The holidays are here and you just found the perfect job in another city, or you decided you’ve had it with winter and want to move somewhere warmer, or you visited an Open House and found the perfect new home but recognize any offer you make would have to be contingent on the sale of your present one. Whatever your reason, if selling your house is something you want to do this time of year, don’t hesitate to talk to your agent about putting it on the market. Similarly, if your home is already listed and hasn’t sold you may want to leave it on the market. Chances are you’ll be glad you did.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, the holidays are actually a great time to sell your home and if you wait until the spring market, you could be missing a unique opportunity. Not only is there a lot less competition this time of year, but when your house is tastefully decorated for the holidays with greenery, candles and lights it often looks its very best both inside and out.
And it’s not just your home that looks its annual best. Chances are your whole neighborhood has its best foot forward with individual homes as well as clubhouses, streets and subdivision entrances decked out in holiday finery. All of this helps buyer prospects feel at home and may even convince them to make on offer on your house so they can move in and enjoy this special holiday ambiance every single year.
When you list your home, it will, of course, be necessary to make it available for showings, and some sellers worry about the inconvenience if they are expecting house guests or planning a party or two. Don’t stress. All of this can be worked out with your agent when your home goes on the market. You can always open it for showings when it is convenient for you, and say no when it is not.
To List or Not to List
While the fourth quarter is usually not the busiest time of year in real estate, a recent, national, online survey by realtor.com found that 60 percent of the agents “always advise a seller to list their home during the holidays because they believe it is a good time to sell,” and 30 percent sometimes advise their clients to list if they are “highly motivated.” In other words, if you are ready to sell, don’t hesitate to have your home on the market when the holidays come around.
Locally agents report some very nice numbers for the holiday season. For example, Byrd Abbott with Roy Wheeler Realty Co. said that a year ago, she had eight homes go under contract in the month of December, a banner month. This year she listed a home on the Friday before Thanksgiving. It went under contract almost immediately to a cash buyer and closed two weeks later.
The December and January time frames are “very rewarding,” added Len Mailloux with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III. He suggests this time of year is a good time for buyers to be out looking at homes, in part, because they are in a “much stronger position” to negotiate a good deal.
The holidays are also a time when there is less building going on. This is especially good news for sellers since the resale market has had a lot of competition from new construction, which is recovering from the recession and coming on strong. With less building happening during the winter months, though, resale homes are much more likely to sell. At the same time, buyers who are shopping for real estate during the holidays often need to move now and may not be able to wait for a home to be built. All of these are reasons why you can win big when you put your home on the market during the holidays.
Holiday Buyers are Serious Buyers
People taking time to look at homes during the holidays are generally serious about buying in the very near future. “These aren’t tire kickers,” Abbott said. They may need a home before the end of the year for tax reasons, or they may be relocating because they have been transferred or because they are, for other reasons, starting a new job. Regardless, finding a place to live now is a priority for these kinds of buyers.
Phyllis Novotny with Roy Wheeler Realty Co. said that, in her experience, doctors often move July first and February first and the latter are good candidates to be shopping in November or December. One example is a couple, both physicians, that she helped purchase a home in November a year ago after they were hired by UVA.
Another source of November through January buyers are those moving in from out of the country, many of whom don’t celebrate the same holidays that are popular in the US and aren’t deterred by Christmas and New Year’s being right around the corner. Sam DeBord, a Seattle area REALTOR® and writer, posted an article at realtor.com explaining that along with improvements in the real estate market in our country there has been an increase in the number of foreign buyers and “significant upticks in buyer showings and home sales around holiday periods.”
Still another reason to have your home on the market during the holidays is that most buyers today start their home search online. A combination of vacation days and inclement weather often means buyers have more time to review their options and narrow their choices online before getting out to look at their top choices. If your home is off the market during this time, these online shoppers will not find it and you will miss out.
