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Buying or selling a home? Off-season can be prime

If you're buying or selling a home and the end of the spring-summer real estate season is stressing you out, relax.

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Even though real estate sales do fall off at the end of warm weather, there's still plenty of buying and selling coming this fall and winter.

Remember, sales volume is not your problem. The only house you care about is the one you're selling or hoping to buy.

Terry Hankner, a real estate agent with Comey & Shepherd in Cincinnati, Ohio, confirms the real estate business definitely buzzes in the fall and winter, and adds, "Real estate isn't nearly as seasonal as it used to be. If a house is priced and marketed appropriately, no matter what time of year it is, there will be a buyer for it."

What's more, many home buyers and sellers are bucking the seasonal nature of residential real estate. They're finding that buying or selling houses in the fall and winter months has many advantages -- not the least of which are the gorgeous fall leaf colors and holiday decorations that showcase many homes to their fullest potential.

The fall season is unquestionably the busiest time of year for Dick Dils. As a country broker based in Shelburne Falls, Mass., near the Vermont border, he sells many large homes with lots of property. Dils finds that the latter part of the year is the best time for potential buyers to understand the lay of the land and see a home's structure without the distraction of summer shrubbery. Plus, "New England is at its splendiferous best in the autumn," he says.

"Our area gets a lot of visitors in the fall -- people coming to enjoy the fall colors, attend a school homecoming celebration, attend outdoor athletic events, or visit one of our many country fairs or harvest celebrations," says Dils. "As a result, it's a great time for them to consider looking at homes for sale in the area."

In fact, Hankner believes, seeing a home all decked out for the winter holidays can be an emotional trigger for many buyers. "I bought my own house in the summer, but I was actually imagining it with a Christmas tree beneath its cathedral ceilings," she says. "The holidays are a great time of year to find a new home."

No matter which side of the transaction you're on, you can make the off-season work to your advantage. Here's why:

Sellers

  • Buyers are motivated. Many off-season buyers are more serious than some among the horde who descend like locusts on open houses in the spring. After all, there's a reason they didn't buy during the peak season. Perhaps they didn't have enough for a down payment or couldn't get financed. The fact that they've entered the market in a downtime might be very meaningful.
  • There is a second season. While sales definitely fall off in the early fall, they usually escalate again in October in many parts of the country.
  • Cyber sales. The expansion of the Internet and the numbers of people who use it have added a significant off-season dimension to real estate sales. Potential buyers can now find properties for sale in the comfort of their home through a vast array of Web sites. Virtual tours can take them into homes and they can preview neighborhoods, schools and city information before venturing out.
  • Hindsight. When you put up a home for sale in the fall or winter, you have the advantage of hindsight: You and your agent can review which homes sold quickly in your area during the warm-weather "peak season." This gives you the chance to adjust your price and terms accordingly and to make your home more marketable.
 
 
Next: "Sellers are often pressured"
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