Sean McIllwain, Mod Boulder Real Estate

Sean McIllwain, Mod Boulder Real Estate

BOULDER – Ghosts, goblins, and those super-cringy Guy Fieri costumes: the spookiness of Halloween isn’t just for kids. It’s also a fright-filled time of year for those who are looking to buy or sell their home.

Historically, October is a scary time for real estate. As we settle into fall, buyers move into full-on hibernation mode: coffee shops become more crowded, it’s getting real in the Whole Foods parking lot, and Pearl Street is bustling with early onset holiday shoppers. Instead of looky-loos bopping around to all the Sunday open houses, it’s the season of weekend ski trips, home-cooked meals, and couch-bound Netflix binges.

But that’s not to say that real estate agents close up shop when the cooler months arrive; there’s still plenty of work to be done. Clients still ask for advice, For Sale signs are still hammered into yards, and Zillow continues to post new listings. The game goes on but the tactics change. Below, you’ll find a few insider tricks –as well as a few treats – for buyers and sellers in the off-season.

Tricks for sellers

Spend more time on pre-showing prep. If there are piles of leaves or a few inches of snow on the ground, be sure to clear the walkway to your home thoroughly. First impressions mean everything, and trudging through snow just to get to the door is a rough start that’s hard to overcome.

Floor protector booties in the entryway are a nice offering. When it’s 30 degrees outside, most buyers won’t be sporting slip-ons. It’s much easier to pull on some protective booties than to remove those tightly laced Sorels.

A cold house gets the cold shoulder. Always keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature.

Sounds and smells are important. Background music is always a plus (keep it neutral and seasonal; Sinatra trumps Metallica). And the old trick of baking cookies is still apropos today.

Tricks for buyers

Inventory may appear low, but don’t let current listings be your only guiding light. Sellers will often remove their listings through the winter, so have your agent search expired or withdrawn listings. If your agent reaches out to the listing agent, a showing can often be arranged.

In the slower season, sellers tend to be motivated. While you still may not get the bargain of the century, you’ll often find that homeowners are willing to negotiate a little more during this time of year.

Treats for sellers

Buyers in the off-season are typically more motivated than the high-season looky-loos who are merely curious about upsizing or downsizing. Off-season buyers are often pre-approved and ready to go. Treat each showing as if each potential buyer is the buyer!

Treats for buyers

While your home search may not be as fast-paced or well-inventoried as in the high season, there will be less folks looking. This off-season lull gives you a chance to see a house, go home, think it over, and make a decision without too much fear of cutthroat competition between half a dozen other buyers.

After the high-stakes high season, Boulder’s real estate market is set to quiet down for the next few months. Whether you’re putting your home on the market or you’re in the market for a new home, don’t see the changing season as an obstacle; see it as an opportunity.

By Sean McIllwain. Sean is the current president of Historic Boulder and the founding broker at Mod Boulder Real Estate. Call 720.252.6051, e-mail or visit