If you're planning on putting your house on the market this fall, be aware that folks at different stages of life enter the market at different times of the year. For example, the lively spring real estate season thrives on families wishing to relocate while their kids are on break from school. Home sales in autumn, however, are driven mainly by millennials and empty-nesters. As we near the end of the summer, many would-be home sellers are wondering whether either of those populations can be counted on to be active in the coming months.
Millennials. What's keeping millennials from moving out of their parents' basements? Only money. To scrape up a down payment, young and financially insecure house hunters are likely to seek loans either from family members or the federal government. But are they actually going to obtain those loans?
Watch the stock market for clues. If investment returns are strong, waffling parents might feel rich enough to subsidize their adult children's dreams of homeownership. Less vulnerable to uncertainty are government home loans, namely those offered by the Federal Housing Administration. As we've reported in the past, the FHA makes loans that combine purchase and improvement expenses. Mention those programs in all of the materials you prepare to market your property. Hey, it's a worth a shot: You might end up informing a potential buyer of something he doesn't already know.
Here are a few tips to help you court millennials:
• If someone visits your open house with parents in tow, pay as much attention to the parents as you do to the apparent buyer himself.
• Supplement the listing with a document that highlights the amenities that millennials view as must-haves (for example, wireless Internet infrastructure).
• Allow plenty of time for the loan to be approved. The average millennial's credit history lacks a landlord's verification of his ability to meet payments.
Empty-Nesters. Having already raised children, empty-nesters understand the value of good school districts, but nowadays they are more interested in amenities that suit their child-free lifestyle. If you have a hunch your house may appeal to empty-nesters, here's how to play up that attraction:
• Emphasize multipurpose space-for instance, stage one bedroom as a home office-cum-hobby room-because empty-nesters crave flexibility for the future.
• Provide a map to points of interest within walking distance. To the extent possible, aging baby boomers wish to integrate exercise into their daily habits.
• Showcase quality. Without teenagers around, empty-nesters can enjoy more delicate finishes and fine details, so give them something to brag about. They want to upgrade as they downsize.