By Celeste M. Smucker –
Everyone knows the winter months, and especially the holiday season, are not the best times to sell a home, right? Who would want to be out house hunting in the cold instead of enjoying holiday cheer? Yet, while this kind of thinking seems logical, the evidence says otherwise, and if you ignore it you could be missing a profitable opportunity.
In fact, the holidays can be a great time to sell your home, especially in our current market when inventories are limited all over town and lots of buyers are anxiously waiting for just the right house to come on the market.
This means don’t hesitate to call your agent about listing your home today. And if it’s already listed and hasn’t sold keep it on the market and take advantage of the season by dressing it up in tasteful holiday style with greens, candles and lights that show how much it is loved.
Remember, too, it’s not just your home that looks its annual best this time of year. Chances are good your neighbors’ homes look festive, while clubhouses, streets and subdivision entrances are decked out in holiday finery as well.
Thanks to this seasonal effort, buyer prospects will feel even more welcome than usual when they view your home, as the signs, sights and smells of the holidays remind them of times past and encourage them to make on offer on your house so they can enjoy this special holiday experience every single year.
You will of course need to make your home available for showings, and you may rightfully have some concerns about the inconvenience, especially if you are expecting house guests or planning a party or two. Don’t let this convince you to wait until spring. Work out these kinds of details in advance with your agent when your home goes on the market. You can always say no to showings that conflict with holiday festivities and visits with family and friends.
Win with Holiday Listings
Many agents advise listing during the holidays, including those who responded to a national survey by realtor.com showing that 60 percent “always advise a seller to list their home during the holidays because they believe it is a good time to sell.” Citing a study of over a million homes that were listed in winter months, a 2014 Washington Post article reported they were 9 percent more likely to sell in under 6 months than those listed in the spring.
Locally agents have been extremely busy all year, and continue to be active even as the holidays are upon us. Rob Alley with RE/MAX Realty Specialists described the mid-November market this year as “ridiculously busy,” adding that anything with a remotely accurate price was selling.
Cynthia Viejo with Nest Realty Group related that buyers are definitely out looking during the holidays including an eager couple with one child who recently purchased a home in Forest Lakes. They are a good example of buyers who are ready to take action as soon as the right house pops up on the market, defying the conventional wisdom that families only shop in the spring and summer to be settled in when school starts.
Loring Woodriff’s Inessa Telefus is also busy this time of year even over Thanksgiving weekend when she was expecting out-of-town clients ready and eager to find the perfect home.
Len Mailloux with BHG Real Estate III – West described the December and January time frame as “very rewarding,” adding that buyers are in a “much stronger position” then to negotiate a good deal. Currently he is very busy thanks to interest from downsizers looking to buy some of his listings. “This is not the easiest market to find something,” he said, advising buyers to be ready to go whenever something appropriate shows up, holiday or not.
The holidays used to be a time when Debi Dotson with BHG Real Estate III – Glenmore would start working on organizing her taxes. Not anymore. Last December she listed a country home with a little acreage that sold for full price in just five days to some happy first time buyers. And this year is also keeping her very busy. The taxes will have to wait.
Less competition with new construction is another good reason to put your home on the market now. This last year, builders have stayed busy meeting the demand from families unable to find the homes they want and making it more difficult to market a resale home.
However, since winter months aren’t the best for building, new construction is often forced to slow down during this time. This temporarily eliminates an important source of competition for sellers until the weather warms up again.
Holidays Bring Out the Serious Buyers
There are many reasons sellers can win big when they list their homes during the holidays.
Holiday buyers aren’t “tire kickers,” said Byrd Abbott with Roy Wheeler Realty Co., and they may be out this time of year for all kinds of reasons. They may be motivated by tax concerns or may have recently been transferred and forced to relocate for their job. Whatever the reason, finding a place to live now is a priority and these buyers will be ready to write a contract as soon as they find a suitable home.
