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Join the crowds by listing your home in spring
It may surprise many, but April and May are among the most popular times to list a home for sale. But an early season listings carries both opportunity and drawbacks. - photo by Jeff Wuorio
Homebuyers who are waiting for summer to start shopping may end up walking through the dregs of what most buyers didn't like. The time to start looking is now, experts say.

May 1 had the largest number of homes listed for sale in 2014, according to the National Association of Realtors. The remaining nine top slots of listing activity were from mid-April to late May.

Many buyers start to come out of the woodwork for the spring market. There certainly can be a lot of buyer activity, said Kevin Vitali, a Tewksbury, Massachusetts, real estate broker. Nice weather, the dream of owning a home and getting out after a long winter can certainly drive buyer traffic to your home.

Early spring can pose a quandary for those on the other side of the equation home sellers. If youre ready to relocate, it makes sense to get a jump on trying to move your home. On the other hand, the potential exists for getting lost amid countless other proactive sellers.

Then theres the weather. Although many parts of the country offer perfect conditions in April or May, not every region is at its meteorological best, such as the Northeast this year or Maryland last year. That can impact how your home shows to potential buyers.

There are pros and cons to each side, said Derek Latka, NAR vice president of Realtor relations, but there are tangible benefits to listing your home early.

A sellers' market

Although conditions vary from one region of the country to another, its generally a sellers market these days. Housing inventory the number of houses available for sale remains low.

The NAR reported a total inventory of 1.89 million homes in February, down about half a percentage point from the prior year. Unsold homes were selling in less than five months, which is faster than normal conditions.

Another reason for seller optimism this year is that mortgage rates are still at historic lows.

The Federal Reserve has signaled that they intend to increase interest rates in the near future, said Latka. That means the current market offers a great opportunity to attract a broad base of buyers.

And those who put their home on the market as soon after winter as possible can help themselves take advantage of the favorable market conditions. Buyers tend to be more serious (in spring) than those looking at other times of the year, said Latka.

Get creative

One wild card to listing a home for sale well in advance of summer is unpredictable weather. Late April or early May can be spectacular weather-wise in more temperate regions of the country, while a spring snowstorm is not uncommon in other areas.

But even sellers in unpredictable climates can leverage an early listing with a little creativity, making their home inviting no matter the weather.

Making your home a relaxing refuge from the unpredictable spring weather will immediately establish positive feelings with potential buyers, said Rob Rebholz, managing director of SpaceWays, a Chicago storage solutions company. A neat, warmly lit space with some soft furnishings will be instantly appealing against the backdrop of unexpected spring downpours outside.

Under any circumstance, pay close attention to the weather forecast and plan accordingly. If youre thinking about hosting an open house, be sure to target a weekend with a sunny, pleasant forecast: Not only will your home show better, there will be two to three times as many people house shopping on a sunny day, said Dave Zirnhelt of Snap Up Real Estate, a real estate and property listing website.

If the weather seems bound to be uncooperative, consider hiring a photographer to take pictures of the house during peak curb appeal periods. That way, the only view shoppers have of the property wont be constrained by unpredictable weather.

But if your houses curb appeal really shines when the grass is green and flower beds are in bloom, "you may choose to wait a little longer in the season to list your home, said Latka.

Under any circumstance

There are mainstay strategies that help move houses, no matter the weather or time of year. Start by clearing out any junk or needless items.

An uncluttered space looks bigger, but be sure to keep a few happy memories around vacation photos, for example to foster positive feelings in the buyers, said Rebholz.

Investigate and address any needed repairs that may stand out in a buyers eyes. That can range from modest nuisance fix-ups to more substantial upgrades such as patching a leaky roof that will only scare many homebuyers, said Vitali.

Think about any prominent colors in the home whose appeal might be a hit or miss proposition. If theres loud wallpaper in the family room or bathrooms with Brady Bunch-like paint, consider repainting more neutral colors. Everything from a fresh, bright coat of paint to new flooring to updated faucets or countertops in the kitchen and bathroom can go a long way, said Dave Fry of The Fry Group in Minneapolis.

Lastly, dont assume that pre-sale fix ups need be extensive or unduly costly: You can get a decent return on your investment by doing simple updates that will impress buyers, said Fry. No matter where you live, if your home shows well, it will sell.
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