Money Talks, So Should You

How to sell your home in the summertime

Steamy summer months aren't always the hottest time of the year to show your home.

Jerry Kronenberg
by Jerry Kronenberg

BOSTON (MainStreet) — Steamy summer months aren't always the hottest time of the year to show your home to prospective buyers, but take the right steps and you can get interest in your place sizzling.

"It's challenging to get buyers to look at houses in hot weather," says Brad Knapp of Henkle, Schueler Realtors in suburban Cincinnati, where the mercury often tops 100 degrees in summer.

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"Even though buyers have air conditioning in their cars, you have to convince them to get into their cars — then out of their cars — to check places out," says Knapp, a National Association of Realtors regional vice president.

So the expert recommends taking some extra steps to make sure your home shows well in the summertime.

Just as smart sellers trim a home's bushes in the spring and rake up leaves in the fall to maximize "curb appeal," savvy property owners will go the extra mile to make their places look good during summer months.

Here are 8 things Knapp says every would-be seller should do this summer to get their property moving:

Don't skimp on air conditioning

No one will want to look at your home if it's as hot inside as the temperature is outside.

That's why Knapp says people without central air conditioning might consider keeping their properties off of the market until the fall.

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"Even if you have window units, they just don't do the job when it's approaching 100 degrees out," he says.

Assuming your home does have central air, get it inspected before putting the home on the market so it keeps functioning through the summer.

Then keep the thermostat around 72 degrees all the time to cool and dehumidify your home.

Knapp says you shouldn't try to save money by turning the air conditioning down when you're out. Doing so will create the risk of having a place that's too warm or muggy if house hunters show up on short notice.

Leave the lights on

This is another area where you'll have to skip energy efficiency for a while.

Knapp says it's important to keep lots of lights on at all times — especially in the basement, hallways and other places that don't get much sun.

"You don't have to light your house up like a Christmas tree," he says, "but you don't want an agent who's showing the home to have to spend a lot of time pawing for light switches."

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Create a pleasant smell

Pet smells or musty basements are bad enough in cooler temperatures, but summer heat can make them unbearable.

So make sure you remove things such as kitty litter regularly, and consider relocating your pets for a while if that's what it takes to keep your home smelling clean.

If you tend to have a damp or musty basement, clean it with bleach to remove mold and mildew before putting the home on the market. Then use dehumifiers to keep everything dry.

Knapp also suggests giving a house a "homey" smell by baking a pie in the oven when you know house hunters are on the way.

If the idea of cooking during hot summer days turns you off, you can actually buy sprays, essential oils and scented candles that smell like apple or cherry pie.

Water the front lawn

High water costs and summertime sprinkler bans can make green grass hard to come by this time of year, but Knapp says you should keep your front landscaping looking good to maximize curb appeal.

"Try to keep the front yard as green as possible — but you can forget about the backyard if you have to," he says. "Most buyers are astute enough to know that if all of the backyards up and down the street are brown, there really isn't a problem if yours is, too."

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Have a clean front door and windows

A nice front door makes a great first impression, but keeping one clean takes extra effort during the summer pollen season.

Knapp recommends cleaning the front door at least once a week to keep it pollen free.

Also thoroughly clean all windows inside and out before you put your home on the market. Then check the windows periodically throughout the summer to make sure they still sparkle.

Provide school information

Most schools are closed during the summer, but school boards, superintendents and other top people typically work year-round and can provide tours or answer house hunters' questions.

Knapp suggests leaving brochures and contact information for all nearby public and private schools on a table in your home where would-be buyers can see them.

Go away

Summer vacation or not, all occupants — including kids — must clear out of the home any time would-be buyers drop by.

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"You need to pack your kids up and go out for ice cream whenever a buyer is coming," Knapp says. "You have to give the buyer and the real estate agent free rein of the house. A lot of buyers will feel very uncomfortable looking at a home if the seller is there."

Declutter

Regardless of when you put your home on the market, Knapp recommends throwing out, giving away or storing off-site as many things as possible to make your home's rooms and closets look spacious and clean.

You also want to "depersonalize" your house by removing offbeat furnishings and taking down most family photos.

After all, would-be buyers want to imagine what your home will look like with their stuff in it — not yours.