Getting Ready

7 tips for selling your apartment in the dog days of summer

By Virginia K. Smith  | July 6, 2015 - 8:59AM

While summer has traditionally been real estate's slow season, with New York's market more overheated than ever (no pun intended), there's no reason to hold off till the fall if you're looking to put your place on the market. "It's a phenomenal time to be a seller," says Citi Habitats broker Tavia Trepte.

This summer in particular—on the heels of a brutal, open-house-unfriendly winter, in the midst of an ongoing inventory crunch, and in the shadow of impending interest rate hikes from the Fed—buyers are more eager than ever. Still,  selling in the hottest time of the year—and when half of New York City seems to be out of town—does come with its own particular set of quirks. We chatted with brokers for pro tips on pulling off a summertime sale:

Have outdoor space? Now's the time to sell. Unsurprisingly, there's no better time of year to show off a property with enviable outdoor space (as opposed to, say, a cozy pre-war with a fireplace as its focal point). "If you're selling a townhome or something with a terrace, it's a great time to show it," says president David Maundrell. "In the winter, that doesn't do anything for you."

"I once had a listing in the winter that had a huge courtyard, but it was covered in snow, and the trees were dead," says DJK Residential agent Carole Armstrong. "It was a beautiful balcony, but just wasn't appealing." 

Play up any outdoor space you've got, say the experts, and set it up to best show off its assets. (In other words, even if you're going to be out of town all summer to better facilitate open houses, get your plants, patio furniture, etc. set up like you normally would to keep the place looking as inviting as possible.)

Ditto for starter apartments. "It's always been true that for studios and one-bedrooms, there's no bad time of year," says Warburg Realty agent Deborah Lupard. Unlike larger families who might be spending their weekends in the Hamptons, single buyers or couples looking for smaller places are likely still in the city working for most of the summer.

Another reason to put your smaller apartment on the market in the summer, according to Lupard: parents of soon-to-be-students in the city, who are often looking to buy places for their children in lieu of paying sky-high monthly costs in a rental or dorm.

Prepare to skip open houses on holiday weekends, and to reschedule them on more convenient dates.  For the most part, you should treat major holiday weekends—Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day—as no fly zones when it comes to hosting open houses. "Even when we have clients who are very eager, I tell them not do it on holidays," says Maundrell. "We like to give our staff that time off, as well." Trepte also notes that for this past Father's Day weekend, she switched her open houses from Sunday to Saturday to accommodate more potential buyers' schedules.

But even for normal weekends, you may want to consider tweaking the open house schedule a little bit. "I think it's often better to do open houses on a Monday or Wednesday evening during the week," says Lupard.  "If you want to keep it on a Sunday though—or if other properties in your area are still doing them that day—try holding it later in the afternoon, when people might already have gotten back to the city." 

Timing is key, period. For larger apartments that are more likely to attract buyers with kids, it's important to keep in mind what point in the season you might attract the most families. "For example, a few weekends back was the weekend everyone was away taking their kids to sleepaway camp, so if you were selling, say, a two-bedroom in Brooklyn Heights or Cobble Hill, it would have been slower," says Maundrell.

The biggest thing to consider here, though, is that back-to-school schedule. Families moving to (or even within) the city want their situation—and school district—settled well before September. "For larger apartments like three-bedrooms, July will be the busiest time for that market, as parents are trying to place their children and register them before school starts," says Armstrong. Time your sale—and consider your buyers' urgency (and willingness to negotiate)—accordingly.

Brace yourself for a longer-than-usual closing process. Even if the sales market is as hot as ever this time of year, delays in the closing process are more or less inevitable. "The closing might drag simply because you're trying to get a lot of people who want to be at the beach in a room together to talk about business," says Trepte. 

Wrangling closing lawyers, mortgage brokers, co-op boards, and all the various players involved in a sale, you're almost certainly going to run into at least one party involved being on vacation when you're trying to get paperwork signed, sealed, and delivered. "It typically doesn't have an impact on the sale, it just takes more time, and most buyers and sellers are usually pretty generous about it," Trepte  notes. Manage your expectations on this front ahead of time so you don't find yourself too frustrated at a barrage of "out of office" auto-responses.

Treat August like December. That whole thing about about closing being tougher during vacation season? "The deeper you're into the summer, the worse it will get," says Maundrell.

"The same thing happens during Christmas, the New Year, Passover, and major school holidays," says Lupard. "I like to compare August to the time between Christmas and New Year's." As the city empties out, sales—and closing—both slow down accordingly.

Make sure the A/C is working perfectly. Just as this is the perfect time of year to show off an apartment with a sunny outdoor space, it's the worst time of year to host an open house in a stuffy place with poor air circulation. "If you have an apartment that doesn't have the best cooling system, it shoots you in the foot every time," says Maundrell. "Buyers lose interest immediately."

Before you​ give your broker the go-ahead to dive into those open houses, it might be well worth investing in an extra window unit.


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