Certain types of buyers may be particularly likely to be out during the holidays. It is not uncommon for University people to take jobs beginning January 1, Mailloux explained and they need to buy before then.
So true, added Phyllis Novotny with Roy Wheeler Realty Co. saying that she has had a number of physician clients over the years, many of them also UVA employees, who needed to find a place to live before they start their job in February. These folks usually start shopping in November or December and are happy to be out looking during the holidays.
Easy buyer access to information about real estate is another good reason to call your REALTOR® today about listing. Gone are the days when buyers rely on their agent to look for options that meet their needs. Instead just about everyone starts their search online, reviewing pictures and videos and eliminating the homes that don’t appeal. A combination of holiday vacation days and challenging weather gives them lots of time to do this before calling their agent about their top choices. If your home is not listed, you will miss these tech savvy buyers.
And one more reason. People who move out of the area often come home for holiday visits and, said Scott Ward with A. Scott Ward Realty, Inc., it is not uncommon for them to stop by his office in Scottsville and ask about homes in their price range. Sometimes, like the Florida couple who wandered into his office the day before Thanksgiving, they look at a few descriptions and almost before they know it are out looking at houses.
There’s something about holiday traditions and nostalgia about a favorite time of year that can cause former inhabitants to reevaluate and decide to return home permanently, which often means buying a house.
Buyers Love Holiday Decor
Seasonal decor is everywhere during the holidays as are parties and other events that bring people to your neighborhood. If your home is for sale don’t pack away your holiday decorations. Instead, use greenery, candles, lights and even scents of the season to help heighten your home’s appeal.
Abbott is a firm believer in holiday listings and encourages sellers to stay on the market, suggesting they tastefully decorate their home right after Thanksgiving. “Most homes look so welcoming during this time,” she said and “usually buyers will not make the effort to look during the holidays unless they are serious,” she continued.
Mailloux agrees stating that “cozy and welcoming” add a lot to a home’s ambiance, making it attractive to buyers. He also believes a home needs to feel lived in, because that “conveys a lot about the house and shows that it is loved.” If your home has a fireplace, he suggests have it burning when the home is shown, whether it is gas or wood. He also suggests a tasteful wreath or tree if that is part of a seller’s holiday tradition.
Ask your agent for advice about how to make the best use of holiday decor. Some suggestions may be to 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 greenery and candles on the mantle.
A simple candle in each window adds a welcoming touch not available other times of the year Dotson said, and she advises keeping them on even after the holidays are over as was common in New England where she is from. She also emphasized the importance of keeping your home accessible, which means shoveling snow and keeping walkways, steps and porches or decks free of ice.
When it comes to decorating, 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.”
Seasonal fragrances can add to the holiday feel and bring back good memories for buyers, encouraging them to linger in your house. Anything from the scent of fresh baked ginger cookies, to the fragrance of fresh evergreens or hot spiced cider are good candidates to stimulate memories and encourage buyers to dream about what it will be like living there this time next year.
And dreams are important. Nancy McCaig with First Dominion Realty Inc. added that holidays are a time when people dream more and can better picture themselves living in the homes they view. Adding traditional decor and fragrances makes it all easier.
Of course the holidays are when people tend to be in a good mood, and during this “festive, happy time of year,” it is a lot easier to negotiate a deal that benefits both parties Novotny said. Still another reason to list your home during the holidays.
And if you’re still in doubt, consider that holiday sellers face less competition than during the spring since there are fewer homes on the market. If yours is in good condition and well priced the chances of it selling increase even more. In addition, in the spring, offers may be lower and come from buyers not as ready to move and not as serious or as likely to negotiate as those out looking during the holidays.
If selling your home is on your mind, talk to your agent about this unique holiday market. And while you’re at it, enjoy this opportunity to clean up, clear out and decorate for the season while you enjoy familiar fragrances and dream about your next home. Why not get out and start looking today?
Celeste Smucker is a writer and blogger who lives near Charlottesville