While most people think of spring as being the height of the real estate market, the arrival of fall offers opportunities galore for buying or selling a home. As the weather cools and the leaves begin to drop from the trees, a new crop of homes comes onto the market, making the autumn the second-busiest real estate season of the year.

Once summer ends and kids head back to school, the real estate market heats up. New houses enter the market weekly, which is good news if you're shopping for a new home. Likewise, buyers are often eager to get into a new home before winter weather sets in, which is great if you're hoping to sell. Open houses are abundant on fall weekends, and with the beauty of the season, homes show well.

In addition to the beauty of the changing leaves and the allure of pleasant weather, fall stands out as a great time to make a home feel cozy. Seasonal scents like apples, cinnamon, and other spices make a home inviting to a prospective buyer who wants to feel … well, at home. Cheerful mums and seasonal floral arrangements also welcome home buyers. Sellers should be careful to keep on top of leaf removal on a regular basis so that lawns look trim and neat. And as the days grow shorter, remember to keep interior lighting at levels that maximize a home's charm and highlight its best features. Throw open the curtains to let natural lighting flood in – but don't forget to keep your windows sparkling clean.

A few additional tips for fall sellers:
-Make sure the furnace is functioning properly.
-Clean fireplaces and chimneys.
-Use autumn accent colors to capitalize on the hominess of the season.
-Have summertime photos of your house and yard on hand.
-Prepare your home for colder weather with storm doors and windows and doormats.

Meanwhile, buyers shouldn't wait too long to put in an offer on a house they love. Some areas are seeing homes jump straight off the market into the hands of willing buyers, so it's best not to delay on making an offer if you're serious about a property. Since new homes enter the market regularly, you'll want to check for new listings weekly in order to void missing out on a new addition. Try to schedule showings for earlier in the day so that you can visit homes during the hours of daylight. And don't forget to visit those open houses.

And a bit more advice for fall buyers:
-Look for motivated sellers who want to move on before winter sets in.
-Keep an eye out for weather-related maintenance issues during showings.
-Avoid tracking mud and dirt into the homes you visit – wipe off shoes or remove them.
-Get pre-approved for a mortgage loan so you are prepared to move quickly if you find a home you love.
As always, partnering with a respected real estate agent can help you best understand the market in which you are buying or selling. He or she will have additional advice about your home buying or selling experience this fall. Good luck!

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