Normally, autumn and winter aren't prime selling season for real estate. But 2020 is no normal year. 

In many areas, it's a seller's market. Agents in the suburbs are reporting quick sales at higher than average prices. Investors and urban-wannabes are checking out properties in the cities. 

But what homebuyers demand and expect has changed. Let's review some simple ways you can appeal to these buyers. 

Perks that are hot now

Americans are going to be hunkering down for the winter, so they want amenities that make their next home more accommodating than usual. Many are working from home, and possibly assisting children with online schooling. Many are still self-quarantining or limiting social contact. The family unit may have expanded to include parents and adult children. 

These people want and need access to private and public spaces where they can safely get outdoors. 

What do you have to offer and entice them? 

Do you have a backyard? Research shows that most of the people moving from cities to the suburbs are families. Outdoor living space is especially important to them. If easy access to out-of-doors is a feature of your home, show it off by staging it as a comfortable oasis to relax or play. If you have luxuries like a patio, porch, deck, or even a sliver of a side yard, make sure it is staged to remind buyers of additional useable space. Outdoor furniture that's weather-resistant can stay outdoors all season.

A firepit is usually a plus. Here are instructions for 27 different DIY firepits. For young families, a play area is a must. A fenced yard is a definite enhancement. A basketball hoop or horseshoe pit would be inexpensive additions.

It's becoming more common for MLS photo listings to show more of neighborhoods, using drone photography. It's not just suburban and rural properties that have bragging rights to local, safe places for recreation and socializing. Even inner-city homes for sale can highlight benefits they might have like nearby parks, bike paths, public gardens, or water access. People want to know what dog parks, golf courses, fitness walks, hiking trails, playgrounds, and similar public spaces are nearby. Your online listing can give distances to these amenities. 

The last home I sold was near some public places that were assets to the property, like
this boat ramp. I clocked the mileage, photographed them -- frisbee golf, park, playground --
added text and passed them along to my listing agent to add to the online listing. I don't know why more MLS
photographs don't embed captions to identify rooms and special features of a house. 


Don't think you have to devote an entire room to a home office.
If you can find a space for a console table and chair,
you can create a station that looks work-worthy. 
Photo: Shimar Construction


Don't let any rooms stay vacant! Instead, give buyers staging that sparks their imagination. Indoor amenities might include an indoor gym, home office, game room or craft room in the finished basement or bonus room, or space in the garage staged as a workshop. 

Some folks prefer an open floor plan so family members can spend time together, but some buyers will be looking for separate rooms where they can get work done, or be alone to relax from the stresses of work and familial responsibilities. Whichever floor plan you have, there are buyers out there for you! 

Home, for now, needs to be the headquarters for entertainment, relaxation,
and homework. What buyer wouldn't love this media room/game room, and
workout space, complete with simulated golf? Photo: High Definition Golf

Clear your surroundings for winter   

It's not just interiors that have to be decluttered and cleaned when you plan to list your home. Outside spaces also benefit from a thorough cleaning and tidy-up. So, put away the toys and tools of summer. I've blogged about other ways to make your home more marketable in autumn. 

A buyer, especially one moving from a metropolitan area, wants a home with a lawn. But autumn and winter lawns in much of the US don't have that lush, green look that summertime lawns have. One option is to have synthetic turf installed. It's definitely low maintenance, and the color can last 10 to 15 years, things you can point out to your listing agent as selling features.  

Buyers in northern states won't expect bright green grass after the weather turns chilly, but you'll still want to work on your curb appeal by keeping the yard neat. If you don't have the time or energy to clear away fallen leaves and branches, it will pay to hire someone to take care of it, at least for your photos or video. It's that important. Often just running a lawnmower with a bagger over the lawn takes care of autumn leaves. 

A good professional photographer will know what angles and what
time of day best show your home. But don't expect 
him to tweak your staging. Be ready for your photo op. 

As part of its MLS listing, it's helpful to have a photo of the home in its best season, usually summer when plantings are more full and colorful. If you can find a photo of your garden in summer, pass it along to your listing agent. If your home looks beautiful after a snowstorm, look for a photo you have of that, even if it does not show the entire house. 

If you do regularly get snow in your locale, have a plan to keep it consistently cleared so access is safe and inviting for any showings. Work with your Realtor to make it easy for people to tour your home during the pandemic and when weather is iffy.    