The holidays are also a time when people who have gone elsewhere for school or jobs come home to visit and some will decide to stay permanently. Scott Ward with A. Scott Ward Realty, Inc., said it is not uncommon for these holiday visitors to stop by his office in Scottsville and ask about homes for sale in their price range. For example, the day before Thanksgiving, a couple from Florida was back visiting their daughter and walked into his office out of curiosity. Before they knew it, they were out looking at houses. It is the holidays that brings them home and this in turn awakens their desire to return permanently, which often means buying a house.
Last December Ward worked with a young couple—first time buyers—who were home for the holidays after relocating to Las Vegas. After looking at some houses they decided to move home to Scottsville, and were one of three families that Ward helped buy a house in December of last year.
Holiday Activities and Decor Help You Sell
One reason to sell your home during the holidays is that you can benefit from the seasonal decor throughout the neighborhood and even the special events that bring people there that, at the same time, subtly encourage them to move in so they can enjoy these festivities year after year. This means if your home is for sale don’t pack away your decorative items to get them out of the way. Instead, use greenery, candles, lights and even scents of the season to help highlight your home’s best features.
If you live in a neighborhood with a Home Owners Association, community center, club or restaurant, count on them to decorate in a way that also welcomes residents, visitors and prospective homeowners. Visitors may also be intrigued by the seasonal functions offered in your community such as children’s activities and holiday socials and events. For example, residents, and their guests at Glenmore in Keswick can enjoy Christmas Eve by Candlelight at the Glenmore Grill and take their pick of two New Year’s Eve functions, one designed for families.
Abbott encourages sellers to stay on the market during the holidays and suggests they get seasonal decorations up right after Thanksgiving. “Honestly most homes look so welcoming during this time,” she said and “usually buyers will not take the time to look during the holidays unless they are serious,” she continued.
Of course it is important to make the best use of holiday decor options. For example, highlight your home’s best features by outlining a bay window, porch or a walkway with lights or welcoming visitors, guests and prospective buyers with a tasteful wreath on the front door or greenery and candles on the mantle. Even a simple candle in each window adds a welcoming touch not available other times of the year.
It’s important not to overdo the decor, but keep it very tasteful. Ward suggests sellers take their cue from Colonial Williamsburg where holiday decorating featured natural elements. He added that sellers need to continue to “live in their house,” when it is on the market, but “live a little neater.”
Mailloux agrees stating that he believes a home that feels lived in “conveys a lot about the house and shows that it is loved.” In other words, sellers can continue to enjoy their homes even when they are on the market during the holidays.
When preparing your home for sale, don’t overlook the use of seasonal fragrances that can lend a welcoming ambiance. These could be anything from the scent of fresh baked bread or ginger cookies, to the fragrance of fresh evergreens or hot spiced cider. These scents bring back memories of holidays past encouraging buyers to stay longer in a home and imagine what it will be like living there with their family during next year’s holiday season.
Nancy McCaig with A. Scott Ward Realty, Inc. added that, in her experience, “people dream more during the holidays” and can better picture themselves living in the homes they see when looking during that time. Adding traditional decor and fragrances just makes it all easier.
Still another reason to have your home on the market during the holidays is that it is, “a festive, happy time of year,” Novotny said, adding that when people are in a good mood, it is a lot easier to negotiate a deal that benefits both parties.
Of course, holiday sellers face less competition then otherwise since there are fewer homes on the market. If theirs is in good condition and well priced the chances of it selling increase compared to the spring market when there is always lots of competition. In addition, in the spring, offers may be lower and come from buyers who are not as serious or as likely to negotiate as those out looking during the holidays.
If you are someone who wants to sell your home, talk to your agent about taking advantage of this unique holiday market. And while you’re at it, take time to enjoy the chance to decorate for the season, smell familiar fragrances and dream about your next home. You may even want to join the other buyers and start looking today.
Celeste Smucker is a writer, blogger and author who lives near Charlottesville