On the Market, Off-Season

What to Know When the Sales Season Slows 

By Iyna Bort Caruso

An estate set amid a fresh snowfall may conjure up images of Currier & Ives, but a “For Sale” sign on the property paints a different scene.

Selling a home in the off-season is a challenge.

In the U.S., sales typically ramp up in early spring and peak in June and July, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Of the 4,907,000 homes sold last year, June saw the most closings at 555,000. As a rule, families prefer to be settled in a new home for the start of the fall school term.

It’s when buyers start to thin out that sellers need to tweak their game plans.

The definition of off-season, however, is a fluid one based on location and whether the residence is in a primary or second-home market. Pick a spot on the globe and off-season can mean rainy, hurricane or triple-digit-degree season.

Whenever it occurs, Sheena Conolly of Cayman Islands Sotheby’s International Realty rarely suggests sellers delay bringing their homes onto the market. “Property marketed and priced appropriately to the correct audience could easily sell at any time of the year,” she says.

There are even some advantages to listing a home in the off-season. Window shoppers largely disappear, for one thing. Buyers who are willing to trudge through rain, sleet and snow tend to be more serious. What’s more, there are fewer homes for them to look at since inventory goes down.

If you’re selling off-season, consider these seven strategies:

Look Sharp: Even the toniest estates can look a bit forlorn under rainy or wintry skies. Make sure driveways and walkways are cleared of leaves or snow. Consider bringing in a lighting designer to brighten up exteriors and enhance curb appeal during shorter days of the year. Add a punch of seasonal color and administer to landscaping issues quickly. “People forget what nature can do if not tended to regularly,” says Chuck Petersheim, owner of Catskill Farms, a firm that designs, develops, builds and sells second homes in upstate New York. It’s especially true off-season and in between seasons. “You never know what happens when the snow melts. A house can really look its worst by just a little lack of attention,” he says.

Create Buzz: Grab buyers’ attention in inventive ways. The owners of a tony Brooklyn townhouse drew off-season foot traffic by opening up their residence to the public as part of a historic home and garden tour.

Up the Ante: Sweeten the deal by offering buyers incentives for a quick sale. Conolly says her sellers have thrown in furniture, art, boats, even premium vacations to major sports events such as Wimbledon “for a swift closure.”

Let Them Linger: Give buyers a reason to stick around. Paula Medow, of Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Sedona, Ariz., says it can be as simple as offering refreshments like hot drinks in the winter or ice cream in the sweltering heat. “The longer the interested buyer stays in the home, the better,” she says.

Spark Their Imagination: Have photographs on hand of your home in its best light and in its best season — the landscaping in full bloom, the pool on a sunny day. At the same time, don’t hesitate to highlight your home’s here-and-now splendors. Every season has its beauty. Get buyers to picture themselves enjoying your home any time of the year.

Double Your Efforts: Buyers will come off the fence for a property that catches their eye no matter the season, but you have to make sure to grab their attention. Develop a marketing plan that includes advertising and incentive tactics — and then double your efforts.

Price to Compete: Don’t stay in love with your home, insists Medow. If you’re a seller, the way to sell is by pricing attractively. “No one is going to overpay. There isn’t an unintelligent buyer out there,” she says. “You have to be the best property in your price range.”

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