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Should you list or buy a home in the summer?

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Jill Chodorov, a real estate agent with Long & Foster, writes an occasional column about local market trends and housing issues.

At a recent appointment with a prospective home seller, I was asked a question that made me pause and think before offering an answer: Should we list the property now during the hot summer or wait until after Labor Day?

It was a steamy 94 degrees outside on this recent humid July afternoon, with a heat index of more than 100 degrees.  My mind flashed to the image of me sitting on a lounge chair by a pool, rather than sitting at an open house on a Sunday afternoon.

Even as I imagined myself relaxing by the cool water of the pool, I told my clients what I knew was the truth — now is a great time to list their property for sale.

“Your house is in a great location, it shows well, and it will be priced desirably at under $500,000,” I said.  “In addition, there are very few homes on the market in your neighborhood, so we don’t have much competition.”   The home is located in the Forestvale neighborhood of Silver Spring, near Forest Glen Metro on the Red line, around the corner from Georgia Avenue and the Beltway, and blocks from Holy Cross Hospital.

After meeting with my client, I wondered how my colleagues were answering the same question from their clients.   Although most agents agreed with my recommendation, I did find some differences of opinion.

Josette Skilling of Keller Williams Capital Properties in Bethesda agreed with my assessment.  “I typically tell a client to wait, but this year with inventory tighter I am telling clients to list instead of wait,” Skilling said in a recent e-mail.

Skilling did add a few caveats to listing a home in the summer.  “While the condition of the property is always important, it has to be really good at this time of year.  I think it’s important to be a darn near perfect house so it stands out,” she wrote.   “And I’ve counseled sellers to be less expectant of higher prices or a lot of competition, unlike in the spring.”

Susan Sonnesyn Brooks of Weichert Realtors also agreed.  “I tell sellers that price and condition are more important than ever in the summer.  Why not be one of the best offerings of the summer? What could be more cool than that?”

Brooks offered some additional thoughts on selling this summer.  “Many buyers missed out in the spring on homes to competition, poor timing or not wanting to escalate their offers.  They are still out there looking seriously and complaining about lack of inventory,” she said.  “Waiting two months for September, when they will have a lot more competition from buyers who took the summer off is simply not acceptable to many of the motivated buyers. “

Brooks said that some buyers are on a timeline to buy.  “Some are eager to get into new school districts before fall, and many have more time during the summer to house hunt and move,” Brooks said.

Beth Hughes of DCRE Residential is also hot on listing properties in the summer months.  “One of my busiest months last year was August,” Hughes said.

“The low inventory and high number of buyers still looking means that it is still a good time to list your property.  We are still seeing multiple offers escalating to over the asking price on properties in the D.C. area, so the market is still competitive,” Hughes said.  “As far as I am concerned, summer is a viable market for sellers.”

Not all agents are bullish on the summer real estate market.  Stanley Barsch of Barsch Realty had a chilly outlook on listing a home in the hot summer months.

“In my honest opinion, late July and August are not a good time to list a property for sale.  D.C. is a ghost town in August,” Barsch said.  “People are busy with vacations and pool parties.  Home buying is not on the front line for most people.  We are a four season area, things don’t really slow down.  But I do think we have some cold spots and August is one of those times.”

“There are always buyers out there, but you are setting yourself up by listing in July and August.  If the property does not sell, you have 30 days or more on the market when new listings are coming out in September,” Barsch warned.  “You are committing suicide.”

“In addition, buyers have not been motivated in the last 45 days.  And I don’t see them getting motivated in August,” Barsch added.

Barsch is correct.  According to the latest data released last week by RealEstate Business Intelligence, a subsidiary of Rockville-based multiple listing service MRIS, buyers have been less motivated in the last 45 days.  Sales in the D.C. metro area fell by 4.5 percent in June 2014 compared to June 2013.

Of course, factors other than high temperatures might account for the decline in sales.   Some buyers can’t meet the tougher mortgage qualification standards.  And homeowners who refinanced at historically low rates are reluctant to take on higher rates now.

Barsch is advising his buyers to get into the market now, however.  “Not to contradict myself, but this is the best time for buyers to get into the market.  Buyers have more of a bargaining chip,” Barsch said.  “Buyers can take advantage of the slow market by negotiating for closing help, longer inspection contingencies, additional contingencies such as radon inspections, and they are not rushed to make an offer.”

Barak Sky of Long & Foster had a more relaxed view of timing the market.  “What is most important to consider is what is best for the seller,” Barak said.  “There are always buyers in the market.  I have sold homes on Christmas Day and in the middle of the summer.  Timing does not matter that much.”

Skilling said she will be listing two properties at the end of July.  She will be sure that the properties show extremely well.  “And then I cross my fingers.”

Here are some tips for attracting a summertime buyer:

• Keep the lawn mowed and weeded for prime summer curb appeal.

• Keep the air conditioner humming at a cool comfortable temperature.

• Stage outdoor spaces to highlight ease of summer living.

• Decorate with cool summer colors and accents.

• Highlight balconies, decks, patios and pools in photographs and marketing.

Previously from Jill Chodorov:

In tight market, pre-listing sites becoming popular

High radon levels may be downside to having a tight, energy-efficient house

Logan Circle condos to use feng shui

How to find affordable housing for an elderly parent

Jill Chodorov can be reached at