull during the dog days of summer.

Selling in summer – particularly August – can take extra effort largely because many parents are sensitive to the school calendar and will need more incentive to buy when it will disrupt the start of a school year.

Michelle Morris, a real estate agent with Re/Max Gateway in Chantilly, Va., says, “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.”

But homeowners face other challenges 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,” says Laura McCaffrey, an agent with Evers & Co. Real Estate in Bethesda, Md. “Even if your kids are in camp, they tend to get home a little earlier than during the school year, and your schedule is more complicated.”

Morris says kids also 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 says. “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. If you have to, buy them something or promise a trip to an amusement park to get their cooperation.”

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

Morris also counsels buyers to 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 says.

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,” says Adam Gallegos, a broker with Arbour Realty in Arlington County. “It helps to pick the right flowers, too, that will be in bloom right around the time you’re selling your home.”

Gallegos recommends 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 says. “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.”

McCaffrey says sellers need to keep their plants watered and alive without letting them become overgrown. Buyers, he says, will look at exterior maintenance as an indication of how well the home has been cared for inside.

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