Now is a good time to prune any overgrown shrubs (not the ones that set their spring buds after flowering in the previous spring). Mulching dormant flower beds and around shrubs will give even a lackluster landscape a manicured, low maintenance, finished appearance. In winter, the bones of your landscape are more clear, and you can see flaws in your design that might need adjustments. 

Add seasonal accents and soothing styling

Statistics are indicating that the pandemic is creating mental health problems -- fear, anxiety, depression, and restlessness as well as poor sleep and eating habits.  Whatever you can do to present your home as a haven of security, cleanliness, and comfort will help buyers see it as desirable. 

Stage with furnishings that communicate what the Scandinavians call hygge -- that warm and cozy feeling that comes from being cocooned with people you love. Stage with textured throw blankets and pillows, furniture with pale finishes, and simple arrangments of homey household items like candles, books, music, and live plants. Those arctic people know how to get through the long, dark, cold winters contentedly and stylishly. 

With people more concerned than ever about cleanliness, it's a challenge for
home stagers to make homes look super-clean without looking antiseptic and cold.
Pale and warm colors and luxurious textures are the answer. Photo: Robert Radifera

Seasonal plants in pots around your front entryway are always a good idea. A little bit of greenery can go a long way in the dead of winter. Plants like evergreens, ivy, and flowering kale can survive winters in many of our states. Actually, anything from nature is a refreshing reminder that there is beauty all around us. So, hunt for natural findings like pinecones, branches, logs, dried berries, grapevines, and moss to create arrangements that add winter charm at your doorstep. 

If you do use artificial greenery for staging indoors or out, use plants that are appropriate for the season. It doesn't make sense to have a planter of artificial geraniums on your porch in December.   

Solar lights are a great addition to outside landscaping. But during the short days
of winter, their batteries may not charge sufficiently. And snow or
extended periods of wet weather can ruin them. These flameless candles can be controlled remotely. Photo: Battery Operated Candles

Adding a wreath to your front door can also make your home feel more festive. Some pumpkins -- real or fake -- will give a nod to the harvest season and carry you through until Thanksgiving. After that holiday, I always suggest winter-themed outside decorations rather than specifically Christmas, because winter-themed wreaths and potted plants can stay put until late winter and the arrival of spring. Visit your local garden center to see what is available for winter-hardy plants in your horticultural zone.  

Freshen the exterior siding and trim

If foliage blocks the view of your home most of the year, winter can leave it more exposed. That means imperfections that might lower your curb appeal will be more apparent. I always advise sellers to "go to the curb," even to take photos of your home from the street, or wherever a professional photographer might be photographing your property for the MLS profile shot. This is one way to view your property with fresh eyes. 

Privacy and space are backyard bonuses. Pressure washing the area
 and staging it to look accommodating gives your property an edge
over your competition. Photo: European Pavers Soutthwest

Power washing is one of those inexpensive tasks that makes a big difference. I'm not going to suggest a whole house exterior repaint because the focus of this blog is on home staging. If your home's siding is looking dull but still in good shape, pressure washing can be an answer. Instead of buying a rinky-dink "homeowner special," rent a good pressure washer, and see what a difference it can make on a concrete driveway or sidewalk, as well as your siding. Practice first on areas that aren't front and center if you're inexperienced with pressure washing. It's actually a satisfying chore!  

Painting the front door, or your overhead garage door, or your trim, steps, or mailbox can be quite effective and can make your property feel well-tended.

None of the suggestions I am making here to increase the apparent value of your home while we deal with the coronavirus are impediments to a sale going forward. Buyers will always appreciate homey interiors, and clean, accommodating outdoor spaces! 

You don't need fancy furniture or a large area to make outdoor spaces look
inviting. Even a little corner of your yard or porch can be staged to
be a cozy nook, especially if it includes a fence or hedge.

If all these chores seem too daunting to tackle, and you need a quick sale, you might consider selling to investors who buy homes "as is" so they can do the work themselves and then sell it themselves for a profit. This is the route that works well for sellers who don't have the resources or time or knowhow for repairs and home staging, and want a fast and easy home sale. Instead of getting quotes and reviews for various contractors, and then scheduling painters or plumbers or carpenters or electricians or carpet installers or roofers and other tradespeople, and then staging and finding a real estate agency, you can turn the job over to a company that already knows the ropes and has the contacts. 

However, if your home is one that just needs home staging to sell quickly at a price you like, my $4.99 homestaging eBook will show you how to maximize your major investment -- your residence. Download now and start getting your home ready for sale!